The general of the Columbian Army reached out to an advertising executive who helped produce a pop song that contained a hidden Morse code message, which played on the radio, alerting the hostages to their upcoming rescue.
“What Hath God Wrought?” was the first message sent by Morse code in 1844 and some of these songs live up to it:
Morse code is actually still being used by the military. The last code classes were taught by the Army at Fort Huachuca in 2015. The Air Force is currently teaching this vital form of communication at Goodfellow AFB, Texas.
The bands were generally raised just before the units they would serve. Some were contracted by state legislatures and others by officers in units they had begun enlisting.
The initial purpose of the band was to help get attention of potential enlistees as a sort of marketing campaign.
When the units began training and later deploying, the bands would help keep morale up and sometimes assist with music for drills.
But when the units took to the field, there were generally few uses for a full brass band in the middle of combat. Some were ordered to play music in the middle of the fray, like when a Confederate band played during the Battle of Gettysburg and men on both sides heard the music.
Some musicians became runners, carrying messages as the bullets flew. But most were sent to remove the wounded.
I put some considerable value on the service of the band in the several affairs the regiment was engaged in as an Ambulance Corps. . . . The mere fact of one member of the band being twice required to cross the line of fire of both forces, undoubtedly saved the lives of several members of our own regiment from the fire of one of our own batteries, several members of our own regiment having already been killed by the unfortunately located battery. . . . The bandsmen had been well taught by the surgeon how to give first aid to the wounded, and how to use stretchers, bandages and tourniquets. We were to go with the regiment into battle, rescue the wounded, if possible, and carry them to the field hospital. We were liable to be sent as messengers on dangerous errands.
In 1862, Congress passed a bill to muster out nearly all regimental bands, leaving some at the corps and brigade levels as well as drummers, buglers, and fifers in the companies.
Unsurprisingly since many of the men had worked in battles like Whitcomb’s, they were happy to take their last paychecks and leave.
The historic piece of art that’s featured in the hilarious meme showcasing three marching Revolutionary War musicians has a long, long history. While it might not date as far back as the Revolutionary War, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone to learn it was inspired by and modeled after drunken American war veterans.
Ohioan Archibald Willard was a Civil War veteran who enlisted with the 86th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. During the Civil War, the 86th saw action at the Battle of the Cumberland Gap and headed off Confederate General John Hunt Morgan as he made the furthest incursion northward during the war, but it only lost 37 men total — all due to disease. Willard began to draw pictures of the things he saw as he moved with the unit. He and a business partner began to finish and sell the drawings throughout the war.
Archibald Willard, Civil War veteran and creator of “The Spirit of ’76.”
Before moving back to Cleveland, Willard studied art in New York City. He stayed for a number of years, but it was back in his native Ohio that Willard was inspired to paint a humorous picture he called, “Yankee Doodle.” It was the first incarnation of what would become his most famous and celebrated work, with three Revolutionary War musicians marching in tune to their martial music. But this first pass was less of a serious work and more of a funny comic-book painting.
The original featured three natives of Wellington, Ohio — all slightly intoxicated veterans of the War of 1812 — goofing around and creating mock battles with instruments in the town square. He also used Wellingtonians as models to paint the patriots seen in the famous painting. These models included his father, the Reverend Samuel Willard, fellow Civil War veteran Hugh Mosher as the fife player, and a local named Henry Devereaux, a military academy cadet and the son of a local railroad president, as the drummer boy.
Willard drew the original as a comic scene, but a friend who saw his sketch suggested that Willard take it a little more seriously, perhaps draw it up with a patriotic theme. The idea intrigued Willard because it was outside the realm of anything he’d ever done before. He preferred to paint landscapes and comical scenes of everyday life. Thinking back to old stories his grandfather would tell him about fighting in the American Revolution, Willard created an eight-by-ten foot masterpiece, re-titled “The Spirit of ’76.”
“The Spirit of ’76” first went on display in 1876 as part of a celebration of the American Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. Willard went on to paint several different versions of the painting but there were none so iconic or reproduced in American culture than the original. In the years following the Civil War, years characterized by mixed feelings, resentment, and Reconstruction, “The Spirit of ’76” was a work of art that evoked a shared sense of national unity.
And lived on in many different iterations.
