Category Archives: Music

Rockin’ Chair and a beautiful young girl

 

 

I love listening to music on long car trips. On our drive from Kamloops to Salmon Arm, looking out at the mountains, often beside the railway tracks,  brought me back–right back–to the days of my youth. Specifically the memories of the summer of 1970. Those memories flooded over me.  With amazing luck I got a job as a porter in 1970 and made a number of trips to British Columbia. Invariably on the trip back to Manitoba I got lonely. I missed my friends and in particular this new girl I had just met that spring Christiane Calvez. She was beautiful and fun and I wanted to see her as soon as possible. But I needed to work to put my way through University. Somehow, I don’t know why or how, the lyrics of a song filled my mind on one of those long train rides back to Manitoba. It was a song I was not even conscious I knew until the lyrics and tune came to me as I sat alone on a seat  on the sleeping car. Those lyrics resonated with my loneliness being so far from home.  The song was “Rockin’ Chair” by The Band.

Rockin’ Chair”

Hang around, Willie boy,
Don’t you raise the sails anymore
It’s for sure, I’ve spent my whole life at sea
And I’m pushin’ age seventy-three
Now there’s only one place that was meant for me:

Oh, to be home again,
Down in old Virginny,
With my very best friend,
They call him Ragtime Willie
We’re gonna soothe away the rest of our years,
We’re gonna put away all of our tears,
That big rockin’ chair won’t go nowhere

Slow down, Willie boy,
Your heart’s gonna give right out on you
It’s true, and I believe I know what we should do
Turn to stern and point to shore,
The seven seas won’t carry us no more

Oh, to be home again,
Down in old Virginny,
With my very best friend,
They call him Ragtime Willie
I can’t wait to sniff that air,
Dip that snuff, I won’t have no care,
That big rockin’ chair won’t go nowhere

Hear the sound, Willie boy,
The Flyin’ Dutchman’s on the reef
It’s my belief
We’ve used up all our time,
This hill’s to steep to climb,
And the days that remain ain’t worth a dime

Oh, to be home again,
Down in old Virginny,
With my very best friend,
They call him Ragtime Willie
Would’a been nice just to see the folks,
Listen once again to them stale old jokes,
That big rockin’ chair won’t go nowhere

I can hear something callin’ on me
(And you know where I wanna be)
Oh Willie, can’t you hear that sound?
(Down in old Virginny)
I just wanna get my feet back on the ground
(Down in old Virginny)
And I’d love to see my very best friend
They call him Ragtime Willie
(Oh, to be home again)
I believe old rockin’ chair’s got me again!

 

I wanted to be home “with my very best friend” so badly it ached. “Oh to be home again.” Today that “I’m pushin’ age seventy-three,” the lyrics came back this time enhanced with the modern technology of an iPod played through my car radio speakers. Memories are good. Life is good. “I just wanna get my feet back on the ground.” It is still one of my favourite songs. And I have lived with that sweet young girl for nearly 50 years. “Oh to be home again with my very best friend.”

Bohemian Rhapsody

Thanks to Stef’s surely legal (?) manipulation of downloadable movies off the Internet we watched Bohemian Rhapsody a new bio-pic about Freddie Mercury and his band Queen. I begin, by admitting I am not very familiar with Queen. Many of their songs were familiar, but I never listened to them closely or followed their fame in the day. I just was not interested. So I did not know their story. All I have learned is from watching this film and listening to some of their songs. I like what Freddie said, “we are 4 misfits playing to other misfits, none of whom belong together.” Aren’t we all like that?

First of all, I was struck by the song, “Keep Yourself Alive.” I repeated to myself the lyric, “keep yourself alive.”  I actually think that is important. Not in the ordinary sense so much, though we all want to keep alive so that does not need reminding, but rather keep alive in the sense of don’t allow your life to become what D.H. Lawrence referred to as  “death in life”. If that what we  have, as Lawrence was true for many of us, we are in bad shape. We should instead, keep ourselves alive.

