The USS Missouri has a long and storied history. She earned numerous battle stars for her service in three American wars. She was the site where Japan signed its formal surrender, ending World War II. The last battleship produced by the United States, she was decommissioned in 1955 and reactivated in 1984 to support the Gulf War. She even made appearances in the 1992 movie Under Siege and in 2012’s Battleship.
Its most infamous moment came in 1989, when Cher sang “If I Could Turn Back Time” in front of the ship’s crew wearing a one-piece bathing suit and stockings that didn’t leave much to the imagination.
Almost no one but the director (and, presumably, Cher) was happy with the video. According to the book “I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution,” MTV pretty much banned the video outright because of the visibility of Cher’s butt cheeks. The network later rolled that back and would play it only after 9pm – though MTV still pushed the envelope as “Safe Harbor” programming for broadcasters in the U.S. began at 10pm.
See how safe the harbor is in the music video below.
The outfit, of course, completely surprised the U.S. Navy, who had given their blessing for the shoot. Once he saw the singer’s costume on the set of the video, the Navy’s entertainment liaison for the Missouri asked the director to choose something else for Cher to wear. The director, of course, declined.
After all the flak the Navy took for the video, it decreed that never again would musicians be allowed to film music videos on ships of the U.S. Navy. In an attempt to placate the Navy, Cher later filmed parts of the song in a less-revealing outfit and without the crew present, but the new video was too little, too late.
For Cher, the song completely revived her 20-plus year long career. It was her second consecutive number one hit on the Billboard charts and was a certified gold record.
When I was speaking at a university a few years ago, a student who DJ’d at the local college radio station and had read my book asked me to come on as a guest. He had me put together a list of music I listened to in Iraq, and then interviewed me between songs. It was a really cool experience for me to revisit my deployment through music.
This isn’t limited to my time in Iraq, but is evocative of both my deployment and homecoming. Here it is:
1. Live, “Mental Jewelry”
I started listening to Live in high school and have fond memories of seeing them play. For some reason, the lyrics came into my mind often in Iraq, always making me feel a little melancholy.
2. Bad Religion, “The Process of Belief”
This album came out while I was at DLI, and I listened to it throughout the summer of 2002 while I was at AIT in Texas. Once we got to Iraq, this song in particular made me ache.
3. “Story of My Life,” Social Distortion, Social Distortion
This is one of my favorite albums. Went to see them play in Dallas the summer of 2002 – and spent the whole time feeling a little alienated from civilians. As for this particular song, I left my hometown when I was 15, and every time I’ve gone back have felt that weird sensation of my old neighborhood not being the same. That got even stronger after I joined the Army. I like how this song captures a particular feeling of frustration.
4. “So What,” Ministry, The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste
I was angry as a teenager, and spent a lot of time angry while I was in the Army, too. This is a great song to be really pissed off to. (Random aside: I saw the movie this song has samples from on Mystery Science Theater 3000 once, which was awesome. It’s totally absurd, you should check it out: The Violent Years.)
5. “Holiday in Cambodia,” Dead Kennedys
So there isn’t a lot of DK on Spotify that I could find. The song I wanted to put was “Life Sentence” (the lyrics “you don’t do what you want to but you do the same thing every day” could describe half my time in the Army!), but this is a good one, too. Fits in with the theme of anger.
6. “Jaded,” Operation Ivy,” Operation Ivy
As angry as I got, I never gave up those hopeful kernels, and still clung to that conviction that I could make the world a better place. “Sound System” is another good one off that album, about how music can bring you back up when you feel shitty.
7. “Cactus,” Pixies, Surfer Rosa
I have no idea why this particular Pixies song is the one that I got totally fixated on in Iraq. The mention of the desert? Who knows.
8. “Then She Did,” Jane’s Addiction, Ritual De Lo Habitual
When I was younger and, um, enjoyed experimenting with mind-altering substances, the song “Three Days” was what I loved the most – it took me on this whole mental odyssey. But in Iraq I fell in love with this one, a more reserved and introspective one.