After the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, the original painting was sold to General John H. Devereux, father of the drummer boy in the painting, who took it to his home in Marblehead, Mass. where it remains on display to this day. The drum used by the younger Devereux and Hugh Mosher’s fife can be seen in the Spirit of ’76 Museum in Wellington, Ohio.
On his fantastic new album A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, Sturgill Simpson uses life at sea to inspire songs about separation from family and a longing for home. Simpson himself grew up in Kentucky and claims he joined the Navy on a whim when driving past a recruiting station.
After three years which included service in Japan and Southeast Asia, he left the service. “I wasn’t very good at taking orders,” he told Garden and Gun in 2014.
After he came home and started a music career, it turned out he wasn’t very good at taking orders from Nashville, either. Simpson wasn’t cut out for the kind of trucks-and-beer pop country that’s dominated the charts over the last decade and made his name on independently-released albums. He had a breakthrough with 2014’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, produced by Dave Cobb (who’s made a name for himself producing fellow Nashville rebels Chris Stapleton and Jason Isbell).
Atlantic Records signed Simpson and gave him total freedom to make Sailor’s Guide, which he produced himself. What he made is a compact album (39 minutes, just like the old days!) that combines ’70s Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson with Stax Records-style horns, Al Green keyboard grooves and a Elvis in Memphis vibe.
On the track “Sea Stories,” he talks about joining the Navy:
Basically it’s just like papaw says:
“Keep your mouth shut and you’ll be fine”
Just another enlisted egg
In the bowl for Uncle Sam’s beater
When you get to Dam Neck
Hear a voice in your head
Saying, “my life’s no longer mine”
He also includes a cover of Nirvana’s “In Bloom,” where he adds a new lyric. After the line “You don’t know what it means” (where there’s a howling guitar squall on the original version), Simpson sings “to love someone,” a line he says he imagined was there for years after he first heard the Nirvana version. Fans of the BeeGees (and the innumerable soul covers of the song) will appreciate the “To Love Someone” reference.
There’s zero Autotune on the vocals, so this kind of gritty, soulful music may sound a bit weird to fans of Little Big Town or Florida-Georgia Line. None of the songs sound like truck commercials, so you’re probably not going to hear this music on commercial country radio. If Chris Stapleton got your attention last year, though, Simpson’s album is a logical next step into the world of traditional country.
The album’s for sale in all the digital music stores, CDs are really cheap at Amazon and you can stream it on Spotify or Apple Music before you buy. Check out the first two videos from the album below.
Sturgill’s daring cover of Nirvana’s “In Bloom”The album’s first single is “Brace for Impact (Live a Little)”
Modern music has done much in the way of impacting how society views many topics. From protest songs to historical accounts, artists have written their share of songs about war and the military.
I’m not quite breaking new ground with this list, but I thought it would be interesting to examine some of my favorite songs that deal with the subject of war and military life. You may know some of them, you may not know some of them.
10. The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down – The Band
Released on The Band’s self-titled second album, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down recounts the waning days of the American Civil War through the eyes of a poor, white southerner named Virgil Caine. The song, which was written by Robbie Robertson and Levon Helm, is commonly included in lists of the greatest songs of all-time. Covered by bands such as The Black Crowes and The Allman Brothers Band, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down is an unhindered vision into the roots and culture of Americana music.
Written by David Crosby shortly before his dismissal from The Byrds, Draft Morning recalls the experiences of a young American man on the day he was drafted into the Vietnam war and throughout his service. Crosby was actually fired from The Byrds prior to the song being finished, but Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman re-worked the song and gave themselves writing credits. Draft Morning is one of my favorite Byrds songs, as it has their iconic, melodic sound.
The General tells of an old, battle-worn General who, after years of battlefield success, urges his men to look for more in life than war. The song depicts a hard-to-grasp aspect of the American Civil War, or any civil war for that matter, which is the idea of a faction of people of the same nationality, separated by belief, waging war on one another. The General remains one of the most beloved songs in the Dispatch catalog by their devoutly loyal fan base.
Written by bassist Steve Harris, The Trooper is based on the Charge of the Light Brigade at the battle of Balaclava during the Crimean War in 1854. A famous poem of the same name was written by Lord Tennyson. The Trooper appeared on Maiden’s 1983 masterpiece Piece of Mind and remains a staple in their live repertoire.
