The Marines' Hymn will make you want to re-enlist - We Are The Mighty
MUSIC

The Marines’ Hymn will make you want to re-enlist

The United States Marine Corps has bravely served our country since 1775, and The Marines’ Hymn reflects that legacy.


Here are five things you might not know about the iconic song:

1. The tune derives from an aria in a 19th century comedic opera

The melody originally came from Jacques Offenbach’s opera Genevieve de Brabant in the mid-1800s.

2. The lyricist is unknown

No one seems to know who wrote the lyrics to the hymn, but they have shifted slightly over time to reflect the evolution of the Corps. In 1942, the final changes were made to reflect the addition of aviation to the Marine Corps mission. The first verse’s fourth line, “On the land as on the sea” became “In the air, on land, and sea.”

The Marines’ Hymn will make you want to re-enlist
Marine Corps MV-22 Ospreys fly over the Arabian Sea. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Keonaona C. Paulo)

3. It specifically mentions battles from the 1800s

The opening line “From the Halls of Montezuma” refers to the capture of Mexico City and the Castle of Chapultepec in 1847 during the Mexican-American War.

4. The American flag was first flown in an overseas victory at Tripoli

“To the Shores of Tripoli” pays homage to the First Barbary War, when U.S Marines helped capture the Tripolitan city of Derna in modern day Libya in 1805. It was the first time Old Glory was raised in victory on foreign soil.

5. It’ll tell you everything you need to know about the Marines

The lyrics aptly reflect the spirit of the Corps, mentioning the “fight for right and freedom,” the importance of honor, and even a bit of branch rivalry: “If the Army and the Navy ever look on Heaven’s scenes; they will find the streets are guarded by United States Marines.”

SemperFiOorah1 | YouTube

Also read: The hater’s guide to the US Marine Corps

Here are the official lyrics:

From the Halls of Montezuma

To the shores of Tripoli;

We fight our country’s battles

In the air, on land, and sea;

First to fight for right and freedom

And to keep our honor clean;

We are proud to claim the title

Of United States Marine.

Our flag’s unfurled to every breeze

From dawn to setting sun;

We have fought in ev’ry clime and place

Where we could take a gun;

In the snow of far-off Northern lands

And in sunny tropic scenes;

You will find us always on the job

The United States Marines

Here’s health to you and to our Corps

Which we are proud to serve;

In many a strife we’ve fought for life

And never lost our nerve;

If the Army and the Navy

Ever look on Heaven’s scenes;

They will find the streets are guarded

By United States Marines.

Articles

Was John Lennon a military wannabe?

Thirty-five years ago today John Lennon was murdered by Mark David Chapman — an avid Beatles fan — in the entryway of the Dakota apartments located in New York City’s Upper Westside.  In tribute social media is lighting up with interpretations of Lennon’s message of peace that came in various forms during his artistic career, most famously in his songs “Imagine” and “War is Over (if You Want It).”


But John Lennon was born in England in 1940, the early part of World War II.  His father was a merchant seaman, always gone on convoy runs, and — like the rest of his fellow countrymen, Lennon learned to hate the Luffewaffe and love the RAF as he watched airplanes fly overhead and heeded the wail of air raid sirens. He may have preached peace, but there’s no denying he understood the value of a strong national defense. His success was a product of it. Ironically enough, The Beatles honed their musical presentation — the one they would use to wow America on the Ed Sullivan Show a few years later — in the clubs of Hamburg, Germany, which had been a major industrial hub of the Third Reich a mere 17 years or so earlier.

There are several pieces of evidence of Lennon’s military inclinations.  When we was a teenager he was a member of the Air Training Corps (sort of a British version of the Civil Air Patrol) according to a report by NME.

In 1966 Lennon played the role of Private Gripweed in “How I Won the War,” directed by Lennon’s good friend Richard Lester:

The Beatles movie “Help” (also directed by Richard Lester) had a few references to warfare including an all out war scene in an open field involving British infantry and armored units.

The Marines’ Hymn will make you want to re-enlist
(GIF: Battle scene from the movie ‘Help!’)

