by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
November 7, 2001
SONGS OF WAR: THE DRUMS RUM-TUMMING EV'RYWHERE
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 breast."
As we move into the third month since 6,500 innocent people lost their lives in unspeakable circumstances, we wonder how it could have happened, how we couild have prevented it and what we're going to do now. We have no answers, just a grating awareness in our souls that can be assuaged now and then by melodies striking just the right notes. We haven't come together in 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 Alamo," 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, "Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition" fired us up. Every love song heard was 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, smudged 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 occasion. We had no thought of being politically correct. We knew our enemy and we blasted him - on the home front we used songs and ridicule. During the World War I, 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 every poppity pop some kraut took a drop, American Boys are all such straight shooters."
Some songs didn't survive to be recorded in the annals of WWII music, but I remember well jumping rope to: "Whistle while you work, Hitler is a jerk. Mussolini is a meanie and the Japs are saps." Or, "When the Fuhrer 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 theAmerican Flag from the day he was born, a few hours short of being born onthe Fourth of July. He gave us "You're a Grand Old Flag," and we all became yankee doodle dandies. We loved being American. We loved who we were andwhat we were fighting for. Most of all, we loved shouting it out loud forall the world 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 sand in the Gulf War took our young men and women just as surely as the declared wars did.
But there was no rallying. In one of the most popular protest songs, Country Joe & The Fish sang:
Well, it's one, two, three, fou= r,
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 nothing to sing about. Wars against those hell bent on destroying us personally 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 we breathe in the verse:
And, I'm proud to be an American
Charlie Daniels and Billy Joel, latter day singer and songwriters like George 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 they 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
That was written in 1993 during the Gulf War. There was no doubt then, nor now, that Americans stick together - for a cause that is just. In all our wars from the days of President Washington to now, there have been medals to honor meritorious duty on behalf of our country. However, not until December 1861 did Congress order that the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest military award, be given for actions above and beyond the call of duty.
George M. Cohan was called to Washington and presented the first Special Congressional Medal of Honor for his patriotic song, "Over There." He modestly said to President Roosevelt that such a medal "is for people who've given 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 life 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 and 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 now we have the added onus of having "them" come over "here."
Over there, Over there,