How a sax solo became a heart-wrenching tribute to the Challenger crew - We Are The Mighty
MUSIC

How a sax solo became a heart-wrenching tribute to the Challenger crew

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.

How a sax solo became a heart-wrenching tribute to the Challenger crew

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.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Check out the new hard rock EP from the vets of Jericho Hill

Jericho Hill is a band created by Army veteran Steve Schneider and Navy corpsman McClain Potter. They began writing music together in 2012 while attending college, bonding over their military experiences.


True to form, they’ve just released a new EP that touches on themes of anger, mental health, and losing comrades and loved ones.

How a sax solo became a heart-wrenching tribute to the Challenger crew
Jericho Hill in Nashville, Tennessee, recording a track for Mission: Music, a music competition for veterans and their families. Jericho Hill made it to the finals after a nation-wide search. (Image courtesy of USAA and We Are The Mighty)

Loss comes up a lot for Jericho Hill — as it does for many veterans. One of their traditions during their shows is to dedicate a song to the fallen.

The EP, named Dvda@ the BB, contains three songs that demonstrate their diversity within the hard rock genre:

Devil in Disguise shows a bit of attitude with a taunting tempo and lyrics like “I’m from the land of the wicked ones, and I’ve come out to play.”

The second track, Fuel to the Fire, amps up the intensity both in instrumentals and tone: “You’re only adding fuel to the fire. Tonight we light the funeral pyre.”

Finally, there’s Sins of the Son, a mellow piece that starts with a confession and continues with questions: “What do you get out of running away? I don’t know.”

How a sax solo became a heart-wrenching tribute to the Challenger crew
Jericho Hill vets from left to right: Steve Schneider (U.S. Army), McClain Potter (U.S. Navy).

Jericho Hill is currently hustling, playing gigs in the Pacific Northwest, and planning their full album. Check them out on Facebook and let them know what you think of their new tracks.

Speaking of which, the EP is on Spotify (or other streaming services like iTunes, YouTube, and Pandora). We’ve also embedded it right here for you, because we’re cool like that:

Articles

The Marine Rapper will make you shake your Citizen Rump

Look, it is easy, and deeply enjoyable, to give Oscar Mike host Ryan Curtis boatloads of crap for the shenanigans and mannerisms (shenannerisms?) he regularly deploys in the line of duty. It’s easy because he’s a good sport. It’s enjoyable because, well:

How a sax solo became a heart-wrenching tribute to the Challenger crew


But credit where credit is due, it is no easy thing to drop in on a recording studio unprepared, be played a brand new beat, compose a non-wack verse and then get into the booth and spit your best whiteboy flow in front of a hot producer and a rapper at the top of his game.

And that’s exactly what Curtis had to do when he paid a visit to Louden Beats recording studio to catch up with Raymond Lotts aka TMR aka The Marine Rapper.

Need more TMR? That time Linda Hamilton asked a Marine to the ball

TMR served 10 years in the Middle East as a Marine Corps combat correspondent, ala Joker from Full Metal Jacket. Though he started rapping young, he found he had to put his passion on ice during active duty — no time to think, let alone rhyme.

When he finally left the service, the transition was rough.

“It was a reality shock. I didn’t know where to go. You’re like, ‘I have all this time on my hands,’ and you get to thinking… ‘I was such a super hero in the military, but now I’m just a regular civilian. Nobody cares about me. I’m nothing now. Why should I even live?'”

Finding himself in a dark headspace familiar to many vets exiting the military, TMR did a hard thing: he asked for help.

With the assistance of the VA, he was able to reorient, finding an outlet in his long-dormant passion for rap. He now lives in Hollywood, CA, cutting tracks and shooting music videos to support his budding career as a musician.

And, no joke, in a single day of working together, TMR, producer Louden and the Artist Formerly Known as Ryan Curtis may just have succeeded in dropping the U.S. military’s first ever chart-topping hip hop track:

How a sax solo became a heart-wrenching tribute to the Challenger crew
Mic drop. (Go90 Oscar Mike screenshot)

It’s a lock for New Oscar Mike Theme Song at the very least.