And don’t forget the Lennon-penned Beatles’ song “Revolution,” that included the lyrics “when you talk about destruction, don’t you know that you can count me out . . . in.”

Articles

4 times armies blasted music to intimidate and infuriate their enemies

What an awesome scene.


Army military helicopters flying in on the North Vietnamese, guns blazing, as Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” plays from loudspeakers. This wasn’t reality – though rumor has it tankers in Desert Storm did the same thing – it was from the film “Apocalypse Now.”

But music has been a part of war for a long time. Horns, buglers, and drummers sounded orders for entire armies from the Classical era until as late as the Korean War. Even in psychological operations, the use of music is not a novelty – Joshua is said to have used horns as a weapon when he captured Jericho.

So from biblical times to post-9/11, here are few contemporary examples of armies using music against the enemy.

1. Metallica, “Enter Sandman” – Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

Clive Stafford Smith, the founder of the Human Rights Group Reprieve, detailed the use of music on detainees in the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay. The group says music was used at “earsplitting” volume and on repeat to shock and break prisoners into confessing crimes, and it worked. The detainees allegedly confessed to crimes they couldn’t physically have committed – anything to make the music stop.

Among these were Barney the Dinosaur’s “I Love You” song, “Bodies” by the band Drowning Pool, and “Enter Sandman” by Metallica.

“Part of me is proud because they chose Metallica,” frontman James Hetfield said in an interview with 3SAT, a German media outlet. “And part of me is bummed that people worry about us being attached to some political statement because of that… politics and music for us don’t mix.”

2. 4Minute, “HUH (Hit Your Heart)” – Korean DMZ

The main feature of the Korean Demilitarized Zone are the thousands of North and South Korean (and U.S.) troops literally staring each other down, daring each other to try something cute. It’s an intense area and you can cut through the tension with a knife. Each has tried a number of “cute” things to irk the others, including fake cities, propaganda billboards, and ax murders. In 2010, the weapon of choice became Korean pop music.

When North Korea sunk the South Korean warship Cheonan that year, The South responded by blasting propaganda messages across the border using 11 enormous loudspeakers aligned in the DMZ. They also used the song “HUH (Hit Your Heart)” by the Kpop group 4Minute, over and over. It got to be so much that the North threatened to turn Seoul into a “Sea of Flame” if the music didn’t stop.

3. Britney Spears, “Oops! I Did It Again” – Horn of Africa

By 2013, the Somali pirate fleet operating in the Horn of Africa was such a problem, the UK’s Royal Navy had 14 warships on alert in the area. Attacks have decreased since then, thanks to increased attention by international naval patrols. But there are a few merchant mariners who think Britney Spears might have had a hand in it as well.

The UK’s merchant navy told the Mirror in 2013 that they found blasting Britney Spears’ “Oops I Did It Again” and “Baby One More Time” at pirate skiffs warded off the pirates.

“They’re so effective the ship’s security rarely needs to resort to firing guns,” one merchant told the Mirror. “As soon as the pirates get a blast of Britney they move on as quickly as they can.”

 4. Martha and the Vandellas, “Nowhere to Run” – Operation Just Cause

In December 1989, the United States invaded Panama after its leader Gen. Manuel Noriega discarded the results of a national election and Panamanian troops killed a U.S. Marine and wounded another. American troops were sent to safeguard its citizens lives, enforce the election results, and capture and extradite Noriega to the United States.

Noriega took refuge in the Vatican City diplomatic mission in Panama City, and the U.S. military kept up physical pressure on him to surrender by blasting songs like “Nowhere to Run,”  Nazareth’s “Hair of the Dog,” and the Clash’s “I Fought the Law.”
MUSIC

7 Air Force song facts that will make you want to go off into the wild blue yonder

Informally referred to as “The Air Force Song,” the composition “U.S. Air Force” is a work of lyrical beauty and musical majesty — and it’s the one thing that can melt this cold, dark, veteran heart of mine.


