Songs of America by Jon Meacham and Tim McGraw

Songs of America by Jon Meacham and Tim McGraw
Patriotism, Protest, and the Music That Made a Nation

Publisher: Random House
Genre: Non-Fiction, Historical, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (320 pgs)
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Through all the years of strife and triumph, America has been shaped not just by our elected leaders and our formal politics but also by our music—by the lyrics, performers, and instrumentals that have helped to carry us through the dark days and to celebrate the bright ones.

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Beginning with the battle hymns of the revolution, and taking us through songs from the defining events of the Civil War, the fight for women’s suffrage, the two world wars, the Great Depression, the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, and into the twenty-first century, Meacham and McGraw explore the songs that defined generations, and the cultural and political climates that produced them. Readers will discover the power of music in the lives of figures such as Harriet Tubman, Franklin Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Martin Luther King, Jr., and will learn more about some of our most beloved musicians and performers, including Marian Anderson, Elvis Presley, Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, Duke Ellington, Carole King, Bruce Springsteen, and more.

Songs of America explores both famous songs and lesser-known ones, expanding our understanding of the scope of American music and lending deeper meaning to the historical context of such songs as “My Country, ’Tis of Thee,” “God Bless America,” “Over There,” “We Shall Overcome,” and “Blowin’ in the Wind.” As Quincy Jones says, Meacham and McGraw have “convened a concert in Songs of America,” one that reminds us of who we are, where we’ve been, and what we, at our best, can be.

Songs of protest, songs of freedom. Songs that made our lives.

I picked up this book for two reasons. I like the writings of Jon Meacham. I know, someone should tell the author that. He has a very humble way about him and his writing. I enjoy it. The writing flowed well and pulled me right into the collection of stories. The other reason I picked up this book has to be that it’s about music. Not just any music, but music of the United States. Meacham and McGraw (in little bubbles, versus the larger prose used by Meacham), don’t just touch on songs that are popular or songs that are positive. Oh, no. They touch on songs of all American peoples. There needed to be a larger section on the native peoples, but that’s my quibble.

The writing flowed well, as I said, and worked with the format used. It was like reading a collection of essays with songs added. I liked the variety and learned a few things. If you’re at all interested in protest music, then this might be the one for you. Pick it up.


  1. I like Jon Meacham, too, and think this sounds like a good book. Does the book include a recording of the songs by Tim McGraw?

    • Unfortunately, it doesn’t. Just little snippets in boxes by him. There should be a CD with it with the real recordings (If possible), but there isn’t that I saw.

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