My father was on a Naval Ship in World War II. He was a Communications Officer. If he came across horrors during his time in the war, he did not share them with me. I do know, in his later years, when I knew him best, he was a peace-loving man, always. I could see in his eyes the affinity he felt as he watched the rebelling youth of the 60’s.In his younger days, as a radio broadcaster, he often spoke up for what he believed -even if it wasn’t a popular viewpoint. He rejoiced that neither of his sons had to fight in the Vietnam war.
Like him, I dream of a world where people do not have to take up arms and aim at another human being over principles like freedom and democracy or the right to the basic necessities of life. As out of place as Delaware fighting Pennsylvania for more land for Delewarians. As unthinkable as shooting your own family. A world where we won’t have to pay the price of lost lives for concepts that should readily be ours When we understand we are all in this together, I believe, we will have no more need to shoot and kill to get what we want and need.
I wish there was no Memorial Day, as there would be no one who had died fighting for ideals. But until that day, I am astounded at the bravery of men and women, throughout our history on this planet, who have stood up and been willing to die for something they believe in. From military service to rebels to activists. I wish we could honor them more than one day.
Today and every day, I celebrate America through my favorite band from the 70’s. The three founding members were, in fact, the Americans at an army base in England where their fathers were stationed.
Ask most people if they know A Horse With No Name, Ventura Highway, Tin Man, Sister Golden Hair, or You Can Do Magic, and they’ll say, “Yeah, sure, America. I like them.” Though there are many fans who still come out to the shows, there are few as dedicated as I am.
My history with America is long. It began with their first album, sometimes called America. (The one with the Native Americans behind them.) My teenage friend and I played it while we puzzled over the Ouija Board. They took on a mystical quality from the start. In those days, I’d light a candle, put on America and meditate. Keeping my thoughts on America was easy and turned out to be good meditation practice.
I listened to their records over and over and over and over again (and still do!) Their 3rd album, Hat Trick was on the record player every morning as I woke. I dropped the needle on the record to accompany my preparations to go to school. Music was a huge part of my life back then and America was at the heart of it. They might have had something to do with my aspirations to be in the music business.
As I continued to follow them and get all their records, go to shows every year, my affinity for them grew. America came to be My Band. Later on, when I found my calling as a writer, America was what I played as I worked on my novel. (With Dan Fogelberg in there, too.) America music was present at many important moments in my life. And I hold cherished memories of the shows I’ve attended and the visits I’ve had with them.
After so many concerts, the boys began to notice me. Several times I would find myself in the right place to be able to talk to them. They were always respectful and generous with their time. Through these visits I was able to get a glimpse into the people behind the music I loved so much.
What strikes me most about them is that they are always gracious. They were very young when A Horse With No Name hit the charts. But they seem to have grown up well. They’ve come through it all, it would appear, with a sense of gratitude for their lives. I think part of that may be because they’ve done it, largely, the way they wanted. Maybe not achieving the status of success they might have if they’d made more compromises. As far as I know they both have families, passions and a life outside of this rock star thing
I believe (and other wise souls in my life have agreed) that America was a good, healthy outlet for me as a teenager. Their simple lyrics based on love and nature, were soothing to the reckless spirit in me. In many ways they kept me on the straight and narrow. America was a safe harbor for me.
It seems that America is also associated with me. Most everyone I’ve known for even a little while, know of my love for the band. Some have told me that whenever they hear America, they think of me. That’s pretty cool!
Maybe I have this thing for them because of my familiarity with the music. I have listened to the records over and over so many times, perhaps it’s become in tune to my heart beat. Though I like to think the synchronization happened long before I heard their music. All I know is that the music calms me. Even today, after thousands of listens, Hat Trick still sounds fresh and wonderful to me. Whenever I’m scared, or a long way from home, facing something – like a dentist’s drill even – I run to America. I can rest there, on their layers of guitars, soothed by their harmonic voices. Good memories and warm feelings well up in me. They’ve been the soundtrack of my life.
So I stand up this Memorial Day and salute all heros who have died for a cause. But my hand comes back on my heart to pray that someday we will know only peace. Where we can all just hang out, listen to America and chill.