Watch as Curtis looks for lyrics in a Magic 8 Ball and TMR proves there’s no room in his game for shame, in the video embedded at the top.

Watch more Oscar Mike:

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This Iraq vet kayaker will make you rethink PTSD

This is why the future of motocross is female

This is what happens when a Navy SEAL becomes an actor

This is what happens when a SEAL helps you with your lady problems

MUSIC

13 songs on Marcus Luttrell’s mixtape that will make you feel operator AF

Apple Music asked “Lone Survivor” Marcus Luttrell to put together a list of songs that motivated and inspired him, and he delivered the soundtrack to his life.


Songs have a way of telling the story of someone’s life. I feel like these songs describe what I’ve been through in one way or another, from childhood until now. I grew up listening to different genres. As A young kid, I would sing ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia” with my twin brother. In college, I remember listening to a lot of Ice Cube. Later on, I returned to hard rock, jocking up to AC/DC and Metallica with the SEAL teams. And now, I’m singing along to Justin Timberlake with my kids on the way to drop them off at school. —Marcus Luttrell, retired Navy SEAL.

We listened to all 25 songs on his list and picked out the 13 we feel capture his badassery.

1.  A Country Boy Can Survive – Hank Williams, Jr.

 

How a sax solo became a heart-wrenching tribute to the Challenger crew
Image: HankJrOfficial, YouTube

 

2. Eye of The Tiger – Survivor

 

3. Welcome to The Jungle – Guns N’ Roses

 

How a sax solo became a heart-wrenching tribute to the Challenger crew
Image: Vevo, YouTube

 

4. It’s a Great Day To Be Alive – Travis Tritt

 

How a sax solo became a heart-wrenching tribute to the Challenger crew

Image: Lovesmusicandlife, YouTube

5. Where Were You When The World Stopped Turning – Alan Jackson

How a sax solo became a heart-wrenching tribute to the Challenger crew
Image: dogcmp6, YouTube

 

6. 8th Of November – Big Rich

 

How a sax solo became a heart-wrenching tribute to the Challenger crew
Image: Big Rich, YouTube

 

7. Hells Bells – AC/DC

 

How a sax solo became a heart-wrenching tribute to the Challenger crew
Image: Bob Samson, YouTube

 

8. The Highwaymen – Highwayman

 

How a sax solo became a heart-wrenching tribute to the Challenger crew
Image: Vevo, YouTube

9. Not Afraid – Eminem

How a sax solo became a heart-wrenching tribute to the Challenger crew
Image: Vevo, YouTube

 

10. Enter Sandman – Metallica

 

How a sax solo became a heart-wrenching tribute to the Challenger crew
Image: Metallica TV, YouTube

11. American Soldier – Toby Keith

How a sax solo became a heart-wrenching tribute to the Challenger crew
Image: Toby Keith photo by DOD

 

12. Born Free – Kid Rock

 

13. God Bless the U.S.A. – Lee Greenwood

 

How a sax solo became a heart-wrenching tribute to the Challenger crew
Image: MLB, YouTube

MIGHTY MOVIES

Bill Burr, Jeff Ross, and Eagles of Death Metal rock out at Hollywood American Legion

In the first-ever Stand Up and Rock Out benefit event, American Legion Post 43 in Hollywood, California, got a heavy dose of comedy and heavy metal; attracting celebs, rockers, and plenty of vets. Held in the new, beautifully remodeled theater at The Legion, the sold-out event featured sets from Bill Burr, Jeff Ross, and Bob Saget and a performance by Eagles of Death Metal.


Rounding out the show was Joe Derosa with American Legion member Jon Stites hosting the whole event.

Jon is no stranger to comedy, having made the rounds all over LA and abroad. Before becoming a professional standup comedian, Jon was a grunt in the Army and even spent a little time as a college language professor. Now, he helps the iconic Hollywood American Legion get the street cred it deserves by bringing them acts like Bill Burr and Eagles of Death Metal. Check out the video above for a taste of the epic jam session and stay tuned for news about more rock shows coming to a Legion near you.

If you want to check out more Jon Stites, catch Mandatory Fun, where he breaks down the most hilarious clips from across the military.