9. “In the Arms of Sleep,” The Smashing Pumpkins, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness
I would listen to this one over and over and over in Iraq, longing to … be there, have those feelings.
10. “I Know, Huh?,” The Vandals, Hitler Bad, Vandals Good
This reminds me of the giddy, heady, happy days of being just home from Iraq, before the bad parts of reintegration kicked in. I have memories of driving around with Zoe singing along with this, being goofy and ridiculous.
11. “8 Mile,” Eminem, 8 Mile
When things started to get really shitty, I would listen to this song (oh, so cheesy! I know!) and tell myself I could push on for just a little longer and couldn’t give up.
She was a rescue swimmer in the Navy, she’s a motocross athlete, and she knows how to use a gun — so yeah, she can more than hold her own.
We Are The Mighty sat her down to find out about her taste in music, and it was everything we’d hoped for and more.
Carrizosa has the kind of self-confidence that lets her to talk about her many successes and adventures, still with the perfect blend of self-deprecating humor. You get a taste of this when she gives a sample of her Atreyu scream, right after nonchalantly mentioning her “50-cals” and right before laughing at herself.
“In my mind, music definitely has a strong power and it has the ability to move people for the better.”
Whether it’s the barracks on base, a berthing area aboard the ship, or a plywood building at a remote outpost in unfriendly lands, living in close quarters with folks you don’t know all that well is a big part of military life. But there are ways to expedite the process of getting acquainted by picking up on the clues your fellow service members are putting out all around you – like their taste in music, for instance.
So sneak a peek at their smartphones and see what they’re jamming on Spotify, Pandora, Beats, iTunes, or whatever. If you see any of these 7 artists (or the associated genres) here’s what your room-, bunk-, squad-, or shipmates are telling you:
1. The Black Keys
“I’m a new school take on an old school vibe, which is to say I’m at once low maintenance and high gloss. I’m an achiever but not in that obnoxious kiss-ass way that would give me a reputation among the others in the command. I like sports, but I’m not a bro. I’m in a stable relationship with a person back home and plan on getting married, but not until the time is right for both of us. I have two years of college under my belt and will work on finishing the rest in my spare time before my enlistment is up. After that I’ll get out and pretend like none of this every happened. Oh . . . and I’m smarter than you, but I’ll never say it.”
“You’ve probably already picked up on my intensity through my body language and the tone of my voice, although I haven’t said very much to you. I was one of the cool kids in the early high school years but got sick of those people — the meathead jocks and their vain girlfriends — so I pretty much spent the rest of the time with my best friend reading Dave Eggers entire body of work and making chalk doodles on sidewalks after dark using a flashlight. I had one boyfriend who broke up with me right after he stole my virginity. I got drunk after that and started to get a tattoo of his name to try and mess with his head or something, but I chickened out because it hurt so bad, so all I have is a small black dot near the top of my left bun. I knew nothing about the military when I joined but did it because it’s exactly what my parents thought I would never do. Now that I’m here I hate it. And — don’t take this personally — I’m pretty sure I hate you.”
“I got these tattoos before I joined and want to get a few more regardless of what the rules are. (They keep changing anyway.) I had planned on going to college, but before I got accepted anywhere I got busted for spray-painting graffiti on the side of one of the overpasses in my hometown. My dad lawyer’d up, and my record was wiped clean, but he gave me one option at that point: Join the military. So here I am. Funny thing is I don’t mind it; in fact, I’m actually enjoying it. I told the dudes back home that I was only staying for one enlistment, if that even, but truth is I’ll probably wind up being a lifer. I’m a good friend who knows how to hook a buddy up. I also know about paying assholes back, so don’t be one.”
