I love songs about war. Is that warped? Maybe.
The thing is, I love songs that are filled with emotion. War creates emotions we don’t often see in every day life. Hence, most songs about war draw emotional and verbal pictures with a vivid color scheme that doesn’t come out in sappy love ballads about broken hearts.
One of my fav war songs is “Drive On” by Johnny Cash. Cash tells the story of how he came to write the song. He and June Carter used to share books; when one would read something great, they’d hang onto the book and give it to the other. For a while, they were both reading first person autobiographies of Vietnam soldiers.
In the Vietnam War, according to Cash and the book he was reading, “Drive on” was a phrase often heard in the bush. A platoon of soldiers would get ambushed, fall into booby traps, whatever…and another American soldier’s fate was sealed. In the middle of a war zone, time to grieve wasn’t real plentiful. When a soldier would die, his brothers in arms would say to one another, “Drive on…”
Translation? You’ve gotta keep moving. You can’t take time now to grieve the dead. You’re still alive and you’ve gotta keep yourself alive. So, get it together, get your head straight and drive on…
I wish I’d known this song back in the fall of ’93. I didn’t. Not sure when Cash wrote it, but it didn’t get released until his 1994 “American Recordings” album.
Why would a year have made any difference? It may not have, but had I known the song and the story behind it, I may have had an extra bit of motivation.
It was 15 years ago today. October 9th, 1993, when the world changed forever. Well, my world, that is.
It was 15 years ago I slid into the passenger seat of a freezing Toyota Corolla, round about 11:50 p.m. I’d just left a St. Louis Blues game with a group of three friends, headed for White Castle, just like Harold and Kumar (minus the cheeba). That late night snack was not to be.
A few minutes later, I looked out my window and saw headlights. The rest of the story? You already know it. After all, the next few seconds is why you and I probably met in the first place.
Four or five years ago, I was talking with a friend who remembered the date. “What do you think of when it’s October 9?”, she asked.
Well, since that day 15 years ago, I’ve had different phases. The first several years, it was all encompassing. Like, I couldn’t NOT think about it. Then, like all wounds, it started to fade, little by little.
Now? What do I think about on October 9th? I think about whatever I’m doing on October 9th. Today, that was doing a few hours of early morning work. Then I thought about the haircut I was getting. Then, I thought about what I wanted for lunch (getting bored yet?) This afternoon, my wife, Marvelyne, pulled some sort of muscle in her back. So, I thought about that, too.
Now, well, I got a google alert that my bud, Ron Graham, used my name in his blog, Access Ability. If you want to check that post out, it’s at:
If you’ve read my book, you’ve read about Ron. Blinded in a car wreck the exact same night as I, we met (purely out of coincidence) when we were in Jersey getting our first Seeing Eye dogs.
When I read Ron’s post, I thought about the circumstances that introduced us. But do I dwell? Nah. Do I get all reflective and pensive and thoughtful? Not really. I had several years of that self indulgence. Now? It’s just a day. A day I recognize, but one which has no power to control my emotions. Hence, I think about just what I’m doing that day.
Like the soldiers in Cash’s song, I don’t take time to mourn it. There’s no need. It’s been done. So, I just drive on.
And, just because I’m always ready to promote good music, here are those lyrics:
“Drive On” by Johnny Cash
I got a friend named Whiskey Sam,
He was my boonierat buddy for a year in Nam,
He said, “I think my country got a little off track, it took ‘em 25 years to welcome me back.”
“But it’s better than not comin’ back at all,
Many a good man I saw fall,
Even now every time I dream,
I hear the men and the monkeys and the jungle scream…”
Drive on, it don’t mean nothing
My children love me but they don’t understand,
And I got a woman who knows her man,
Drive on, it don’t mean nothing, it don’t mean nothing, drive on
I remember one night, Tex and me,
Rifled in on a hot L.Z.
We had our 16s on rock and roll,
But with all that fire I was scared and cold.
I was crazy and I was wild,
And I have seen a tiger’s smile,
I spit in a bamboo viper’s face
And I’d be dead but by God’s grace…
It was a slow walk in a sad rain,
And nobody tried to be John Wayne,
I came home, but Tex did not
And I can’t talk about the hit he got…
But I got a little limp now when I walk
And I got a little tremble when I got to talk,
But my letter read from Whiskey Sam,
You’re a walking, talking miracle from Vietnam-drive on…