I think that is what the film is about–i.e. avoiding death in life. Roger, one of the band members said, “there’s no musical ghetto that can contain us.” Later Freddie said, “My father would rather see me dead then be whom I am.”  Hasn’t every son thought that about his father? Yet, I hope mine never did. I also liked the line, “We’ll punch a hole in the sky.” That would surely  keep oneself alive.

The movie celebrated the song after which the film is named, namely, “Bohemian Rhapsody”, with its lyrics that are far from clear, in part because of its length. The record company wanted a shorter song, so the band packed up and left that company. Of course it became a big hit.

If you say the lyrics are not obscure tell me what these signify?

 

I see a little silhouetto of a man,
Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the Fandango?
Thunderbolt and lightning,
Very, very frightening me.
(Galileo) Galileo.
(Galileo) Galileo,
Galileo Figaro
Magnifico-o-o-o-o.

I think they fit in some how with the them. Life is thunderbolt and lightning. Magnifico. Though I like the line “I see a little silhouetto of a man.”  I just don’t know what it means. Do you? Give me your theory.

I also  liked their idea of including the audience in the song “We Will Rock You,” where they said they wanted to include the audience as part of the song. And, of course that song has been sung in sports stadiums and arena’s ever since. I remember hearing it many times at the Winnipeg Arena. I just did not know it was a Queen song. I wonder if my lads remember it as well. With its driving beat I always liked this verse:

“Buddy you’re a boy make a big noise
Playin’ in the street gonna be a big man some day
You got mud on yo’ face
You big disgrace
Kickin’ your can all over the place
Singin’

We Will We will Rock You

We Will We will Rock You.”

 

At the end of the film, when Freddie was dying of AIDS he didn’t’ want sympathy or long faces around him. I remember a good friend of mine who was dying, told me the same thing.  He wanted life until he died. He did not want life in death. “Don’t bore me with your sympathy,” Freddy said,  “It takes too much life away.”

I must admit this movie captured me.  This surprised me. I like it when  movies surprise me. I now think Queen are, “the champions.” In the end, harboring a terminal illness, Freddie struts across and around the stage and briefly, he is the champion, he is alive. I hope we can all be that.

 

Best Covers Ever

 

One day on our drive from Steinbach to Arizona, we listened to National Public Radio in the mornings and my own personal Play list of my own recordings some afternoons.  Listening to interesting conversations or great music makes the miles melt away on a long trip. With all modesty I claim that my play list is the best play list in the world! Chris’ only complaint was that I did not have enough Bob Dylan tunes on it. OK that was fake news.

I noticed that in addition to original recordings I also had some great covers. My personal favorite cover was “Fields of Gold” originally written and recorded by Sting and covered by Eve Cassidy. I recommend it highly. In fact, I challenge my Facebook and blogging friends to come up with their favorite covers. By cover I mean a new recording of a hit by another artist.  It must have been a hit the first time around. I have a few other favorites, and promise to give an incredible prize to anyone who names one of my 3 other favorites. I hope people will participate. Don’t be shy. Live boldly.

800 pound Jesus

 

Driving through Northern Ontario I love to listen to music. One of my favourite artists is Paul Thorn.  He wrote and recorded a song a few years that amazingly won an award for best gospel song of the year while, in the same year, was banned as being sacrilegious.  Which do you think is applicable? Here are the words though I would recommend you listen to it performed by him.

800 pound Jesus

 

I saw a garage sale, pulled in the yard,

Found a statute of Jesus that was 8 feet tall.

He held out his arms and he seemed all alone,

So I loaded him up and I drove him home.

Out by my driveway he looks down the street.

Long hair and sandals made of rebar & concrete.

I painted him white with a long purple Robe.

He’s the Rock of Ages on a gravel road.

 

Chorus:

 

He’s an 800 pound Jesus

Standing taller than a tree.