4. Luke Bryan
“It won’t surprise you based on my build and the intensity of my workouts that I was the quarterback of my high school football team. I went to junior college an hour from my hometown in Texas, but had one too many blowouts with the coach and got thrown off the team. After that I started to party and stopped going to class. I flunked out and didn’t want to go back home, so I joined the military. I come off as a super-friendly, semi-religious guy but really I’m a massive backstabber, especially if things aren’t going my way. I’m very competitive and hate to lose at anything, including making rank ahead of my peers. I talk about trucks all the time but my main ride is a Yaris the insurance money bought after I crashed my F-150 a few years back. I can line dance, which makes me a good wingman in certain bars. I’ll listen to your problems with an earnest expression, but really I don’t care, and if you need me for a crisis I’ll probably have a conflict that’ll prevent me from helping in any meaningful way. Sorry. (Not really.)”
5. Maroon 5
“I was student council vice president and a member of the National Honor Society and had oodles of promise but I kind of gagged on it and couldn’t deal with the weight of my family’s expectations, so after working as a sales associate at Target for a few months I joined the military. The recruiter told me about the great education programs and how I could get into officer training pretty easily based on my profile, but it turns out that was all bullshit, of course, and I’m stuck with this lame MOS that I kinda feel is beneath me but will do a good job with anyway. The command will tempt me with advanced schooling and other incentives based on my cheery disposition and positive outlook, but I’ll get out after my first term and give college another try using my GI Bill benefit. Oh, and I listen to Maroon 5 because I really don’t like music all that much.”
6. Ed Sheeran
“I joined the military after a traumatic breakup with my fiance because I needed massively new surroundings in my life (and I thought the move would also be a nice “you can’t hurt me” signal to my ex) but halfway through boot camp I had massive regrets, and I freaked to the point they pulled me out and sent me to the doc who told me that I was fine and that stress was a natural part of life and that I needed to stay hydrated. After that I heard whispers from the others that I was a drama queen, which is a total lie cause I hate drama and have posted a bunch of memes on Facebook about that fact. I’ve been in three relationships since I got to this command seven months ago, and all of them ended kinda ugly, mostly because they didn’t respect me for my mind and the fact that I listen to song lyrics and get what they mean. And I need a hug.”
“I joined up after high school first thing because my dad and uncle had both served and they said the military was a great place to get started in life. Made sense to me. Otherwise I would have wound up doing a lot of nothing and that always leads to bad things. I have a thuggish exterior like I’m all don’t-give-a-shit but deep-down inside I cry a little bit when they yell at me for what the First Sergeant calls ‘screwing the pooch’ or whatever. (I don’t really cry.) Plus, I’m trying my best, yo. If it’s so easy why don’t you do it? (That’s just me thinking that, not saying that out loud or nothing.) But, like I said before, this military thing makes sense to me. It’s all good. I’m down with it.”
Josh Anchondo started his adult life in the Navy, specifically Kings Bay, Georgia. Now, he’s self-styled luxury-events emcee known as DJ Supreme1 and his work takes him to the party hotspots of South Florida and Las Vegas. But he loves to give back to groups like Toys For Tots, Susan G. Komen, and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
This time, he’s playing for his second family: the U.S. military.
The Palm Beach Gardens-based DJ is headlining the next BaseFEST Powered by USAA on June 2, 2018, at Naval Station Mayport, near Jacksonville, Fla. He’s come a long way from the days of being in the silent service.
“We would be deployed 90 days at a time,” says the former sailor Anchondo. “No sunlight, no newspaper… So my escape being submerged for that amount of time was music.”
He says it’s like living a dream to be able to provide a temporary escape to those going through similarly rough situations. He did five years in the Navy as a sonar technician and the last 20 as a DJ — yes, there’s a little overlap there.
“I know for a fact the military got me to where I am today in my career, to being a great man, a great father, and to living up to the core values that I learned in the military,” he says. “Honor, courage, and commitment. Those core values will always be with me.”
