Vol. 12, No. 2,856W - The American Reporter - March 18, 2006


Hominy & Hash
SONGS OF WAR: THE DRUMS RUM-TUMMING EV'RYWHERE

by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- When Barbara Streisand closed the Emmy Awards = Show with an inimitable rendition of "You'll Never Walk Alone," she proved = once more that music certainly "...doth have charms to soothe the savage b= reast."

As we move into the third month since 6,500 innocent people lost their l= ives in unspeakable circumstances, we wonder how it could have happened, ho= w we couild have prevented it and what we're going to do now. We have no an= swers, just a grating awareness in our souls that can be assuaged now and t= hen by melodies striking just the right notes.

We haven't come together i= n such a show of solidarity since December 7, 1941 -- the day that lives on= in infamy. Almost instantly, "Let's Remember Pearl Harbor, As We Did the A= lamo," was heard on street corners while "Heart of my Heart" faded into the= memory of those kinder, gentler times.

Marching songs, like "We Did It Before and We Can Do it Again," or, "Pra= ise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition" fired us up. Every love song heard wa= s a song of longing to be together again, meaning the way we were before. "= I'll be Seeing You" brought with it a mental image of a G.I in a foxhole, s= mudged and exhausted, looking up and thinking "I'll be looking at the moon = but I'll be seeing you."

Songwriters fell into the mood and we had music for every age and occasi= on. We had no thought of being politically correct. We knew our enemy and w= e blasted him -- on the home front we used songs and ridicule. During the f= irst world war, the Kaiser was the butt of the jokes: "Our boys went rat-a-= tat-tat, rat-a-tat-tat, and shot the Kaiser where he sat-at-tat-tat. With e= very poppity pop some kraut took a drop, American Boys are all such straigh= t shooters."

Some songs didn't survive to be recorded in the annals of WWII music, bu= t I remember well jumping rope to: "Whistle while you work, Hitler is a jer= k. Mussolini is a meanie and the Japs are saps." Or, "When the Fuerher says= , 'this is the master race,' we heil, pffffft, heil, pffffft, right in the = Fuerher's face."

Song-and-dance man George M. Cohan, started wrapping himself in theAmeri= can Flag from the day he was born, a few hours short of being born onthe Fo= urth of July. He gave us "You're a Grand Old Flag," and we all becameyankee= doodle dandies. We loved being American. We loved who we were andwhat we w= ere fighting for. Most of all, we loved shouting it out loud forall the wor= ld to hear.

We sent "our boys" -- men and women, but still "our boys," to places we = couldn't pronounce with one mission: defending America and our way of life = ... for a cause that was just. We were attacked then and we were attacked= now. And, again, our striking back is for a cause that is just.

Is it because World War I and World War II were "our" wars, to be fought= to the finish, that we are spurred on to such a degree? The "conflict" and= "police action" designations for Korea and Vietnam, and the line in the sa= nd in the Gulf War took our young men and women just as surely as the decla= red wars did.

But there was no rallying. In one of the most popular protest songs, Co= untry Joe & The Fish sang:

Well, it's one, two, three, fou= r,
What are we fighting for?...
Well, come on mothers throughout the= land,
pack your boys off to Vietnam.
Come on fathers, don't hesita= te,
send 'em off before it's too late.
Be the first one on your blo= ck
to have your boy come home in a box.

Those far-off skirmishes were to protect someone else's way of life and = many of us felt the cost was too great. And besides, marching orders were n= othing to sing about. Wars against those hell bent on destroying us persona= lly do have a sound track. It might be full of bravado, bold and brassy, or= proudly crooned and softly strummed.

Lee Greenwood's "Proud to be an American" brings tears to our eyes as w= e breathe in the verse:

And, I'm proud to be an American
Where at least I know I'm free.
And I won't forget the men who died,
Who gave that right to me.

Charlie Daniels and Billy Joel, latter day singer and songwriters like G= eorge M. Cohan before them, wrote songs that inspire us now. Billy Joel's "= New York State of Mind" was the music to travel to Ground Zero by -- and th= ey traveled from all states to lend a hand when the city was down.Charlie's= song: "In America" cleared the air of any notion that we squabbleamong our= selves when he wrote:

'Cause we'll all stick together
And you can take that= to the bank
That's the cowboys and the hippies
And the rebels and th= e yanks.

That was written in 1993 during the Gulf War. There was no doubt then, n= or now, that Americans stick together -- for a cause that is just. In all o= ur wars from the days of President Washington to now, there have been medal= s to honor meritorious duty on behalf of our country. However, not until De= cember 1861 did Congress order that the Congressional Medal of Honor, the h= ighest military award, be given for actions above and beyond the call of du= ty.

George M. Cohan was called to Washington and presented the first Special= Congressional Medal of Honor for his patriotic song, "Over There." He mode= stly said to President Roosevelt that such a medal "is for people who've gi= ven their lives to their country or done something big; I'm just a song-and= -dance man."

And, to this, Mr. Roosevelt is quoted as saying: "A man may give his lif= e to his country in many different ways, Mr. Cohan. And quite often he isn'= t the best judge of how much he has given. Your songs were a symbol of the = American Spirit. 'Over There' was just as powerful a weapon as any cannon, = as any battleship we had in the First World War. Today we're all soldiers, = we're all on the front. We need more songs to express America. I know you a= nd your comrades will give them to us."

Once again, we're all soldiers, all on Neighborhood Watch this time, but= ... nevertheless. This is what rallied our parents and grandparents and no= w we have the added onus of having "them" come over "here."

<= i>Over there, Over there,
Send the word, Send the word, Over there
Th= at the Yanks are coming, The Yanks are coming,
The drums rum-tumming ev'= rywhere.
So prepare, Say a prayer,
Send the word, Send the word, To b= eware
We'll be over, We're coming over,
And we won't come back till i= t's over, Over There.

Copyright 2006 Joe Shea The American Reporter. All Rights Reserved.

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