Fourth of July

By Shelley GollustTuesday, July Fourth, is America's most important national holiday:Independence Day. Americans will celebrate the two-hundred-twenty-fourth anniversary of their declaration of independence from Britain. I'm Shirley Griffith.And I'm Steve Ember. In honor of this holiday, we present songs that celebrate America on the VOA Special English program, THIS IS AMERICA.

((MUSIC BRIDGE))Americans celebrate the Fourth of July with family gatherings, parades, speeches and fireworks. They also celebrate with patriotic music.

The official song of the United States is "The Star-Spangled Banner."

Francis Scott Key wrote the words in Eighteen-Fourteen. At that time, America and Britain were at war. Francis Scott Key watched as British forces attacked Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland. Through the smoke and fire, he could see a huge American flag flying over the army base.The next morning, after the battle, he looked to see which flag flew over Fort McHenry. It would tell which side had won. Key saw that the American flag still flew. He wrote a poem re-creating the event. Soon after, music was added to his words. The United States Congress made "The Star-Spangled Banner" the national song in Nineteen-Thirty-One.

:Americans sing it at the beginning of many public meetings and sports events. Whitney Houston sang it at the American football championship game in Nineteen- Ninety-One.

((TAPE CUT ONE: STAR-SPANGLED BANNER))Some people say "The Star-Spangled Banner" is difficult to sing. Others do not like the words. Some people have suggested that the United Sates change its national song. They say many other songs that celebrate America would be better.One of these is called "America." It is also known as "My Country 'Tis of Thee." Samuel Smith wrote it in Eighteen-Thirty-Two. The music is the same as the British national song, "God Save the Queen."Here the Southwestern Christian College Chorus sings "My Country 'Tis of Thee."

((TAPE CUT TWO: MY COUNTRY 'TIS OF THEE))Many people think "America the Beautiful" is one of the best songs that celebrate America. Katherine Lee Bates wrote the words in Eighteen-Ninety-Three. Samuel Ward wrote the music.

Many singers and groups have recorded "America the Beautiful."Here, Ray Charles sings his version.

((TAPE CUT THREE: AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL))Some people think "God Bless America" is the best song that celebrates America. Irving Berlin wrote it in Nineteen-Seventeen. It became popular twenty years later when Kate Smith sang it on a national radio broadcast. Here is Lee Greenwood singing "God Bless America."

((TAPE CUT FOUR: "GOD BLESS AMERICA"))Some people would like America's national song to be "This Land is Your Land." Woody Guthrie wrote the words in Nineteen-Forty. It became one of the most popular folk songs in America. Here, Pete Seeger and the Weavers sing "This Land is Your Land."

((TAPE CUT FIVE: THIS LAND IS YOUR LAND))In Nineteen-Fifty-Nine, Chuck Berry wrote a rock-and-roll song that celebrates living in America. One writer says he would like this one to be America's national song. Not only can you sing it, he says, you can dance to it, too! Here is Chuck Berry with "Back in the U-S-A."

((TAPE CUT SIX: BACK IN THE U-S-A))This program was written by Shelley Gollust. It was produced and directed by Lawan Davis. I'm Shirley Griffith.And I'm Steve Ember. Join us again next week for another report about life in the United States on the VOA Special English program, THIS IS AMERICA.