In the Navy, he spent all his spare time training to be a DJ — eating, breathing, and sleeping music. His favorite records were primarily old-school (even for the late 1990s) hip-hop. But his sounds also extend to the unexpected, like jazz and pop standards, doing live mash-ups of pop songs along the way.
“I kind of let the crowd take me wherever they want,” he says. “Take us wherever the night takes us.”
Anchondo, aka DJ Supreme1, is not just a DJ who does music festivals and tours like Dayglow. Like many veterans, he’s an entrepreneur with a heart. He runs his own event productions company and wants to start his own tour — the DoGood FeelGood Fest, focused on doing great work in the community. His company, Supreme Events, even prioritizes charity work.
He acknowledges that DJs have a bad reputation, given what happens in the nightlife around them, but he wants you to know they can have a positive influence as well — and that influence can be amazing. BaseFEST is a huge show for him. He wants his fellow vets and their families to come see and feel his positive vibes at the coming BaseFEST at NS Mayport.
It’s an all-day event that brings the music, food, activities, and more that you might get from other touring festivals — but BaseFEST is an experience for the whole family, with a mission of providing a platform for giving back to family programs on base, boosting morale for troops and their families.
BaseFEST Powered by USAA kicked off in 2017 with two huge festival dates at Camp Lejune and NAS Pensacola, gathering over 20,000 fans for each and creating a fun atmosphere of appreciation and support for service members and their families and friends. The 2018 tour kicked off at Fort Bliss, Texas and runs through Sept. 22 with a stop at Twentynine Palms, Calif.
The U.S. military hasn’t executed a prisoner since the 1961 hanging of Pvt. John Bennett at Fort Leavenworth. Prior to 1959, prisoners sent to the gallows by the U.S. military were afforded certain last rights demanded by regulations that included an escort, a chaplain, a last meal, unlimited letters to loved ones, and a military band.
Listeners might be familiar with aa few bars of legendary Polish composer Frederic Chopin’s Funeral March, either through military film or television – or through the WWE’s Undertaker entrance music. The Army’s regulations called for every execution (or series of executions) have a military band accompany the prisoner(s) to the gallows playing the classical tune.
The updated guidance for military executions as of 1959 did not call for the band, but still included the meal, letters, and religious paraphernalia. Only ten military members have been executed for crimes outside of wartime, and only two of those were executed after Apr. 7, 1959, and they did not walk to the gallows to the “Dead March.” Private Bennett and John E. Day, both convicted killers, were hanged in the boiler room of the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth to no fanfare.
How Chopin’s “Funeral March” became the official U.S. military death march is another story. The song comes from the composer’s Sonata No. 2 in B Flat Minor. Chopin was celebrated for his piano miniatures, and the Funeral March (the sonata’s third movement) was written much earlier than any of his sonatas. Chopin is said to have penned the work commemorating the 1830-1831 November Uprising, where ethnic Poles attempted to shake off the yoke of the Russian Empire.
The hopeful uprising was soon put down by the Russian Army, and the Tsar tightened Russia’s grip on Poland. Chopin’s original manuscript featured the date of the uprising’s start, Nov. 28, 1830. The piece’s dark tone and minor keys immediately associated it with death and it was played at the composer’s funeral – as well as those of John F. Kennedy, Winston Churchill, and even Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev.
The song would come to ingratiate itself in pop culture around the world as a song (rightly) associated with death and dying, from Saturday morning cartoons to Deadmau5.
The U.S. military’s (and many other armed forces around the world) bands, drums, and buglers all played an important battlefield communications function for centuries. Troops, unable to hear the orders of their officers over the din of fighting, would hear and could respond to general orders as played through songs.
In the years following Chopin’s Sonata No. 2, it became increasingly popular. The Funeral March was the most popular part of an already-popular musical hit. Soon after, the song’s popularity took on a life of its own and the song came full-circle from one of seriousness and piety toward the dead to one of parody. The music that called to mind death and the fragility of life was now being used to make fun of the same concepts.