In typical Dylan fashion, he held no punches when it came to voicing his opinion about the government. Dylan has explained that Masters of War is not an anti-war song, but it is rather anti-corruption. It stands out as one of the harshest songs of criticism in his catalog, which is saying something for a man who has forever etched his name in the stone of confrontational art.
Above is Eddie Vedder performing Masters of War with Mike McCready and G.E. Smith at the legendary Bob Dylan 30th Anniversary concert at Madison Square Garden.
Isbell’s Tour of Duty is written through the eyes of a man returning from military service to find a life filled with simple pleasures, yet not quite the same as it was before. It is an honest, sometimes content and forward thinking account of man trying to transition into civilian life. Isbell has made his mark as one of the finest songwriters of the last twenty years, and Tour of Duty is a genuine example of his mastery of Americana music.
Clocking in at more than seven minutes long, Us and Them stands as one of the pillars of Pink Floyd’s legendary 1973 album Dark Side of the Moon. As much of the album does, Us and Them examines the themes of maturity, the passing of time and conflict. Roger Waters specifically questions whether human beings are capable of being humane, and asks whether two sides of a conflict are truly too far apart. Waters’ father was killed during World War II, and he has used the theme of war as a vehicle to examine human behavior on many occasions.
As Dylan did with Masters of War, Black Sabbath commented on the idea of somebody using war for their own personal gain and the evil that can come from this. At first it was believed to have been an anti-Vietnam War song due to the time period in which it was written, but the group dispelled that notion. It is regarded by many, including myself, as the greatest heavy metal song of all-time. War Pigs is the lead song on Sabbath’s legendary 1970 album, Paranoid, and was a stalwart of their live shows.
Colin Meloy of The Decemberists explained Dear Avery as being written through the eyes of a mother whose son is off at war. It is presented in the form of the mother’s letter to her son, Avery. She does not know his fate, nor his whereabouts. It stands as an emotional testament to the strength of parents whose children deploy. Dear Avery is the final song on The Decemberists celebrated 2011 album The King Is Dead.
Led Zeppelin, particularly Robert Plant, had a fierce infatuation with medieval war, and it was a topic for some of their most memorable songs. The Battle of Evermore, written by Plant and Jimmy Page, examines a Tolkien-esque story of dragons, castles, and magic, and is set to instrumentation that reminds of an old English folk tune. The song appears on Led Zeppelin’s landscape changing album Led Zeppelin IV.
Alice in Chains was a widely-successful Grunge band in the 1990s. Alongside Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden, they helped define an entire generation of musicians. While songs like Would? and Man in the Box are their most well-known, Rooster is the most beloved within the military community.
Jerry Cantrell Jr., the guitarist, co-vocalist, and songwriter, was the son of a Vietnam War veteran, Jerry Cantrell Sr. The younger Cantrell watched his father deploy twice and never talk about what happened in Vietnam. He watched as his father struggled with PTSD throughout his childhood until, eventually, it destroyed his family.
So, he wrote a song dedicated to his father and his experience in Vietnam.
The name, Rooster, is a play on three meanings: It was a childhood nickname of his father’s. ‘Rooster’ was also a nickname for M60 machine gunners because the muzzle flash looked like a rooster’s tail. It’s also a play on how the Vietnamese saw 101st Airborne Division soldiers who wore the Screaming Eagle on their sleeves. It’s said that because bald eagles aren’t native to Vietnam, the locals referred to 101st soldiers as “chicken men” or “roosters.” All three meanings perfectly describe Jerry Cantrell Sr.
The lyrics run deep with symbolism calling back to Vietnam. Cantrell Jr. was only able to piece together little things from what he heard his father occasionally say.
“Walking tall machine gun man.
They spit on me in my homeland.
Gloria sent me pictures of my boy.
Got my pills ‘gainst mosquito death,
My buddy’s breathing his dying breath.
Oh, God, please won’t you help me make it through.”
In a 1992 interview with Guitar for the Practicing Musician, he was asked if his father ever heard the song. He did, but only once live. Cantrell Jr recalled,
Yeah. He’s heard this song. He’s only seen us play once, and I played this song for him when we were in this club opening for Iggy Pop. I’ll never forget it. He was standing in the back and he heard all the words and stuff. Of course, I was never in Vietnam and he won’t talk about it, but when I wrote this, it felt right… like these were things he might have felt or thought. And I remember when we played it he was back by the soundboard and I could see him. He was back there with his big gray Stetson and his cowboy boots — he’s a total Oklahoma man — and at the end, he took his hat off and just held it in the air. And he was crying the whole time. This song means a lot to me. A lot.
