Friday, November 8, 2013

A Pop Star's Tribute

"Off to War - Canadian Expeditionary Force recruits in Alberta, Canada", circa 1914, Public Domain,

 Greetings All:

Monday is Veterans' Day.  For anyone reading who is a veteran, please accept my thanks for what you did.  I may write more on this before the weekend is over but for tonight, I'd like to focus on our neighbors to the north, Canada.  Here's why:

A quarter-century ago (man that sounds so much worse than saying, "In 1987...") Bryan Adams released his Into the Fire CD.  I remember reading a Rolling Stone interview where he had proclaimed his desire to sell a "loud" amount of records.  In other words, surpass the hype of his uber-successful Reckless album (and it was an album back then) and all its sugary-pop hits.  He did hit his goal (sort-of) with selling 2 million copies and peaking at #7 on the charts.  He also wanted to be taken more seriously as a song writer.  To that end, he wrote a song entitled, "Remembrance Day."  As a college kid, I had a vague idea of what he was writing about, the Canadian version of our Veterans' Day. 

One might wonder why I am profiling an 80's pop star in this blog?  For whatever reason, I was thinking about this song and when I went to YouTube, I found the video below.  I presume that since this has been posted, there are multiple share options and no protest by the suits in Ottawa, it is OK to share this and Bryan is cool with it, so please, don't sue me, eh?  Thanks!  Now, with that leap of faith, here's the video:  (Public Domain and/or Fair Use Claimed)

As I listen to the song, there is, no doubt, an 80's sound to it.  It opens with a bold, rockin' sound.  The drums and guitars sound like, well, drums and guitars.  But as the song goes on, there is a maturity that comes.  One of the earlier lyrics jumps out at me:

"We'd face the fighting with a smile - or so we said
If only we had known what danger lay ahead."

Mr. Adams captures what was the smug attitude of many at that time in 1914.  The great powers of the day were spoiling for a fight.  Each side was equally sure they'd be home by Christmas, safe and victorious.  Didn't play out that way.  The powder keg that was Europe erupted from the spark of an assassin's bullet and did not end until four years and millions of deaths later. 

I haven't listened to this song in years and after listening to it again for a couple of times, am still impressed with it.  Adams wrote this at arguably the height of his fame as a rock star.  Yet he tackled a somber subject and, in my opinion, did it justice. 

Here are the lyrics, feel free to judge for yourself.

"For our king and our country and the promise of glory
We came from Kingston and Brighton to fight on the front line

Just lads from the farms and boys from the cities
Not meant to be soldiers we lay in the trenches

We'd face the fighting with a smile - or so we said
If only we had known what danger lay ahead

The sky turned to grey as we went into battle
On the fields of Europe young men were fallin'

I'll be back for you someday - it won't be long
If I can just hold on 'til this bloody war is over

The guns will be silent on Remembrance Day
There'll be no more fighting on Remembrance Day

By October of 18 Cambrai had fallen
Soon the war would be over and we'd be returnin'

Don't forget me while I'm gone far away
Well it won't be long 'till I'm back there in your arms again

One day soon - I don't know when
You know we'll all be free and the bells of peace will ring again

The time will come for you and me
We'll be goin' home when this bloody war is ended

The guns will be silent on Remembrance Day
We'll all say a prayer on Remembrance Day

On Remembrance Day - say a little prayer
On Remembrance Day

Well the guns will be silent
oh There'll be no more fighting
we'll lay down our weapons
On Remembrance Day.”

I doubt few other people would make the link to this pop culture song and the famous, haunting poem of John McCrae listed below, yet I can.  I see it as a bookend, a pop star paying tribute to a war, albeit from the safe distance of history.  The fact Adams elected to commit a song off his album to such a somber topic, one that his audience demographic knew only from history, says something.  In his quest to be taken seriously, this subject was a good choice.  I have no idea if Adams had relatives who fought in either World War, but I suspect he did.  Even if he did not, this was a sincere way to pay respects for all who fought.  The photo below is of the carnage of Flanders Field and the poem follows., public domain

In Flanders Fields
By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918), Canadian Army
"In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields."

Is it a stretch to link a Bryan Adams song to a famous poem?  Sure.  Then again what I like about this blog is that I can share certain connections I come across that happen to stick around long enough for me to string nouns and verbs together.  For whatever reason, this happened with this song.  There are times when force must be used.  There are times when it is worth the cost.  However, there is a cost.  This weekend and Monday we pause to remember those who served (and are still serving in dangerous places far from home and ten free wings at Hooters) and say thanks.  Bryan Adams did so in his own way.  I'm glad he did.

Here is the link to the information about Into the Fire: 

You can purchase the song "Remembrance Day" here at iTunes:

Be well my friends,

p.s.- Did you check out the YouTube video?  Did you watch it all the way?  If you're a fan of the "Where are they now?" then watch the vid all the way through.  It's worth it.

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