The Marines’ Hymn will make you want to re-enlist
Literally the enthusiasm with which I sing this song. Every time. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Dana D. Hill)

Here are some fun facts about it:

1. It originated because of a competition, per Brig. Gen. Henry Harley “Hap” Arnold’s suggestion

Liberty magazine sponsored a musical contest for a spirited composition to become the official Army Air Corps song. Over 700 scores were submitted, but the judging committee (consisting of military spouses) selected Robert MacArthur Crawford’s as the winner.

2. The legendary Irving Berlin submitted an entry

Patriotic composer and lyricist Irving Berlin submitted an entry after flying in a B-1B bomber for creative inspiration. His wasn’t selected, but his work was later pieced into Moss Hart’s Broadway show “Winged Victory,” which helped raise funds for the Army Emergency Relief Fund during World War II.   

Also read: The complete hater’s guide to the US Air Force

The Marines’ Hymn will make you want to re-enlist
Airpower is sexy and you know it. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech. Sgt. Ben Bloker)

3. Crawford himself first debuted it

The song was first introduced at the Cleveland Air Races on Sept. 2, 1939, and was performed by Crawford himself.

4. It has evolved along with the Air Force

The U.S. Air Force wouldn’t become its own branch until 1947. At that time, “U.S Air Force” replaced “Army Air Corps” in the lyrics. You can see the full lyrics with original changes below.

5. It made “yonder” happen

Crawford’s use of the word “yonder” prompted the Oxford English Dictionary to expand the word’s definition to include “the far and trackless distance.”

6. It went to the moon on Apollo 15

Air Force Colonel David R. Scott and Lieutenant Colonel James B. Irwin carried the original first page of Crawford’s score to the moon on July 30, 1971.

7. It was a helluva rebel

For original radio and television versions, the scandalous use of  “helluva” was stricken and “terrible” was substituted instead.

SAGEmovieproductions | YouTube

Here are the original and current lyrics. The words in brackets are shouted with gusto and the italicized words replace the parenthesized words of the 1939 original:

Verse 1 (main melody)

Off we go into the wild blue yonder, climbing high into the sun;

Here they come, zooming to meet our thunder, at ’em, boys, give’er the gun! [give’er the gun, hey (now)!]

Down we dive, spouting our flame from under, off with (on) one helleva roar (course),

We live in fame or go down in flame, hey! Nothing’ll stop the US Air Force (Army Air Corps)

Verse 2 (main melody)

Minds of men fashioned a crate of thunder, sent it high into the blue;

Hands of men blasted the world asunder; How they lived, God only knew, hey! [God only new, then!]

Souls of men dreaming of skies to conquer, gave us (our) wings, ever to soar (every resource)!

With scouts (jets) before and Bombers (Bombs) galore, Nothing’ll stop the US Air Force (Army Air Corps)

Verse 3 (bridge)

Here’s a toast to the host of those who love the vastness of the sky,

To a friend we send a message of his brother men who fly,

We drink to those who gave their all of old:

Then down we roar to score the rainbow’s pot of gold.

A toast to the host of the men we boast, the US Air Force (Army Air Corps). ZOOM.

Verse 4 (main melody)

Off we go into the wild sky yonder, Keep the wings level and true;

If you’d live to be a gray haired wonder, keep the nose out of the blue [out of the blue, hey!].

Flying men, guarding our nation’s borders, we’ll be there followed by more (ever on course)!

In each echelon, we carry on, Hey! Nothing’ll stop the US Air Force (Army Air Corps)

MUSIC

‘In the Navy’ was almost an official Navy recruiting song

At some point in your life (especially if you’ve ever been in the Navy), you’ve heard Village People’s 1979 disco classic, “In The Navy.” Whatever you know about the group and this song, know these two things: First, their characters are supposed to be the ultimate, macho, American men. Second, the Navy asked the band to use this song as the Navy’s official recruiting song.


The Marines’ Hymn will make you want to re-enlist

Following up on the success of the band’s previous hit, “YMCA,” the United States Navy approached the band’s management to get permission to use it in a recruiting campaign. The song was written well before the Navy asked about it and, in the service’s defense, it seems like a pretty innocuous song, praising the life of a sailor.