MUSIC

The 10 most memorable Vietnam War songs

Doug Bradley and Craig Werner literally wrote the book on the music of the Vietnam War. Really.


In “We Gotta Get Out of This Place: The Soundtrack of the Vietnam War,” Werner recalls his tour in Vietnam and the music made memorable by the experience.

 

How a sax solo became a heart-wrenching tribute to the Challenger crew
Doug Bradley (left) and Craig Werner (right)

Bradley arrived in country on Veteran’s Day, 1970 and would spend exactly 365 days there. He and Werner, a professor at the University of Wisconsin, interviewed hundreds of Bradley’s fellow veterans to find out which songs impacted them most during their time in Vietnam — and stayed with them after.

While many of the vets were tight-lipped with their combat experiences, they were very forthcoming about their musical recollections. Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’,” “My Girl” by the Temptations, Blood Sweat and Tears’ “And When I Die,” “Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash, and, for Bradley himself, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles’ “Tears of a Clown.”

The authors compiled the Vietnam generation of veterans’ favorite songs into a reflection of how the music affected the troops who fought there and how it affects them to this day.

As a sort of preview for the book, Bradley and Werner recalled the ten songs that Vietnam veterans mentioned most in his interviews.

Here they are, presented on vinyl, wherever there was a vinyl version available.

10. “Green Green Grass of Home” by Porter Wagoner

9. “Chain of Fools” by Aretha Franklin

8. “The Letter” by the Box Tops

7. “(Sittin’ On) the Dock of the Bay” by Otis Redding

6. “Fortunate Son” by Creedence Clearwater Revival

5. “Purple Haze” by Jimi Hendrix

4. “Detroit City” by Bobby Bare

3. “Leaving On A Jet Plane” by Peter, Paul and Mary

2. “I Feel Like I’m Fixin to Die” by Country Joe The Fish

1. “We Gotta Get Out Of This Place” by the Animals

We gathered the songs for you into one playlist — let us know where they take you:

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is why the 1st Marine Division ships out to ‘Waltzing Matilda’

When considering music that we’d want to play as we ship out to a combat zone, very few of us would think of choosing a 19th century Australian folk song about a hobo who stole a sheep. And yet, that’s exactly what the Marines of the 1st Marine Division do en masse. It may seem odd that United States Marines choose to deploy using Australia’s unofficial national anthem, but a closer look at the history of the unit (and how the song ends) helps make sense of it all.

During World War II, the Marines of “the Old Breed,” the 1st Marine Division, famously began the first Allied offensive against Japan in the Pacific at Guadalcanal. Armed with old Springfield M1903 rifles and meager stores of food and ammunition, the Marines wrested control of the island from Japan in just over six months, earning them their first of three Presidential Unit Citations in WWII and a well-deserved rest in Australia.


How a sax solo became a heart-wrenching tribute to the Challenger crew

Say “no” to Bull Halsey. See what happens.

After the months of fighting and privation, the Marines were looking worse for wear. Sick from dysentery and weak, the men were just worn out. When they first docked in Brisbane, they were housed in what amounted to a series of shacks in swampland.

When the Marines’ commander, General Alexander Vandegrift, ordered that the entire division be moved, the Navy told him there was no way to spare the number of ships needed — and they had nowhere to go, anyway. That’s where Admiral William “Bull” Halsey and the city of Melbourne came in. Australia’s second-largest city offered to take them with open arms and Halsey would get them there.

Camps of already-pitched tents and bunks were waiting for them as they landed in Melbourne. The sick and wounded were transferred to a newly-finished hospital in nearby Parkville and the rest were given unlimited liberty for the next 90 full days. One account says the citizens of Melbourne opened their homes to the Marines. It was a mutual love affair for the guys who left their homes in the U.S. to fight with and for the Aussies.

On George Washington’s birthday, Feb. 22, 1943, the Marines marched a parade through Melbourne. During this parade, the 1st Marine Division Band decided to play the Australian folk favorite, Waltzing Matilda. The Australian onlookers loved it and cheered loudly for the procession.

Thus began the love affair between the 1st Marine Division and Australia.