He’s an 800 pound Jesus

A bigger man than you and me.

I thought losing my job was the end of the world,

Till my best friend ran off with my best girl.

I felt suicidal with no real friends,

So I walked outside with a rope in my hands.

Out by that statue there’s an old oak tree,

So I stood on his shoulders & I counted to 3

I had every intention of buying the farm,

but when I jumped off he caught me in his arms.

 

Chorus

 

I wanted to return the favor to him,

Cause I’ve never had more solid friend.

So I planted some flowers all around his feet,

& I bought him a flock of ceramic sheep.

 

Chorus

Icelandic Punk MuseumIceland

 

 

 

 

Iceland has many attractions. I am not sure that this is one of them, but I loved the anarchic spirit of the posters around this former site of a public washroom. I don’t think my tour guides would have recommended it. the museum wanted to make sure there was no mistaking it for its former position.

 

The museum wants to make sure that it not mistaken for the former “loo.” It  was formally opened in 2016 by Johnny Rotten. The museum claims to be a small museum with a big attitude. It contains photos, sounds, posters, instruments, clothes and various other memorabilia from the 80-90’s punk scene in Iceland.

 

 

Thankfully, it makes few claims for redeeming social merit.  Who needs that anyway?

 

 

Start the revolution without me

 

 

La Traviata

 

We returned to Steinbach after a lengthy stay in Arizona and found we had arrived. We arrived to the land of cold and  high culture. Actually, I am a bit like Goebbels who said that when he hears the word “culture” he reaches for his gun. I went to see La Traviata with my sister-in-law, Huguette and our friend Lorraine. Chris cleaned her gun. I sword I would never go to see an opera. I was that way until one day I found myself alone with another lawyer—Reeh Taylor—on a road trip to Brandon. He loved opera and was evangelical about it. He persuaded me that I should try it. At least once. With deep reluctance I agreed. At least I pretended I would give it a try. I am not sure I meant it. Perhaps I said it to appease his zeal.

Then my sister-in-law Huguette a much more cultured person than me, invited me to join her for an opera in Winnipeg. It was La Bohème by Giacomo Puccini. I would not say I was hooked, but I grudgingly admitted this was not all bad. Then my cultured sister-in-law invited to sign up for a season pass. I said that was absurd. Not an entire year of opera!  Then she explained that in Winnipeg (the hinterland) a season of opera meant 2 operas. That seemed at least barely tolerable. So I agreed. I found I liked the next two operas as well. The rest is history. I have become a mild fan—not a zealot—of opera.

This year we saw La Traviata by Giuseppe Verdi  when we returned to Manitoba. This may now  be my favourite opera. At least it was my favourite opera performance. Of course, you must recognize, that I know less about opera, than I know about other musical forms. And that is not much.

The main character is Violetta Valéry played by the angelic Angle Blue. Her voice is actually much more powerful than that word would suggest. Ms. Blue was sensational.

Violetta is keenly aware that she will soon die. She is worn out from a scandalous life on the stage. The word traviata, I was told, means “the corrupt one.” Violetta is sick and believes not entirely without justification, yet without societal sanction, that pleasure is the best medicine. She lives in “whirlwind of joy.” However, her world is profoundly shaken when she meets Alfredo a young man who, in true operatic style falls instantly in passionate love with her. Violetta  has always embodied ‘free love’. The stage is set for a typically momentous opposition of values. And of course, passionate love wins out. Passion always seems to win in opera. Opera without passion is like a painting without a frame. Dry tinder.

Yet the powerful emotions conflict as they always do, especially in opera. The second scene contained what the commentator Sarah Jo Kirsch called “the saddest scene in all of opera” in her pre-show chat. Violetta sacrifices pleasure, then her possessions, and finally the loved one himself. All for the sake of worthless bourgeois respectability, that bugaboo of all that is good.   Of course the sacrifice becomes sacred. After all the two words  not by accident share the same root.  The corrupt one sacrifices love for her loved one’s sister—the pure one whom she has never met. The corrupt one demonstrates profound moral power that dwarfs the sterile absent purity.