Ronald McNair was an accomplished guy. NASA’s second-ever African-American astronaut was a physicist, a world-renowned expert in lasers, 5th-degree black belt in Karate, and jazz saxophonist. Amazingly, he was also dedicated to making sure most of those accomplishments lined up — in space.
The multi-talented astronaut was then working with French composer Jean-Michel Jarre, whose work in the electronic music and synthpop was unparalleled. The two were collaborating on a piece for one of the composer’s upcoming albums that would include a saxophone solo recorded in orbit above the Earth.
McNair was also set to perform a live concert with Jarre’s band — a specially-written solo just for him — during one of their performances through a live feed from his second mission aboard the Challenger space shuttle. Of course, none of this happened. On this mission, Challenger never made it to orbit, disintegrating 73 seconds into its launch from Cape Canaveral on January 28, 1986.
The accomplished astronaut’s musical solo would have been the first piece of live music ever recorded in space.
When Jarre’s album, called Rendez-Vous, was released, it included a track called “Ron’s Piece,” using McNair’s actual heartbeat as the beat of the piece.
The concert also went on as scheduled. Jarre took to the stage in Houston on Apr. 5 of that same year to a cacaphony of synth sounds, lasers, and fireworks. Though McNair wasn’t giving his solo from space, 1.3 million people still checked in to see the concert in McNair’s honor.
The Houston, Texas skyline lights up for Jarre’s tribute to McNair.
At the request of McNair’s wife, Grammy-winning jazz musician Kirk Whalum performed McNair’s saxophone solo.
“Going on stage took on a new meaning that day,” he told CNN. “Because not to mention this horde, this mass of humanity, and all the security just to get to this spot, but then they had to hoist my instrument up, and then I was climbing up this crazy ladder to get to the top of this scaffold.”
It was the largest-ever public performance of its kind up to that point.
In December 2003, Michael Trotter, Jr. was a soldier stationed in Baghdad, Iraq. His unit was camped out in one of Saddam Hussein’s bombed-out palaces when his commanding officer discovered a piano and suggested Trotter, who enjoyed singing, check it out.
“You had to crawl over soot and rut and rock and rubble from the war to get to this piano; it was like one of those dramatic movie scenes,” Trotter told Real Clear Life.
“Dear Martha” is about the letters written between loved ones divided by war. Trotter recorded the song with his wife, Tanya Blount, as part of their musical duo, The War and Treaty, which explores the concept of creating music out of darkness and despair to find peace, tranquility, and a higher purpose.
While this video doesn’t include any visuals, you can hear their tranquil notes and haunting harmonies by clicking play below — and you really, really should:
Music is such a powerful tool in our society. It is absolutely crazy how lyrics on top of a melody can turn our brain into a mental time machine. For me, I can never listen to “Cherry Pie” by Warrant and not go back to that dive bar in Ohio where I slow danced the night away with a girl I assumed was my next ex-wife.
For many of us veterans, hearing a song might take us back to when we served or where we deployed. I spent many days in 2005 sitting by my tent in Iraq, enjoying one of those cold, delicious, non-alcoholic Busch beers while enjoying some fine tunes.
Music artists have usually gone out of their way to release one song “for the troops!” While many are not nearly as good as country music superstar Toby Keith when it comes to producing a ‘Murican tune, some have succeeded. Today we will honor 5 of those artists whose names don’t rhyme with Kobe Teeth.
You gotta be careful listening to this one, especially after watching the music video. Sometimes I think I’m Maverick and I’m getting ready to do a lot of cool things in an F-14. Then I look down at my Prius speedometer and see that I’m only doing 55. Kenny nails this song though. You cannot listen to it and not think of Tom Cruise and those other handsome flyboys in Top Gun.
Alright, before you go getting outraged and calling for my head because I included the Dixie Chicks on this list, hear me out! If you listen to the lyrics in this song and don’t get a little misty eyed, YOU might not be American! This is one of the greatest love songs ever written about the love between a deployed soldier and his lady back home. This is also one you have to be careful listening to. You might end up singing it at the top of your lungs while sitting in traffic, and it’s embarrassing the first four times it happens.