When winter came, the Australians even gave the Marines their winter jackets, which were soon adopted by the USMC uniform board (no small feat). This is also where 1st Marine Division’s now-famous blue diamond patch was designed. Aside from the the red “one” and “Guadalcanal” markings, the patch also features the constellation Southern Cross, which is a symbol of Australia.

Every camp set up by the 1st Marine Division is called “Matilda.”

Marines hit three feet of rough water as they leave their LST to take the beach at Cape Gloucester, New Britain.

(National Archives)

The Australians were jubilant for the Marines’ victory on Guadalcanal. It was bad news for the Japanese who had invaded nearby Papua New Guinea, an Australian protectorate. After their rest, the Marines’ next move prevented the Imperial Japanese Navy from invading mainland Australia by taking the war to them yet again, invading New Guinea via Cape Gloucester.

As for the sheep thief in Waltzing Matilda, he was confronted by police for his theft and refused to surrender, instead throwing himself into the nearby body of water, a billabong, to evade capture.

Articles

This vet taught himself to play the piano in Saddam Hussein’s bombed out palace

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.

It’s common for troops to play the easier-to-transport guitar while deployed, but not many get the chance to tickle the ivory. Trotter didn’t know how to play piano, but he began to teach himself. Music became an outlet and an escape from the stress of combat.

When his friend, Army Captain Robert C. Scheetz, Jr., was killed by an IED, Trotter wrote a song called “Dear Martha,” which he then performed at Scheetz’s memorial service. Trotter would go on to sing at many more memorials, providing solace for those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

“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:

(The War and Treaty | YouTube)
MUSIC

That time Elvis’ combat training took down Alice Cooper

It’s a well-known fact that the King of Rock n’ Roll enjoyed practicing karate. What might not be so well-known is that he was pretty good at it, too. After starting his training while in the Army in Europe in 1958, Elvis Presley studied martial arts until his death in 1977 — when he was a seventh-degree black belt.

This talent came in handy one night when rocker Alice Cooper pulled a gun on him.


Elvis earned his black belt after a rigorous six-week-long training regimen and test. Though his fighting style wasn’t “pretty,” the King still passed the test. Elvis would even eventually start his own dojo, the Tennessee Karate Institute, and write books about how he trained for real-life dangers — including meditations on how to prepare for attackers with real guns.

 

How a sax solo became a heart-wrenching tribute to the Challenger crew
Elvis (left) in a karate demonstration. (YouTube)

He was so serious about the art that he was ready to be promoted beyond the level of his trainer much faster than anyone could’ve anticipated. He was as bold in the studio as he was in real life: Presley once even got out of his limo at an intersection in Madison, Wisconsin, to stop a fight at a gas station. The then-42-year-old walked up to the fight, told the two men, “I’ll take you two on,” and assumed a karate stance. The two men stopped fighting.

“Is everything settled now?” he said.

Despite not being considered “pretty” when he first earned his black belt, Elvis’ karate improved greatly over the next 15 years. Wayne Carman, who trained with Elvis under their master, Kang Rhee, said this about Presley’s karate:

“His technique was crisp and powerful and his movements were graceful.”

It was a good thing, too. One night in Las Vegas, Elvis was in the penthouse of a hotel when a young Alice Cooper (along with Liza Minelli and Linda Lovelace) came into his room. He wasn’t just looking for an audience with the King. After they were all frisked by Elvis’ security, Elvis took Cooper into the kitchen and took out a .32 snub-nose revolver. He told the kid to put it to his head.

Cooper recounted the story to the UK’s Mirror:

“I had this gun in my hand and was expecting one of his security to come in any second, see me holding a weapon, and shoot me dead… A little voice in my left ear was telling me, ‘Go on, this is history, kill him, you’ll always be the guy who killed Elvis.’ In my other ear was another voice saying, ‘You can’t kill him, it’s Elvis Presley – wound him instead, you’ll only get a few years!’.

How a sax solo became a heart-wrenching tribute to the Challenger crew
You come at the King, you best not miss.

 

That’s when Elvis did a flying kick at the gun, knocking it out of Cooper’s hand. He then tripped Cooper and pinned him to the ground by his neck.

“That’s how you stop a man with a gun,” he said.