Of course as so often happens in opera, the end is tragic. She is reunited with the lover. Violetta announces her pain is gone. “I am reborn. I will live,” she gushes.  And then she dies. Only in opera.

A Jazzman in the World of Ideas

 

This is part II of the discussion between Cornell West and Robert George that we heard a Arizona State University. Their topic was truth seeking, democracy, and freedom of thought and expression.

Cornel West said that we should revel in our common humanity even when you think the other is wrong. In my opinion that is the beginning and most important part of respectful (and hence useful) dialogue. Name calling and finger wagging are seldom useful.

To be a fundamental searcher for truth, one must begin with piety. By piety he means we should depend on those who came before us. We should learn from their mistakes, and try to gain wisdom from them. “We should try to be truth seekers together.” We should learn from our spiritual, moral and political teachers of excellence who came before us.

West said he came from a long tradition of a great people who had been subjugated for a long time even though his tradition taught love.   Their anthem, West said, was “Lift every voice.” Every jazzman finds his voice. He did not use this expression today, but I have heard West say that he is “A Jazzman in the world of ideas.” This reminds me a bit of my own views: be a meanderer in the world of ideas. There is no straight line to truth. The search for truth moves by twists and turns, steps forward and backward. There is no laid out map. There is no recipe for truth. It would be convenient if there was.

West says that in his classes he tells his students he wants “to teach them to learn to die.” Plato in his dialogues said much the same thing. He said his philosophy was meditation on how to die. Seneca said “he who learns to die learns to give up slavery.” West wants us to “learn how to die, in order to learn how to live.” In the end it is about living.

West wants us to achieve “Deep education, not cheap schooling.” His mentor, Socrates, urged us to respect the other in dialogue. After that empathy is what comes out of his mouth.”

Cornell West also said, “If the kingdom of God is within you, everywhere you go, you will leave a little of heaven behind.” West was blunt about current conditions in America and the west: “We live in a period of spiritual blackout.”

West also commented on the current President of the United States. “Donald Trump has no monopoly on spiritual blackout. Trump also did not cause the spiritual blackout; he is a symptom of it. Donald Trump is as American as cherry pie.” I found this particularly important at this time in America. About 50 million Americans voted for Trump in the last election and he was clearly a racist and a liar, but they voted for him anyway. Donald Trump did not hide anything about himself. He put it out there and millions of people voted for him. Millions liked what they heard. To many of us that is incomprehensible, but not to millions of Americans. Nearly half the American voters voted for Trump. So what Trump is, America is too.

West, like George, and like John Stuart Mill reminded us all said we had to be wary of our own convictions. Convictions can be the enemy of truth. We had to be willing to expose them to criticism and attack. Like Nietzsche said, we must have the courage to attack our convictions. Each of us is only as strong as our critics.

According to West, with spiritual blackout you end up distrusting people. You adopt the morality of much of 19th century capitalism. Do what ever you want; just don’t get caught. This attitude is widespread across the board in all institutions, he said. Not just capitalism. No democracy can survive when this attitude is rampant. In the west, particularly America, this attitude is rampant. That puts democracy in jeopardy.

Both West and George urged us to consider and adopt civic virtues. These result from recognition that all groups of people are precious and human at the deepest level. It is based on the finding of a common humanity in diverse groups. I would say that we discover this by accessing our innate fellow feeling at a deep level. I think West has a deep appreciation of the commons. This is how West and George connect with each other. They embrace their differences and their common humanity. I wish more of us could do that. This is particularly exemplary in this age of extremes, in which it appears most of us can no longer speak softly with others who disagree with us. West and George exemplified what they preached. You could see one listening intently while the other spoke. They did not interrupt each other. They learned from one another.