I don’t even have to explain how great this song is to all members of the military. As an Iraqi veteran I am insanely jealous that this masterpiece was released during the Vietnam era. This is the song I listen to right before I get ready for an intense night of ping pong.
The Man in Black brilliantly covered this Tom Petty song which saw heavy radio play following the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks. Rumor has it that if you listen to this song three times in front of the mirror, you will actually re-enlist. You will probably also fail the urinalysis too which should have been expected if you were sitting in front of a mirror in your bathroom listening to this song.
This is the song every veteran should be listening to at their local Waffle House every single Veteran’s Day when they’re enjoying those sweet sweet waffles. If this song doesn’t hit you right in the feels then I just don’t know if there’s a place for you in this country.
And most of these epic songs are from video games. Because it’s a new (virtual reality) world, friends.
Here are some of our favorites:
1. Opening Titles — Hans Zimmer | Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
Zimmer is king when it comes to sweeping scores, and he did not hold back with the COD: MW2 soundtrack. It starts the sixth installment of Call of Duty off with the perfect blend of ambiance and suspense.
2. Extraction Point — Hans Zimmer | Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
This song jumps right into the action. COD: MW2 is about taking an Afghanistan city back from insurgents and the intensity is clear in this song.
3. Breach — Hans Zimmer | Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
“Breach” slows things down a bit, a necessary reprieve.
4. Guerrilla Tactics — Hans Zimmer | Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
Our final pick from this album, “Guerrilla Tactics” picks up the pace and introduces non-traditional instruments to give you a feel for the action that comes with a mission.
5. Call of Duty: MW3 — Brian Tyler
This one feels like it’s from a scene that may or may not make your eyes mist up. It’s okay. Just lean into it.
6. Advanced Soldier Overture — Harry Gregson-Williams | Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
This one has a build to it. Need to get motivated? Start here.
And there are non-profit organizations like Guitars for Vets, which provides free guitar lessons — and a guitar — to veterans nationwide.
Vietnam War veteran James Robledo is a graduate of the program and the chapter coordinator at the Loma Linda chapter in California who, as a volunteer, has helped over 180 veterans graduate from the program.
“Playing the guitar takes concentration, it’s a little frustrating, it’s a challenge — but when you’re doing that, everything else disappears,” Robledo told We Are The Mighty.
He has written songs about the military community, including one that helped provide solace after the loss of loved ones.
“Learning to play guitar has let me reinvent myself. My knees and back are pretty banged up, but I can still impact other peoples’ lives in a positive way,” said Peterson about how he uses music to help others.
To date, Guitars for Vets has administered over 25,000 guitar lessons and distributed over 2,500 guitars to Veterans, and their waiting list keeps growing, which is why We Are The Mighty has partnered up with Base*FEST powered by USAA to donate $1 (up to $10k) every time you vote for one of our veteran artists and Mission: Music finalists until Sept. 23, 2017.
Editors’s Note: Voting is now closed. We reached our goal of donating $10k to Guitars for Vets — thank you to all those who supported this program!
In this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Tim, O.V., and Blake speak with The Marine Rapper a.k.a. TMR about all the A-level training our service members receive but don’t capitalize on it when they get out.
Every veteran’s journey after the military is different.
While some of us pursue the career along the lines in which the military trained us for, others take a different path and sometimes fall short of their full potential.
“They [veterans] have a set of skills, they have leadership abilities, and there is so much more we can do,” Blake passionately states. “Granted, I’m a writer, and I have five degrees, and none of them have to do with writing.”
A veteran finding his or her purpose is essential to life outside of the military.
So when did TMR decide to become a rapper after serving the Corps?
“When I started getting better at it,” TMR jokingly admits. “In the Corps, I wasn’t at the level I am now.
If you’ve ever surfed the internet looking for military rap songs, chances are you’ve come across the unique sound of “The Marine Rapper.”
Known for sporting a red mohawk and wearing an American flag bandana, TMR served 10 years in the Marine Corps as a Combat Correspondent where he earned a Combat Action Ribbon and two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals during his service.
After successful tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, TMR left the Marine Corps in February 2014. After entering back into civilian life, TMR began focusing on music as a profession and for cathartic expression.