“… Search the world for treasure ,
Learn science technology.
Where can you begin to make your dreams all come true ,
On the land or on the sea.
Where can you learn to fly…”

A deal was struck. The Navy could use the song for free in a commercial so as long as the Village People could film the music video for the song aboard a real U.S. Navy ship. The Village People performed the song aboard the frigate USS Reasoner at Naval Base San Diego. The song peaked at #3 on the US Billboard Hot 100 charts.

But seeing as the band was, for the most part, an openly gay band in the late 1970s, upon closer inspection, the lyrics seemed to be filled with double entendre. To the Navy, it began to be seen as an anthem for promoting homosexual intercourse while underway.

Everywhere the Navy looked in the song, there was some sort of implicit reference.

“… If you like adventure,
Don’t you wait to enter,
The recruiting office fast.
Don’t you hesitate,
There is no need to wait,
They’re signing up new seamen fast…”

According to the band, however, that’s not true at all. The principle writer of the songs, frontman (and faux-policeman) Victor Willis has said there are no intended homosexual references in any of the songs, not “In The Navy” or “YMCA.” The Navy (and general public) was applying those meanings on their own.

In fact, Victor Willis isn’t even a gay man. The lyrics are just a play intended to make people think there’s more to the background than there really is. In the end, it’s just supposed to be a fun pop song.

Still, the Navy decided to stick with its old “Anchors Aweigh” for recruiting purposes. In the long run, it was probably for the best. The Navy kept its tradition intact and both the Village People and the Navy benefited from the song’s enduring popularity, especially in terms of pop-culture homage.

Articles

This former paratrooper is now a country music megastar

Craig Morgan Greer is a former fire support specialist who served in the U.S. Army’s 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions before becoming a country music star with seven songs that reached Billboard’s Top 10 most-played country tracks. His top hit, “That’s What I Love About Sundays,” spent six weeks at number 1.


The Marines’ Hymn will make you want to re-enlist
Craig Morgan performs on Crete, an island in Greece, during a USO tour. (Photo: Steve Manuel, USO)

The veteran, who performs under the name Craig Morgan, is releasing a new album but still finds plenty of times to go on USO tours and stop by military bases to visit troops, an activity he says is near and dear to his heart.

The tours can feel strange for him though, since he’s treated like a VIP while he still thinks of himself as a soldier. This is especially true when he visits his former duty stations like Fort Campbell or Fort Bragg.

“It’s super odd, even still to this day, many years later,” he told WATM. “I’m not a VIP, I’m a soldier. It’s emotional. I mean, I had children born on both of those bases.”

The Marines’ Hymn will make you want to re-enlist
Craig Morgan Greer while serving in Korea. (Photo courtesy Craig Morgan)

While Morgan is very proud of his veteran status and open about it, he’s surprised that many of his fans and peers in the industry don’t know that he served. His new album’s title track, “A Whole Lot More To Me,” is partially about the fact that he wasn’t always a performer.

“I find it amazing that having been in the music industry for this long, there are still people who don’t know I was in the military,” he said. “That’s crazy to me. That’s what this record is about. There’s a whole lot more to me than country music and pickup trucks.”

The music video for a new song on the album even includes shots of his time in uniform as well as video of Morgan visiting troops and conducting activities, like PT, with them.

While the new album contains direct references to Craig Morgan’s time in the military, he says that most of his songs have ties to the service.

“The music always reflects back, at some point for me, to my experiences in my life, and since most of my life was in the military, they all relate back to it.”

One standout hit has a surprise military connection. “Redneck Yacht Club,” a 2005 song about a bunch of country boys taking their boats onto the lake for a party, is tied to his time slipping away from the post during downtime in the Army.

The Marines’ Hymn will make you want to re-enlist
Craig Morgan sings to a group of service members during a USO tour on Okinawa, Japan. (Photo: Steve Manuel, USO)

“I remember being at Fort Bragg and going to the lake or to Louisiana to get on the water,” he said.

Morgan, who spent over six years in the Reserves after serving for nearly 10 on active duty, says that he still misses the military from time-to-time, especially after USO tours.

“When I come home I pout around a little bit because I feel like I should be back in the Army,” he said.

Craig Morgan’s new album is available for pre-order on his website. It comes out on Jun. 3 nationwide.