West is inspired by jazz music in particular and his favorite is John Coltrane. West treats an intellectual discussion as Coltrane and his friends would “a jam session.” He wants to make music by dialogue. That would be a jam session of ideas. West said that Coltrane and his friends would learn not only from each other, but from the dead, when they jammed. They would listen to the playing of the others in the jam session and then show what they had learned from Louis Armstrong and other jazz greats. The musical ideas would bounce off each other. That is what West wants in intellectual dialogue too. Voices bouncing off each other including voices of the dead like Martin Luther King or William Shakespeare or Friedrich Nietzsche or Jesus Christ. Then we can access something bigger than the parts in the search for truth, whether you are in a jam session or a philosophical discussion.

Even that was not enough, West said. Democracy is exactly this too. Democracy is ideas bouncing off each other when each voice is heard and no voice is shut down. When people respect each other’s voices great things can result. Of course this requires others to want to make music (getting back to the music analogy again). If they are just trying to shut you down you can’t make music. This gets back to freedom of speech.

That does not mean you have the right to say anything at all at any time. You have no right to shout “fire” in a crowded dark theatre. That might cause a stampede and people could get hurt. That does not mean you have the right to defame other people. That causes harm to them. False statements that harm others are not permitted, even though we all want a robust form of freedom of expression. You have no right to walk into a University classroom and call people names, like “the N word,” or other derogatory names. That is not done to engage in free discussion. Such statements are made to end discussion. Therefore they are not permitted. The same goes for hate speech. Hate speech is not made to engage in discussion. If a statement is made for that purpose, I would argue, it is not hate speech. If speech is made to generate hate against others that is not to engage in free thought and discussion either. We do not have the right to make such statements.

West in a very brief comment made a very important point. He said, if you want to make an important argument you have to visit the “chocolate side of town.” You can’t just stay physically and mentally in the comfortable suburbs. You have to visit the ghettos. You have to visit places where poor people hang out; where vulnerable people go. Otherwise your ideas are bound to be inadequate. There is a lot to be learned on the chocolate side of town. For example there is a lot to be learned from jazz, from Black Baptist religion, and from a long tradition of suffering and the enduring of suffering. These were my examples, but I think West would endorse them. We should all learn from that side of town.

Into the Mystic

As I lay in the sun listening to music a weird thought came into my head.  the sun will do; it can make you crazy. What music would I like to have played at my funeral/memorial service/wake if there is one? I actually thought the entire album Moondance or Astral Weeks by Van Morrison might be appropriate. He is obviously religious; I am not. Yet I loved his songs, even his religious songs. I particularly like “Into the Mystic”. But I do not intend “mystic” in any literal sense. At least I don’t intend “the mystic” to be a reference to something out there beyond those incredibly blue skies we have here in the desert nearly every day. I mean the mystic that is here and now. Right here and right now. That is my kind of mystic.

Here are the words (but you really should listen to it; the words are a small part of the song)

“Into The Mystic”
We were born before the wind
Also younger than the sun
Ere the bonnie boat was won as we sailed into the mystic
Hark, now hear the sailors cry
Smell the sea and feel the sky
Let your soul and spirit fly into the mystic

And when that fog horn blows I will be coming home
And when the fog horn blows I want to hear it
I don’t have to fear it

And I want to rock your gypsy soul
Just like way back in the days of old
And magnificently we will flow into the mystic

When that fog horn blows you know I will be coming home
And when that fog horn whistle blows I got to hear it
I don’t have to fear it

And I want to rock your gypsy soul
Just like way back in the days of old
And together we will flow into the mystic
Come on girl…

Too late to stop now…

 

When that fog horn blows I will be coming home. That is as good as any song I can think of. Can you think of a better one?

The Music of the Vietnam Years

 

The 1960s were a time of music. Music was the background to everything. The War in Vietnam was no exception. Neither is the series The War in Vietnam  produced by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick and shown on PBS. The series is worth watching to listen to the music alone. Its worth the trip.