Intel

This man honors the military by playing ‘Taps’ for his neighbors every day

Every time Don Brittain plays “Taps” at sunset his neighbors stand at attention.


One resident told CBSN, “When you hear the first note, everything in our house comes to a complete halt.”

Tacoma residents have made it part of their daily ritual. For Brittain, it’s his way of showing appreciation for our military.

“I want to support our guys who are over there fighting,” Brittain told CBSN. “I had polio as a kid, so I couldn’t serve. I would have served in a heartbeat.”

Watch Brittain move his neighbors with his beautiful rendition of “Taps”:

NOW: This American comedy legend defused land mines in World WAR II

OR: 94-year-old who served behind Nazi lines reveals the most terrifying thing he experienced

MUSIC

How Taco Bell influenced a rapper to become a Marine


Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Stitcher

In this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Blake speaks with The Marine Rapper a.k.a. TMR about how he went from wrapping tacos to rapping music lyrics.

“I joined the military because I was working at Taco Bell and ironically as a [taco] wrapper,” TMR recalls. “I wanted more, so I became the manager. I [wanted to go] the same route as the [Taco Bell] founder did and become a Marine.”

Related: How to kidnap Marines — according to a combat training role player

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.

Also Read: This is how drunken shenanigans influence pilot callsigns

The Marine Rapper ‘s Action Figure is a bouncy, hyper, fast-paced journey that chronicles the making of his identity. Each song is accompanied by a music video that will be released weekly on YouTube starting Sept. 29.

TMR’s Action Figure will be available for purchase on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, Tidal and everywhere where digital music is sold Sept. 29. In addition, a limited run of signed physical copies and merchandise will be exclusively available on TMR’s website: themarinerapper.com

How a sax solo became a heart-wrenching tribute to the Challenger crew
The album cover. (Source: TMR)

Check out The Marine Rapper‘s video below for a taste of what you can expect when his record drops Sept. 29 for yourself.

YouTube, The Marine Rapper

Hosted By:

MUSIC

These songs will make you get over your ex

Breaking up sucks.


There’s no way around it. Even a mutual break-up is wrought with change and confusion and taxed emotion. Getting dumped or betrayed is even worse — it’ll kick you right in the gut.

Bottom line, break-ups are the quickest way to feel like an angsty teenager all over again.

Also read: 5 reasons why Jody is the soldier’s worst nightmare

The only real fix is time. Alcohol, rebounds, or vacations don’t hurt, but sometimes you just don’t have those options — for example, when you’re deployed to defend freedom and that son of a b**** Jody strikes

Music to the rescue. The “Jody Country” collection is the perfect mix of songs that will help you dwell in heartbreak — because sometimes you just gotta do it — and then fuel up with “I-don’t-need-you-anymore” anthems.

Here are some of our favorites:

1. Chris Stapleton — Either Way

ChrisStapletonVEVO | YouTube

I’ll be honest, this is one of my personal favorites because of U.S. Marine Weston Scott’s commentary on it. But it can’t be denied that Chris Stapleton has a voice that can soothe the soul.

2. Scotty Doesn’t Know — Lustra

RoseRanger | YouTube

Poor Scotty got Jody’d so hard…and it’s a recurring joke throughout EuroTrip. If you can’t laugh about a rough situation, then what are you left with? This song is there to take the edge off.

3. Fall Out Boy — My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light ‘Em Up)

FallOutBoyVEVO | YouTube

Fall Out Boy is who I turn to when I need some fire, or in this case, a “young lovers rage.” The music is killer and the lyrics are angry — precisely what I need after someone pisses me off.

Listen to Fall Out Boy and strike the match, my friend. You’re gonna be just fine.

Check out the full playlist here:

Leave a comment and tell me your go-to break-up songs — I’m asking for a friend…
MUSIC

This music video raised the bar for all military music parodies

Made on a budget of $0, the Annapolis midshipmen’s version of Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk” featuring Bruno Mars is the most polished military music parody to date. The cast and crew consist entirely of midshipmen, and it perfectly captures the joy of being on liberty. The crew even managed to mashup Anchors Away into the funky tune, listen closely around 3:00 of the video.


Watch the hilarious video below:

(Naptown Funk, YouTube)

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