MUSIC

This is how US Presidents almost got to choose their own entrance music

A Marine Corps band first played “Hail to the Chief” for Andrew Jackson as he walked off on his way to Ohio. It earned three cheers from his adoring crowd. After President John Tyler adopted it for his 1841-1845 term in office, the tradition stuck and American Presidents have been associated with the song ever since.


But before that, they tried to choose a personal theme song. Thanks, John Tyler.

The Marines’ Hymn will make you want to re-enlist
Admit that you don’t know what John Tyler looks like.

George Washington almost had “Hail, Columbia” as his theme, with lyrics like “Let Washington’s great name ring through the world to loud applause.” And Jefferson tried to get “Jefferson and Liberty” as his theme song, with lyrics like “But join with heart and soul and voice, for Jefferson and Liberty!”

Some Presidents had special songs written for their campaigns that would have worked as an entrance theme, like Warren Harding’s “Harding, You’re the Man For Us,” Richard Nixon’s “Nixon Now,” Barack Obama’s “Yes We Can,” and the ill-advised “Get On the Raft With Taft.”

The Marines’ Hymn will make you want to re-enlist
He’s fat. That’s the joke.

In the January-February 2017 issue of Smithsonian Magazine, Abigail Tucker detailed the history of the song and how it came to be played for the President of the United States. In the early days of our nation, the general population wasn’t too fond of the British. So when a theatrical version of the 1810 poem “Lady of the Lake” premiered in Philadelphia, it really caught on.

The show was an epic historical story about the life of an anti-British elite who is destined for greatness but whose life is tragically cut short by a power hungry villain. The stage show was a musical production that American audience immediately fell in love with and soon the whole country was raving about the show and its songs. So it was basically the “Hamilton” of the 1800s.

The Marines’ Hymn will make you want to re-enlist
Which sucks for the real Alexander Hamilton. You’d think he’d at least be considered, but Lin Manuel-Miranda is *so* talented.

After the War of 1812, anti-British sentiment was still riding high and even though “Lady of the Lake” was about an anti-British Scotsman it hardly mattered to Americans. He was an awesome character and that was enough. The lyrics were changed a number of times, however. Poetic olive trees eventually replaced Scottish pines and the hero of the song stopped murdering British people.

The Marines’ Hymn will make you want to re-enlist
I bet May dies fighting

Eventually, people completely forgot the official lyrics of the song.

Today the Defense Department mandates that “Hail to the Chief” only be played by the Marine Corps band in B-flat major and only for a sitting President in a “stately context” and at Presidential funerals.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How ‘Hail to the Chief’ became the Presidential anthem

The song that many of us identify uniquely with the President of the United States has a surprisingly controversial history. Chester Arthur hated it, Ronald Reagan thought it was a necessary tradition for the office, and President Trump enters a room to Lee Greenwood’s God Bless the USA more often than not. But this essential piece of Presidential entrance music is almost as old as America itself.


During the President’s Inauguration, “The President’s Own” Marine Corps band plays Hail to the Chief after 45 seconds of four Ruffles and Flourishes. The song is also most traditionally played when the President of the United States enters an official event, but there are no real rules for the song outside of the inauguration. The Department of Defense only asks that the song isn’t played for anyone other than the sitting President.

You wouldn’t know it from the orchestral renditions, but the song actually has lyrics, written in 1900 by Albert Gamse:

Hail to the Chief we have chosen for the nation,
Hail to the Chief! We salute him, one and all.
Hail to the Chief, as we pledge cooperation
In proud fulfillment of a great, noble call.
Yours is the aim to make this grand country grander,
This you will do, that’s our strong, firm belief.
Hail to the one we selected as commander,
Hail to the President! Hail to the Chief!

The song itself can be traced all the way back to our sixth president, John Quincy Adams. At the time, the song was pop music, much like Greenwood’s song is to President Trump today. The Marine Band played it at the opening of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal in 1828, an event attended by President Adams. The first time it was played in honor of the Commander-In-Chief was for Andrew Jackson, at a similar canal event the next year.