The television series is worth seeing for many reasons. It is definitely worth watching to hear the songs of the sixties. The music of the sixties is really the backdrop to the War. Most of the American portion of the war was fought during that decade.

Obviously a lot of time was spent by the producers getting the music right. The 10 part series features more than 120 popular songs many of them iconic. Many I would not have thought of as war songs. Of course what is a war song?

The series includes tracks from The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Buffalo Springfield. The Byrds, Crosby, Still, Nash & Young, Big Brother and the Holding Company, and in particular Janis Joplin, Barry McGuire, Pete Singer, Jimi Hendrix Experience. Simon & Garfunkel and many more. The music is outstanding. Of course it was the music of the 60s who would expect anything less.

Episode 1 displays a classic: Bob Dylan singing “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” Here are the words to that classic song:

 

 

“A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall”

Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?
And where have you been my darling young one?
I’ve stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains
I’ve walked and I’ve crawled on six crooked highways
I’ve stepped in the middle of seven sad forests
I’ve been out in front of a dozen dead oceans
I’ve been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

Oh, what did you see, my blue eyed son?
And what did you see, my darling young one?
I saw a newborn baby with wild wolves all around it
I saw a highway of diamonds with nobody on it
I saw a black branch with blood that kept drippin’
I saw a room full of men with their hammers a-bleedin’
I saw a white ladder all covered with water
I saw ten thousand talkers whose tongues were all broken
I saw guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

And what did you hear, my blue-eyed son?
And what did you hear, my darling young one?
I heard the sound of a thunder that roared out a warnin’
I heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world
I heard one hundred drummers whose hands were a-blazin’
I heard ten thousand whisperin’ and nobody listenin’
I heard one person starve, I heard many people laughin’
Heard the song of a poet who died in the gutter
Heard the sound of a clown who cried in the alley
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

Oh, what did you meet my blue-eyed son ?
Who did you meet, my darling young one?
I met a young child beside a dead pony
I met a white man who walked a black dog
I met a young woman whose body was burning
I met a young girl, she gave me a rainbow
I met one man who was wounded in love
I met another man who was wounded in hatred
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

And what’ll you do now, my blue-eyed son?
And what’ll you do now my darling young one?
I’m a-goin’ back out ‘fore the rain starts a-fallin’
I’ll walk to the depths of the deepest black forest
Where the people are a many and their hands are all empty
Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters
Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison
And the executioner’s face is always well hidden
Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten
Where black is the color, where none is the number
And I’ll tell and speak it and think it and breathe it
And reflect from the mountain so all souls can see it
And I’ll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin’
But I’ll know my song well before I start singing
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

 

Many classics are played in the series. I will never forget Barry McGuire’s “On the Even of Destruction.” That song was a hit in the summer between my 11th and 12 Grades. I remember we had a group of exchange students over to visit us from Windsor Ontario. We played this song over and over again at Johnny’s Grill in Steinbach. The restaurant was owned and operated by my “Uncle” John Vogt. It was the first “protest song” I can remember. Here are the lyrics:

 

