Top 10 Best Patriotic Country Songs of All Time

Tragedy and Heroics

It's probably safe to say that no American music genre expresses patriotism—love for the flag and the heroes that protect it—as profoundly as country music. This playlist of the 10 best patriotic country music songs of all time includes several that balance the tragedy and costs of war with love of the United States.

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"Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)"—Toby Keith

Toby Keith performs during Stagecoach: California's Country Music Festival 2010 at The Empire Polo Club in Indio, California.
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Toby Keith got a lot of grief over this song, especially the line "putting a boot in your ass/it's the American way." On the other hand, it was inspired in part by 9/11, when passions were running high, and it helps us remember the incident and the men and women who gave their lives, and still do, to ensure we sleep safe at night. The music starts softly but builds to a powerful guitar-heavy chorus.

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"If You're Reading This"—Tim McGraw

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Tim McGraw first performed this song on the ACM Awards show in 2007. The story is that of a soldier who has passed on and his wishes about where he'd like to be buried and how he'd like to be remembered. The tempo is slower, the instrumentation is sparse, and Tim's vocals are laden with emotion. With our country still embroiled in multiple wars, this song speaks to something too many families have experienced.

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"Arlington"—Trace Adkins

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This song is deeply touching, describing the war from a soldier's perspective after he dies in battle. The tempo is slow, and the music acoustic, backed by Adkins' rumbling baritone. One of the most moving sections of the song comes when the soldier meets his grandfather, who is also buried at Arlington: "And it gave me a chill/when he clicked his heels and saluted me."

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"8th of November"—Big & Rich

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This song tells the true story of Vietnam veteran Niles Harris, who survived a battle that took place on Hill 65 in War Zone D on November 8, 1965. He was part of the Army's 173rd Airborne Brigade and lost 48 of his fellow comrades. The song has a slow dirge-like quality to it, fitting for the subject, and the video is amazing.

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"The Fightin' Side of Me"—Merle Haggard

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This song was written during the Vietnam era, and it addresses one of the most controversial conflicts of our time. On it, Merle Haggard sings about how it's possible to be against the war while still favoring the fighting forces involved in it.​ The tempo of the song is mid-range, with a strumming guitar and powerful lyrics.

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"Only in America"—Brooks & Dunn

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How lucky we are to live in a country where so much is possible, is the main theme of this song. It features a strong uptempo country-rock vibe, with a heavy guitar line. It rarely fails to get audiences on their feet when Brooks & Dunn play it live.

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"God Bless the USA"—Lee Greenwood

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This powerful song that came out in 1984 is sometimes referred to as the unofficial National Anthem. With its guitar-driven verses and Greenwood's impassioned vocals, its chorus lets everyone know where Greenwood unapologetically stands: 

"And I'm proud to be an American
Where at least I know I'm free
And I won't forget the men who died
Who gave that right to me..."
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"The Ballad of Ira Hayes"—Johnny Cash

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"The Ballad of Ira Hayes" is a folk song written by Peter LaFarge, and it has been recorded by many different artists, including Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, and Townes Van Zandt. The version by Johnny Cash reached No. 3 on the charts, and it tells the true story of a Pima Indian that served in the Marine Corps in World War II, who was one of the men that raised the flag over Iwo Jima. After returning home from war, Hayes sank into alcoholism, which ended up claiming his life. Cash's version uses recited verses and sung choruses, with a sparse acoustic arrangement to go along with the somber tone.

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"Some Gave All"—Billy Ray Cyrus

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So many people think that Billy Ray Cyrus is all about "Achy Breaky Heart," but this touching ballad was another of his hits. It reminds us that "all gave some, some gave all" and we should always honor those people. Cyrus makes good use of his vocal ability with a heartfelt performance on this loving tribute to the men and women that fight for our freedom each day.

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"Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)"—Alan Jackson

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I bet you can remember where you were when the 9/11 attacks took place. Alan Jackson gives us visual references and reminds us not to forget. He performed this song acoustically at the 2001 CMA Awards, just two months after the attacks, and the whole country took notice. The vocals are sung from the heart, and you can feel his anguish in every word.