The piece hasn’t always been just for executions. It accompanied the American Unknown Soldier from World War I as he made his way aboard ship to cross the Atlantic Ocean one night in Le Havre, France. It has been used for many a prominent U.S. official as they lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda.
No matter how parodied it was or why it was used, the Funeral March would endure as a powerful piece of music, not just for the U.S. military, but for the world at large. Even to this day, it evokes the foreboding we associate with death and dying.
And that could be why it didn’t endure in military execution regulations. At this point, it just seems overly macabre and slightly cruel.
UPDATE: THE VOTING IS NOW CLOSED AND THE WINNER WILL BE ANNOUNCED ON MONDAY, SEPT. 25, 2017 AT WE ARE THE MIGHTY!
Welcome to the finals for Mission: Music, where veterans from all five branches compete for a chance to perform onstage at Base*FEST powered by USAA. CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW TO VOTE every day to determine the winner!
Theresa Bowman was born in the Philippines and grew up as a Navy brat. Theresa began her music career very early. At age four she began to play piano, and by junior high, she demonstrated great vocal talent. Eventually, Theresa branched out musically and developed an interest in stringed instruments.
In high school she picked up both cello and ukulele. Fortunately, her ukulele is small enough to accompany her on deployment, so she has had the opportunity to practice and write music from anywhere. In 2008, she joined the Air Force, serving as an Air Battle Manager on the E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System. She continued to perform on active duty, and has since separated from the Air Force. Theresa recorded “Your Lullaby” on Operation Encore’s first album, the first song she ever wrote and completed.
For every vote, USAA will donate $1 (up to $10k) to Guitars for Vets, a non-profit organization that enhances lives of ailing and injured military veterans by providing them with guitars and a forum to learn how to play. Your votes help those who served rediscover their joy through the power of music!
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.
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.
Army Ranger and Air Force Pararescueman Wil Willis is literally an American bad ass, so it makes sense Kid Rock’s epic song would make his Battle Mix playlist.
“Music became sort of this way of marking your time through the military.”
He’s not the only vet to talk about the impact music had on his time in the service. Like others, Willis has specific memories tied to the music he listened to while wearing the uniform, whether he connected with the lyrics or sang the songs to keep the cadence on unit runs.
“When you’re in the Ranger battalion, you’re the tip of the spear. ‘Break glass in case of war. Unleash hell’ — War Pigs is what that’s all about.”
Willis said he fought for family and love and adventure; for him, that was the whole point of service.
Both Manson and Billy Corgan come from military backgrounds: “We can speak to the personal effect that yes, we can be artists and yes, we can play these roles in public, but at the end of the day, if we don’t serve all our communities – [and] veterans are an integral part of our communities – we’re not really doing service as artists or as people,” Corgan told Rolling Stone.
The tour begins in Concord, California on July 7th.
First, as is often the case with women, you wouldn’t expect her to be a military veteran (let alone a Marine), but she served as an Ammunition Technician in Iraq. She also holds multiple college degrees (something you wouldn’t expect from a Marine — zing!) and is a mother of an 8-year-old (and her daughter, by the way, knows the lyrics to Drowning Pools’ “Bodies” and headbangs accordingly).
Probably what’s the most refreshing when you meet Mondesir is how fun-loving and energetic she is. If you’re a fan of Season 2 of John Cena’s “American Grit,” then you already know this.
“It’s pretty hot in Iraq so sometimes things get really tough and you need that extra motivation, and music just does it.”
In her Battle Mix video, she even makes the heat of Iraq sound not so bad. She also talks about how she was privy to Usher’s 2004 hit “Yeah” before the rest of her buddies at boot camp, and I grin every time I watch it.
Fun fact: she’s the only one of WATM’s Battle Mix veterans we had to censor. Just another great Chloe Mondesir surprise.