Free PDF: The Story of the United States in 12 Songs

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The Story of the United States in 12 Songs

Experience more than 250 years of American history through the

songs of the people

who lived it.

  • ​Deepen your connection to and understanding of the past

  • Includes playlists for YouTube, Spotify, and Apple Music

  • Get it for yourself, your family, or your students

I was never particularly interested in history. In high school, I halfheartedly attempted to “memorize the important identifications” from the U.S. history textbook, as my teacher instructed me to do. That all began to change when I first heard "The Anthology of American Folk Music" from Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. The story of the United States came alive for me as I began to understand people from the past through their music: early colonial settlers through the ancient ballads, religious songs, and dance tunes they carried from their homelands; people in slavery through the spirituals and work songs born out of their suffering. Blues music, Appalachian folk songs, songs of frontiersmen, factory workers, sailors, cowboys, soldiers, railroad workers, activists, and others are all ingredients in the great cultural stew that is the United States of America.

Since this epiphany, I have been singular in my mission to share this rich musical heritage with others, both for the sheer love of the music and for its value in inspiring people to better understand each other and America’s past, present, and future. That is why my colleagues and I started the nonprofit Ballad of America, Inc. and created "The Story of the United States in 12 Songs." The music keeps us connected to the strength and beauty that have emerged from the often troubled history of the United States. We believe that it can do the same for you.

Matthew Sabatella
Founder and President
Ballad of America, Inc.