Wednesday, May 31, 2006


Memorial Day with Garrison Keillor

Garrison Keillor's Memorial Day show at Wolf Trap was a real treat, but the reason I'm writing is to comment on something that caught me by surprise and left few dry eyes in the house.

There are two songs that choke me up. One is an Irish song, Willie McBride, also known as No Man's Land. The other is an Australian standard, And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda. I always assumed they were classic ballads from WWI. I was surprised to learn they were both written in the '70s by a Scottish singer, Eric Bogle.

Last Saturday,Garrison Keillor sang his own version of the latter tune, The Band Played the Star Spangled Banner. After he sang it, instead of waiting for applause, he got the audience to stand up and actually sing the The Star Spangled Banner. I haven't sung the national anthem in years. It's my form of silent protest. However, I sang it Saturday night. It seemed a lot of people in the audience sang it the same way, with an uncommon reverence and warmth.

Apparently, The Band Played the Star Spangled Banner has become a routine part of his Memorial Day shows. Once you listen to it, you will see why. I think it should become an American staple. It deserves to be sung at every American anti-war demonstration. Paraphrasing Roger Clark's review of Bogle's original song, "it's as timeless as the victim is legless."

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