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