On the Eve of Destruction The eastern world, it is explodingViolence flarin’, bullets loadin’You’re old enough to kill, but not for votin’You don’t believe in war, but what’s that gun you’re totin’And even the Jordan River has bodies floatin’ But you tell meOver and over and over again, my friendAh, you don’t believeWe’re on the eveof destruction. Don’t you understand what I’m tryin’ to sayCan’t you feel the fears I’m feelin’ today?If the button is pushed, there’s no runnin’ awayThere’ll be no one to save, with the world in a grave[Take a look around ya boy, it’s bound to scare ya boy] And you tell meOver and over and over again, my friendAh, you don’t believeWe’re on the eveof destruction. Yeah, my blood’s so mad feels like coagulatin’I’m sitting here just contemplatin’I can’t twist the truth, it knows no regulation.Handful of senators don’t pass legislationAnd marches alone can’t bring integrationWhen human respect is disintegratin’This whole crazy world is just too frustratin’ And you tell meOver and over and over again, my friendAh, you don’t believeWe’re on the eveof destruction. Think of all the hate there is in Red ChinaThen take a look around to Selma, AlabamaYou may leave here for 4 days in spaceBut when you return, it’s the same old placeThe poundin’ of the drums, the pride and disgraceYou can bury your dead, but don’t leave a traceHate your next-door neighbor, but don’t forget to say graceAnd… tell me over and over and over and over again, my friendYou don’t believeWe’re on the eveOf destructionMm, no no, you don’t believeWe’re on the eveof destruction.

 

In the television series not every song is played in its entirety. Some are played as subtle background music. It is all evocative of those times: the Sixties and the War in Vietnam. I will never forget those times.

One of the important commentators in the series was Merril McPeak who served as a fighter and bomber pilot in the war. He flew more than 200missions. He as a special advisor to the producers of the series. This is what he said about the music, that he felt like my friends and I felt that rock & roll music was becoming of age. It spoke our language and said what we thought of the war and life in the sixties. In fact we felt the music was revolutionary because it spoke of permanent dynamic change. This is what he said about the music:

The late Sixties were a kind of confluence of several rivulets, There was the anti-war movement itself, the whole movement towards racial equality, the environment, the role of women. And the anthems for that counterculture were provided by the most brilliant rock & roll music that you can imagine. I don’t know how we could exist today as a country without that experience, with all of its warts and ups and downs. That produced the America we have today, and we are better for it…

And I felt that way in Vietnam. I turned up the volume on all that stuff. That, for me, represented what I was trying to defend.

The Classic Vietnam war song was sung by Neil Young. It was called simply “Ohio”. It was written after 4 unarmed students were shot by young inexperienced but trigger-happy American National Guard soldiers at a peaceful anti-war protest on Kent State University. The Guards feared that the demonstration would turn violent as some of them had that summer. 2 of the students that were shot were not even involved in the protest. They were just innocent bystanders. Of course wars never respect innocent bystanders. But it shocked the world when 4 American students were shot by fellow Americans at a peaceful demonstration in the US.

Here are the words to that song:

 

“Ohio”
Tin soldiers and Nixon coming,
We’re finally on our own.
This summer I hear the drumming,
Four dead in Ohio.

Gotta get down to it
Soldiers are cutting us down
Should have been done long ago.
What if you knew her
And found her dead on the ground
How can you run when you know?

Gotta get down to it
Soldiers are cutting us down
Should have been done long ago.
What if you knew her
And found her dead on the ground
How can you run when you know?

Tin soldiers and Nixon coming,
We’re finally on our own.
This summer I hear the drumming,
Four dead in Ohio.

 

Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young recorded the song in 1970 the year of the shooting. That was also the summer I met Christiane Calvez who later became my bride.

Those were amazing times. As Charles Dickens said about a different revolution,

 

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the Season of Light, it was the Season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

 

Did he write that in 1970? It sure sounds that way. Watch the series; listen to the music. Enjoy. Remember. Think.

The soundtrack ends with 4 classics: Ray Charles gospel version of “America the Beautiful,” Marvin Gaye’s 1971 song “What’s Going On,” that was inspired by his brother’s 3 year term in Vietnam and 2 songs I never thought of as Vietnam songs, but they did arise during that time. One was Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge over Troubled Water” which I thought was what the series tried to be. In my mind it succeeded but I realized there are as many different views of the war as there are people who experienced those times. The finally that magnificent Beatle’s song sung by Paul McCartney “Let it Be.” That song I suppose was meant to bring perhaps not closure as one of the vets in the last episode said, but at least peace. That song is close enough to a hymn to do. Whisper words of wisdom. Let it be.