Martin Van Buren was the first President to hear the tune played for his inauguration in 1837. John Tyler, who ascended to the Presidency after the sudden death of William Henry Harrison, was much derided during his term for the unelected way he came into power. To remind people who was in charge, First Lady Julia Tyler ensured the song was played whenever he arrived at events. The same was done for James K. Polk, who was a short guy. His wife Sarah wanted to make sure everyone knew when he arrived so he wasn’t overlooked.

The Marines’ Hymn will make you want to re-enlist

Hail to that mullet, President Polk.

By the time Chester Arthur came to office in 1881, he hated the song so much, he opted to replace it with another song. Luckily for him, the leader of the Marine Band just happened to be the “American March King” John Philip Sousa. He commissioned Sousa to write a replacement, which the band leader did.

How well did that replacement go over? If you’ve never heard of Presidential Polonaise, you’re in good company — because most of America hasn’t either. The Presidents quickly went back to using Hail to the Chief.

By 1954, the Department of Defense made the song the official music of the President. Of course, that doesn’t mean they have to use the music. The President is the boss, after all.

He isn’t really bound by law or tradition to have the song played for him on every occasion. President Gerald Ford asked the U.S. Marine Corps Band to play his alma mater’s — the University of Michigan — fight song, Hail to the Victors, instead. Jimmy Carter preferred the tune Jubilation by Sir Arthur Bliss. Ronald Reagan, however, felt the office required more tradition and reinvoked Hail to the Chief.

Articles

This is the new ‘Pitch Perfect’ trailer featuring the USO

The “Pitch Perfect” films are actually pretty funny and the music is definitely catchy — great date night movie (you’re welcome).


If you haven’t seen them, they’re about a women’s collegiate a capella (singing without music accompaniment) group competing against other singers for glory and what not. I was wondering where the third film would go, considering most of the characters were graduating at the end of “Pitch Perfect 2” — and now we have our answer: the USO.

(Pitch Perfect | YouTube)

This introduces some military-ness into an otherwise girly world — including military working dogs and Anna Kendrick flying out the back of a heavy — but mostly it leaves me wondering one thing: How would a group like the Bardon Bellas be received on a USO tour?

And on that note, who have been your absolute favorite (and not-so-favorite) USO guests? Leave a comment and let me know.

Articles

This Vietnam War veteran will make you feel all the feelings

Army veteran Tucker Smallwood is truly one of the good ones.


He was injured while serving as an Infantry Officer during Vietnam, and after months of surgeries and recovery, he extended his commitment to teach counterinsurgency tactics before finally separating.

The Marines’ Hymn will make you want to re-enlist
(Image courtesy of Tucker Smallwood)

Deep down, Smallwood is a soulful artist. An actor, writer, singer, and musician, he has made a career for himself in theater and on-screen, but it’s his writing and his music that really makes him stand out.

We Are The Mighty sat down with him to talk about his relationship with music.

“I can hear some music and know the setting behind it, and it just goes straight to my part that feels.”

He couldn’t speak when he woke up in the hospital in Vietnam, but rest assured, his voice healed and transformed into something rich and soothing.

Check out his video, not only for the Battle Mix that makes him think of his time in service, but for a performance with his acoustic guitar that will leave you wanting more:

You can also listen to Smallwood’s Battle Mix right here:
MIGHTY TRENDING

Vote for MISSION: MUSIC Finalist Theresa Bowman

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.


The Marines’ Hymn will make you want to re-enlist
Theresa Bowman (US Air Force)

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.

Return to the voting page and check out the other finalists!

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!

The Marines’ Hymn will make you want to re-enlist
Articles

The 9 greatest military-themed pop songs in modern history

A lot of popular music artists have attempted to capture the military experience over the years, but only a small percentage of them have gotten it right in the eyes of the community. Here are the 9 that did it best:


1. “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy Of Company B,” The Andrews Sisters (1941)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qafnJ6mRbgk

A fast-living jazz musician from Chicago gets drafted and winds up in the heat of the action with Bravo Company. But his CO is a music fan who uses his power and influence to get the rest of the guy’s band drafted and assigned to the same unit. They all wind up hated by their fellow soldiers because they’re the ones who play reveille every morning, never mind whether or not it’s a hip version of it. As classic a military tale as there is.

