Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veteran's Day

In honor of Veteran's Day here are the lyrics to some of my favorite songs dedicated to war veterans:



I Was Only 19 (A Walk In the Light Green) - Redgum (about an ANZAC Vietnam vet)
Mum and Dad and Denny saw the passing-out parade at Puckapunyal
It was a long march from cadets.
The sixth battalion was the next to tour, and it was me who drew the card.
We did Canungra, Shoalwater before we left.

And Townsville lined the footpaths as we marched down to the quay
This clipping from the paper shows us young and strong and clean.
And there's me in my slouch hat with my SLR and greens.
God help me, I was only nineteen.

From Vung Tau, riding Chinooks, to the dust at Nui Dat
I'd been in and out of choppers now for months.
But we made our tents a home, VB and pinups on the lockers
And an Agent Orange sunset through the scrub.

And can you tell me, doctor, why I stil can't get to sleep?
The night-time's just a jungle dark and a barking M16?
And what's this rash that comes and goes, can you tell me what it means?
God help me, I was only ninteen.

A four week operation when each step could mean your last one on two legs
It was a war within yourself.
But you wouldn't let your mates down til they had you dusted off
So you closed your eyes and thought about something else.

Then someone yelled "Contact!" and the bloke behind me swore
We hooked in there for hours, then a Godalmighty roar
Frankie kicked a mine the day that mankind kicked the moon,
God help me, he was going home in June.

I can still see Frankie, drinking tinnies in the Grand Hotel
On a thirty-six hour rec leave in Vung Tau
And I can still hear Frankie, lying screaming in the jungle
Til the morphine came and killed the bloody row.

And the Anzac legends didn't mention mud and blood and tears
And the stories that my father told me never seemed quite real.
I caught some pieces in my back that I didn't even feel
God help me, I was only nineteen.

And can you tell me, doctor, why I still can't get to sleep?
And why the Channel Seven chopper chills me to my feet?
And what's this rash that comes and goes, can you tell me what it means?
God help me, I was only nineteen.


Khe Sanh - Cold Chisel (another song about the ANZAC Vietnam experience)

I left my heart to the sappers round Khe Sanh
And my soul was sold with my cigarettes to the blackmarket man
I've had the Vietnam cold turkey
From the ocean to the Silver City
And it's only other vets could understand

About the long forgotten dockside guarantees
How there were no V-day heroes in 1973
How we sailed into Sydney Harbour
Saw an old friend but couldn't kiss her
She was lined, and I was home to the lucky land

And she was like so many more from that time on
Their lives were all so empty, till they found their chosen one
And their legs were often open
But their minds were always closed
And their hearts were held in fast suburban chains
And the legal pads were yellow, hours long, paypacket lean
And the telex writers clattered where the gunships once had been
But the car parks made me jumpy
And I never stopped the dreams
Or the growing need for speed and novacaine

So I worked across the country end to end
Tried to find a place to settle down, where my mixed up life could mend
Held a job on an oil-rig
Flying choppers when I could
But the nightlife nearly drove me round the bend

And I've travelled round the world from year to year
And each one found me aimless, one more year the more for wear
And I've been back to South East Asia
But the answer sure ain't there
But I'm drifting north, to check things out again

You know the last plane out of Sydney's almost gone
Only seven flying hours, and I'll be landing in Hong Kong
There ain't nothing like the kisses
From a jaded Chinese princess
I'm gonna hit some Hong Kong mattress all night long

Well the last plane out of Sydney's almost gone
Yeah the last plane out of Sydney's almost gone
And it's really got me worried
I'm goin' nowhere and I'm in a hurry
And the last plane out of Sydney's almost gone


What's a Few Men - Hunters & Collectors (about the WWI - Battle of Galipoli)

The colonel said "these bodies stink wont someone come and drag them away"
We try to clean them up but they mow us down
And the English colonel looks the other way
Oh the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak
Well I ran for the trench but I had no time to speak
Well my heart said yes
But my head said no
When the English colonel said "its time to go"

He said "Whats a few men?"
He said "Whats a few men?"
He said "Whats a few men?"

The colonel's job is never done
So he declares timeout on Christmas Day
We held the enemy in our arms
And we ploughed each others dead into the clay
Well the Lord said death will be no longer
And all of these things will pass away
There will be no sorrow and there will be no pain
And we'll swap cigrettes on christmas day

Well my heart said yes
But my head said no
When the English colonel said "its time to go"

He said "Whats a few men?"
He said "Whats a few men?"
He said "Whats a few men?"

I realize that all 3 of those songs are Australian and are about the ANZAC soldiers, not American ones. This isn't a reflection of the sacrifices of Australian soldiers vs. that of American soldiers it's more a reflection of Aussie songwriters vs. American songwriters. There are some decent American songs about veterans (Springsteen's Born In the USA and Billy Joel's Goodnight Saigon and the late Harry Chapin's Mercenaries all come to mind) but I don't find those songs to pack the emotional wallop of the above songs.

1 comment:

Charlie said...

Outstanding! It's sad how many people are ignorant of history & therefore couldn't write songs like these! My wife works with a young guy (about 25 years old) who recently visited Valley Forge National Park (10 miles from my house) and he was stunned to learn that VF was central to the American Revolution!!!! Prior to his visit he thought it was a Civil War battle.

Our schools are failing our students. I think that is why other countries can relate to history much better than Americans do & that's why they wrote better songs about war & veterans.