From the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution to the Gettysburg Address and landmark Supreme Court opinions, words inspire America and contribute to our understanding of its past.

Words set to music also play a part, providing a soundtrack to the past and adding texture to deeds celebrated in history books. In times of tragedy or triumph, songs evoke passion, ideals and dreams for the future; lyrics span a range of emotions, from sorrow and distress to joy and exhilaration.

Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Jon Meacham and Grammy-winning country singer Tim McGraw have teamed up to trace America’s history through songs that shaped and reflected the nation’s mood amid wars, social movements and other times of conflict.

The project began in Meacham’s yard in Nashville, Tenn., at the suggestion of McGraw, his friend and neighbor. “Why not explore that national soul,” Tim asked, “through music?”

The featured songs span nearly 250 years, from “The Liberty Song” written in 1768 by a Pennsylvania farmer angered by Britain’s taxes to Bruce Springsteen’s album “The Rising” that gave voice to America’s grief and determination after the 9/11 attacks.

The book, replete with color and black-and-white illustrations, is an all-encompassing review of our heritage in song.

Today, with America seemingly as divided as ever, the authors suggest that music may help to open hearts and minds to competing views.

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