Veterans Day Six Pack

If history had played out the way Woodrow Wilson planned, we’d be celebrating the 92nd Armistice Day today.   When first proclaimed a national holiday, Wilson declared the following:

To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations.

If the Great War had been the last war, we wouldn’t be celebrating what is now known as Veterans Day.  We also wouldn’t have an incredible legacy of songs about soldiers in the annals of country music.

Here are five classics that celebrate those who have served our country and the ones who love them, along with one tale that has a returned soldier that’s not being loved quite enough.

“Dear Uncle Sam”  by Loretta Lynn
from the 1966 album I Like ‘Em Country

Lynn was on the cusp of superstardom when she released this top five hit.   Penning a letter to Uncle Sam, she pleads for the safe return of her husband.  She sings, “I really love my country, but I also love my man.”  His return is not to be, as the song closes with a heart-wrenching recitation of the telegram informing her that he won’t be coming home.

“Galveston” by Glen Campbell
from the 1969 album Galveston

Campbell’s finest performance is a homesick ode for the lady and hometown that he left behind.  The sweeping strings and stirring vocal evoke the waves of heartache that are crashing up against his heart, much like the waters of Galveston Bay crash along the shores he once walked with her.

“Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town”  by Kenny Rogers and The First Edition
from the 1969 album Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town

Mel Tillis penned this massive hit for Rogers and his band, originally recorded by country artist Johnny Darrell, who took it into the top ten in 1967.   The narrator lays in bed, paralyzed from his stint in “that crazy Asian war.”  He is helpless as Ruby gives in to desire and heads into town looking for the love he can no longer provide, and he’s left there wishing she’d only wait until he died for her to step out on him.

“Soldier’s Last Letter” by Merle Haggard
from the 1971 album Hag

The spiritual predecessor of Tim McGraw’s “If You’re Reading This.”   Mama sits at home, reading a letter from her son overseas.  He’s writing from a trenchmouth, hoping his mother won’t scold him for his sloppy handwriting the way she did when he was a kid, tracking mud into the house because he didn’t wipe his feet.   He promises to finish the letter when he returns from his next battle, but the letter that arrives back home is incomplete.

“Travelin’ Soldier” by Dixie Chicks
from the 2002 album Home

The modern benchmark for soldier songs.  Bruce Robison’s original versions are both worth seeking out, and can be found on his self-titled 1996 album and his 1999 set, Long Way Home from Anywhere.   But the acoustic instrumentation that surrounds Natalie Maines’ plaintive delivery makes the Dixie Chicks version the definitive one.

“Welcome Home” by Dolly Parton
from the 2003 album For God and Country

In a brilliant feat of songwriting, Parton weaves together four stories: a soldier returning home, a soldier dying overseas, Christ’s death and resurrection, and Parton’s own hope and longing for eternal salvation.

 

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6 Comments

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6 Responses to Veterans Day Six Pack

  1. Paul W DennisNo Gravatar

    “Riding With Private Malone” by Davi Ball
    “Private Lee” by The Willis Brothers

    and the original version of “Soldier’s Last Letter” by Ernest Tubb

  2. bobNo Gravatar

    Good call on “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town”. I tend to forget it when thinking of soldier songs. Didn’t know it was written by Mel Tillis. I also like “Travellin’ Soldier” but “Galveston” is my favorite of this group.

  3. Kevin John CoyneNo Gravatar

    I wanted to stick to songs more about soldiers than about wars, so “Ruby” popped in my head right away.

  4. Erik NorthNo Gravatar

    As a sidebar re. “Ruby”, though I think many know this anyway: When Mel Tillis wrote it, that “crazy Asian war” he was referring to was to the Korean War. Of course, when Kenny’s version (which only hit #39 on the C&W singles chart, but #6 on the Hot 100) came out, it was just as easy to say it was about Vietnam.

    And certainly “Galveston” is a touchstone song of this type in any genre, country or otherwise.

  5. buddynoelNo Gravatar

    My current Vet’s day list is at 60 songs, so I won’t waste page space here. All are country and Dierks Bentley is the newest. Thank God for country music.

  6. JoshNo Gravatar

    I have to admit, I always tend to get something in my eye when I listen to “Letters From Home”…

    I also think Mark Wills’ recent “Crazy Being Home” is an underrated soldier song. Not many songs focus on the aftermath of the war, or do so in such a stream-of-consciousness way.

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