Wednesday, May 25, 2011

'Waltzin Matilda' tragic saga of the universial soldier

Search and Destroy, Vietnam War, TET Offensive, 1968
photo by Mike Marcellino, copyright 2011

Make 'memorial day' universal and end the wars
by Mike Marcellno

First part of a series on Memorial Day

Memorial Day in America is five days away.  All of us should observe its meaning in some way, lasting all year round.  Maybe there should also be a universal Memorial Day that every nation observes.

Sometimes, some of the best stories happen by accident.  Today, as I thought of a song I wrote and recorded, "The Walls of Fire," an ode to American soldiers' sacrifice from the Civil War to Afghanistan, I went on You Tube to take a break.  Listening to one of my favorite bands, The Clash, do "I Fought the Law and the Law Won," music that helps me shake loose, up popped on the screen  "No Man's Land (Berlin, Germany).

"The Walls of Fire" on Reverbnation

Well, "No Man's Land" is a song about the carnage in World War I, written and sung by Eric Bogle, a Scottish folk singer songwriter who immigrated to Australia. I was surprised that Bogle was joined in singing the song by a German singer.  I have not yet discovered his name.

You see and hear the senseless killing, dying, slaughter, suffering in the music and music videos I will share with you from today through Memorial Day in America, Monday, May 30th.  I will also try and discover with your help the other "Memorial Days" in countries around the world.

And, yes, I will suggest that the people of the world create a universal day to honor those who sacrificed their lives, but also to see in our hearts and minds that this destruction of humanity should be ended.  Only the people of the world can do it.  Why?  Because it is the people of the world, not the leaders, who die in these wars.  I know that first hand as a Vietnam veteran.  I never forget the 58,000 American troops killed in Vietnam along with millions of Vietnamese.

As a student of history, a military veteran and someone who will never give up the idea that peace is possible, I wrote, recorded and perform on occasion, "The Walls of Fire."

I will share "No Man's Land" in a later segment of this series, but first here is another song written by Eric Bogle, "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda (1972)," even better known and often covered, by the likes of Joan Baez, among others.  The song is about the slaughter of Australian troops trying to storm the battlements of the Turkish army in World War I in Gallipoli, also the title of an award winning Australian film, directed by Peter Weir in 1981, starring Mel Gibson, Mark Lee and Bill Kerr.  I highly recommend it.  It won best film award by the Australian Film Institute, was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Foreign film and should have won an Oscar.

At Gallipoli, in this single campaign, battle deaths on both sides totaled a staggering 130,784.

Some people viewed the song as relating to the Vietnam War, which ended after 10 years of fighting in 1975 (U. S. combat forces pulled out in 1973.)

"Waltzing Matilda" is an old bush ballad known as Australia's  unofficial national anthem.  It was written in 1895 by poet and nationalist Banjo Patterson.

Here is Eric's version of "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda."  The video is moving and seems to have been done by a Canadian as there are Canadian troops shown near the end.  And, if you like, you may listen to "The Walls of Fire" in the music player on top of this page and visit our avant-garde poetry music band on ReverbNation.  Our band yesterday reached #46 among the Hot Folk Artists in the world, to a great extent due to the song of American soldiers in wars for the past 150 years, as we mark the anniversary of bloodiest of all our wars, the Civil War, brother fighting against brother.  Of course, if we are going to have peace we must end the inhumanity that breeds war.


"And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda" by Eric Bogle 
Eric, 66, performed this spring at the Australian Folk Festival.

As I believe that music makes the world go round, music of war and peace, sacrifice and memorial days will be motivation for words and actions.

As I dearly love the music of Joan Baez and respect her activism for peace and justice, here is her version of "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda."  In 1995 I had the pleasure to chat with her on a beautiful evening outdoors at the Cuyahoga Valley Folk Festival south of Cleveland.  I've included a photo I took of a young girl in the Vietnam War, which I gave to Baez on that occasion.  I welcomed her to Cleveland on behalf of the city as I was then an aide to the mayor.

"And the Band Waltzing Matilda" song by Joan Baez

"Oriental River" Vietnam War, 1968
photo by Mike Marcellino, copyright 2011


  1. Almost too poignant to listen to - but absolutely necessary. I have seen Eric Bogle perform on a couple of occasions and he always includes both 'No Man's Land' (covered superbly by the Dubliners many years ago, echoing the Northern Ireland "Troubles") and 'The Band Played Waltzing Matilda'. Many thanks, Mike, for this powerful reminder.

  2. Thanks for stopping by Harry, I get chills thinking about it, so I must listen again to "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda" Oh, the sorrow of war

  3. Thanks for reminding us that Memorial day's emphasis, meaning should be on memorializing the men and women who sacrificed so much for our freedoms. That is mostly young men and women in their prime of life.
    The music is so sweetly poignant.
    The holiday should not be mainly of picnics, and other fun events. Even so what ever way one celebrates one should remember we can celebrate because of they gave their all.

  4. beautifully stated artemesia; to me the importance of music, especially of war, is that it helps us to lose our inhibitions and just feel; it allows us to shed any pretense and just be fellow human beings; thank you for reading, visiting and your comment

  5. Was just going to "check in" on your blog, but cannot seem to you like "Diamonds and Rust", Mike?
    My fav Joan Baez song.... I even mentioned it in a poem I created sorta stream-of-consciousness style, at award-winning poet, Cecilia Woloch's Atlanta poetry workshop.

  6. glad you checked in as i am rediscovering "Diamonds and Rust," Joan's Dylan love story, having watched the video of her singing the song in concert in 1975 in Florida at the time the song came out; both the song and performance are extraordinary; the album sold gold; i'll will always remember meeting with Joan in Cuyahoga Valley National Park in 1995 after her concert, as well as doing a review of a concert in Cleveland for Sun Newpapers where i was a reporter; i listened to Joan's more traditional songs like "Long Black Veil" and now i am on to listening to "Farewell Angelina" one of my favorites and the title of one of her best albums! so thanks Lisa for giving me such good guidance