12 Memorial Day Songs to Celebrate America and Honor Our Heroes

Alesandra Dubin
Photo credit: Valentyn Semenov / EyeEm - Getty Images

From Good Housekeeping

For many across the nation, Memorial Day is a time to celebrate the unofficial beginning of summer with friends and family. But the holiday is really about honoring all of this country’s fallen soldiers and the heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. Honor their memory by curating a playlist that highlights patriotism, heroism, and poignant remembrance. Here’s our list of the 12 great Memorial Day songs to get you started.

“God Bless the U.S.A.,” Lee Greenwood — 1984

Is there any more iconic American anthem than this ‘80s classic? Plus, the endlessly catchy lyrics reference the holiday’s essential meaning: “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.”

Add to Your Playlist Now

"Born in the U.S.A.," Bruce Springsteen — 1984

Somehow Bruce Springsteen’s enduring hit came out the exact same year: 1984. If you’ve always thought of it as a song with a purely patriotic theme… listen more closely to the lyrics about a Vietnam vet returning home, and you’ll see it’s actually more complex.

Add to Your Playlist Now

"The Ones Who Didn't Make it Back Home," Justin Moore — 2019

This contemporary tune hits at the heart of Memorial Day. “Here's to the ones that didn't make it back home, the ones we ain't seen in so long, the hold up a beer ones, the wish they were here ones, the not forgotten but gone.”

Add to Your Playlist Now

“America,” Simon and Garfunkel — 1968

This plaintive, poignant tune from the ‘60s shouts out various specific places around the country (including the New Jersey Turnpike) and really evokes the freedom to roam until you find your place here.

Add to Your Playlist Now

"I Drive Your Truck," Lee Brice — 2012

This moving song is about a man who drives his brother’s truck to feel close to him after the soldier has died. The emotional lyrics reference dog tags hanging from the rear view mirror and a Go Army T-shirt still folded in the back.

Add to Your Playlist Now

"I Will Remember You,” Sarah McLachlan — 1995

Sarah McLachlan’s mid-‘90s smash endures because it’s easy to overlay our own specific circumstances onto the lyrics about remembering. And the message is just right for Memorial Day, which is all about remembering those lost in wars.

Add to Your Playlist Now

“Hero,” Mariah Carey — 1993

Her ‘90s track about heroes, survival, and strength to carry on is spot on for Memorial Day.

Add to Your Playlist Now

"If You're Reading This," Tim McGraw — 2007

This song honors soldiers who have died — and the families they left behind. The lyrics read like a letter a soldier writes to family members, knowing it will be sent and read only on the event of the their death.

Add to Your Playlist Now

"Arlington," Trace Adkins — 2005

Trace Adkins sings this song from the point of view of a soldier who has died, and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Its lyrics are based on the real story of marine corps corporal Patrick Nixon, who died two years before the song’s release.

Add to Your Playlist Now

"Some Gave All," Billy Ray Cyrus — 1989

This song goes back to Billy Ray Cyrus’ debut album by the same name. It’s about honoring fallen soldiers: “All gave some, some gave all, some stood through for the red, white and blue, and some had to fall. And if you ever think of me, think of all your liberties and recall… some gave all.”

Add to Your Playlist Now

“Whenever You Remember,” Carrie Underwood — 2005

Carrie Underwood’s lyrics about remembering with fondness and strength feel just right for Memorial Day’s true intended purpose.

Add to Your Playlist Now

"Color Me America," Dolly Parton — 2003

As she always manages to do with style and flair, Dolly Parton sums it up perfectly in this patriotic song: “I am red, white and blue. These are colors that ring true. To all I am and feel and love and do, I stand proud and brave and tall, I want justice for all — so color me America, red, white, and blue.”

Add to Your Playlist Now

You Might Also Like