2. “Billy, Don’t be a Hero,” Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods (1974)

A young patriot goes to war against his fiancees’ wishes and gets killed because he didn’t follow her sage guidance. And in the end she tears up the letter that documents his heroism because she feels like his service and sacrifice were a waste.  This classic by these one-hit wonders may qualify as “bubblegum pop,” but its subject matter is super intense.

3. “Ballad of the Green Beret,” Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler, U.S. Army (1966)

“Silver wings, upon his chest . . .” This song was written by author Robin Moore and SSgt. Sadler while Sadler was recovering from wounds he sustained while serving as a medic in Vietnam, a fact that kept him from getting grief from fellow soldiers for going on TV in full uniform and singing with kind of a high voice. “Ballad of the Green Beret” became a no. 1 hit — amazing considering how the American public was rapidly going south about the war in Vietnam and pro-military sentiments were already hard to find.

4. I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die Rag, Country Joe McDonald (1968)

Country Joe was a counterculture crooner from the Bay Area who walked on stage at Woodstock after Richie Havens’ opening set basically to kill some time. He played two songs with little response from the massive crowd and walked off. He thought better of it and walked back on and did what was commonly known as “the FISH cheer” (that actually spells something else). The crowd came alive, so he launched into “Fixin’ to Die Rag,” a satire of the military-industrial complex and the impact of the war on suburbia, which was included in the “Woodstock” movie and, as a result, became a classic hit of the Vietnam era.

5. “Fortunate Son,” Creedence Clearwater Revival (1969)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tClM00n0fhY

Perhaps John Fogarty’s best recorded vocal performance, “Fortunate Son” hit the airwaves at a time when the Vietnam-era draft was starting to feel like class warfare and the hypocrisy of the ruling elite was revealing itself. With a driving beat, a searing guitar riff, and Forgarty singing lyrics like “I ain’t no senator’s son, no no,” the song resonated with those doing their duty while their richer and better-placed peers didn’t. “Fortunate Son” made it to no. 3 on the charts.

6. “The Star Spangled Banner (live at Woodstock),” Jimi Hendrix (1969)

Jimi Hendrix was not that well known in America when he took the stage at Woodstock on the morning of August 18, 1969. It was a Monday morning and all but several thousand of the nearly 1 million attendees had left the festival. Hendrix, an Army vet, surprised the audience (and his band) by launching into his rendition of the National Anthem, a version that many conservatives at the time criticized as unpatriotic. But history has shown it to be perhaps the most accurate musical portrayal of the state of America at the time and, beyond that, a timeless reading of the chaos of war. In 2011, the editors of Guitar World placed his rendition at number one in their list of his 100 greatest performances.

7. “War Pigs,” Black Sabbath (1970)

With an ominous air raid siren opening and lyrics like “generals gathered in their masses, just like witches at black masses,” this track from Sabbath’s classic second album “Paranoid” was heavy metal before anyone even knew there was such a thing. And in Ozzy’s shallow metaphor lives the sentiments of millions who have gone in harm’s way since man first took up arms.

8. “99 Luftballoons,” Nena (1983)

The oldest military story ever told: 99 balloons are mistaken for UFOs, causing a general to send pilots to investigate. Finding nothing but child’s balloons, the pilots decide to put on a show and shoot them down. The display of force worries the nations along the borders and the war ministers on each side bang the drums of conflict to grab power for themselves. In the end, a 99-year war results from the otherwise harmless flight of balloons, causing devastation on all sides without a victor. (Wikipedia)

9. “Bodies,” Drowning Pool (2001)

The song that launched thousands of patrols out of the FOBs and into the dirty streets of Iraq and Afghanistan. “Bodies” may not have been written with the military in mind, but it’s urgent beat and overall atmosphere of brutality worked for those who answered the call after 9-11, and they adopted it as their own. Also of note is that the song was used by interrogators at the Guantanamo Bay detention camps in 2003, including over a 10-day period during the “questioning” of terror suspect Mohamedou Ould Slahi.

Now: Where Are They Now? An update on the “Taliban 5” exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl