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Posts Tagged ‘Travelin’ Soldier’

War Songs, Pt. 1: Shut Up & Sing!

31 August, 2010 Leave a comment
Cover of "Dixie Chicks: Shut Up & Sing (F...

Cover via Amazon

It seems much longer, but it was less than a decade ago that I found myself in Camp Arifjan with a little time to waste before moving on up to Camp Fox and beyond as part of the British contingent roped into Operation Iraqi Freedom (OP TELIC to us)…

As usual our Colonial cousins had established an operational footing far beyond the scope of any that a deployed British force would ever be capable of. Among the Baskin Robbins, Subway, Pizza Hut and Korean takeaway there was a PX store which made every EFI store I have ever come across look like the tuck shops run out of the 4 tonners to boost Sqn funds!

Needless to say I made the most of the situation and purchased DVDs and CDs galore. These were the days before ‘global’ releases so the Americans had films and music we hadn’t been able to get our hands on yet.

As far as I can recall I bought Garfield for the little ones, another DVD for ‘Cole and a CD for Rose, all of which were posted home as we didn’t know when we’d be getting home from this tour. This all sounds somewhat un-memorable however the CD I bought for Rose was one which would widen my musical tastes/awareness and cause more than a little bit of a stir back home!

I’d always related the genre of Country Music with the likes of Patsy Cline, Dolly Parton and all those famous crooners which we all know. I’d never heard the terms bluegrass, alt country or the like, or if I had I’d dismissed them off-hand. All that was about to change.

What was the CD I bought? It was ‘Home’ by the Dixie Chicks and remains, to this day, one of my most played albums. At the time I was blissfully unaware of the controversy they had caused (or were about to) and didn’t even listen to the album before I sent it home.

Several months later, once we’d ‘won the war’, and I returned home I was greeted by a tirade of abuse when I asked Rose if she liked the album! Among the gems included on the album was a track called ‘Travelin’ Soldier‘, a song about a young girl who had fallen for a soldier bound for Vietnam and the waited for his return only to hear his name read out in a list of the fallen at a local football game.

All this sounds a little ‘twee’ but unless you’ve been in the situation of a wife, husband, partner, parent or child waiting for news from your loved one who is, as far as your mind is concerned, in mortal danger 24 hours of every day they are deployed you will not feel the emotion the lyrics of this song can stir.

One Friday night at a football game, the Lord’s prayer said and the anthem sang
A man said “Folks, would you bow your heads for a list of local Vietnam dead”
Cryin’ all alone under the stands was a piccolo player in the marchin’ band
And one name read and nobody really cared
But a pretty little girl with a bow in her hair

The song still makes my hairs stand on end, as do several others on the album. I have since become a huge fan of Martie Maguire, Emilie Robison and Natalie Maines, the Dixie Chicks, all the more so because of their stand (albeit unintended) as spokespersons against the Iraq conflict, and their fight to re-establish their position after being ostracised by most of redneck America.

I cannot recommend their music highly enough. Tracks such as ‘Top of the World‘, ‘Godspeed‘, ‘Taking The Long Way‘, ‘Not Ready To Make Nice‘ and ‘Easy Silence‘ are highlights of an amazingly strong back catalogue.

Don’t trust me, check them out for yourself, and if you want to hear the song Travelin’ Soldier in all its glory check out the documentary Shut Up & Sing or the concert DVD An Evening with the Dixie Chicks, you won’t regret it.

And from one of those songs I’d like to send this to my youngest, my son Wilson, who has just suffered his first major loss in life:

The Rocket Racer’s all tuckered out
Superman’s in pyjamas on the couch
Goodnight moon will find the mouse
And I love you
Godspeed little man
Sweet dreams little man
Oh my love will fly to you each night on angel’s wings
Godspeed
Sweet Dreams

It never ceases to amaze me how someone elses words can have such a profound effect on me. It is a gift I admire and one I hope someday to attain in my own work.