Friday, May 28, 2010

50,000 Names

One of my few proud moments during my 6 years at RCA/Nashville was the release of an album by my longtime friend and great songwriter, Jamie O’Hara. It was titled ‘Rise Above It.’ Sadly, like most music of substance, Jamie’s recordings attained little commercial success. Nonetheless, some 15 years later I continue to listen to that CD – especially to track 8 - a song entitled ’50,000 Names.’ It is a stunning and dignified tribute to so many from our generation who served our country and lost their lives during the Vietnam War era. In the aftermath of its release I received occasional letters from Vietnam veterans who had heard the song on the radio or had seen the video we had compiled to accompany the recording. Unlike so many so-called tribute songs this one had depth and heart and honesty and was not written to exploit moments of natural disaster, terror or famine. Jamie’s song was a retrospective prayer honoring an event long in our past but forever attached to our souls.
I recall the furor that arose when the initial sketches of The Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial were released. Many deemed it a disgraceful, small-minded and detestable icon. But it was built and so many have come to walk into its dark but glorious angle. I was distrustful of the design until I walked into its space and fully understood its meaning. I found the names of a few classmates and made some charcoal rubbings. But what caused me to have to sit down on an adjacent bench was the sight of hundreds of war widows with their young children, scores of parents weeping for their sons and daughters and, perhaps more poignantly (if that is possible,) the veteran survivors embracing one another and mourning for their lost comrades.
I was a teenager when much of that engagement was happening. I escaped the draft with a high lottery number. My life has been blessed with a happy family, healthy kids, a good job, a nice home and all the other commodities formerly inherent with a life in America. But I can say this: not a day goes by when I do not take a moment to remember the sacrifices made by those 50,000 heroes. That war is in the fabric of my soul. God Bless their families.

‘They come from all across this land
in pick-up trucks and minivans
searching for a boy from long ago.
They scan the wall and find his name,
the teardrops fall like pouring rain
and silently they leave their gifts and go.’
Lyrics by Jamie O’Hara


Blogger Jeff said...

Thom, After hearing "Cold Hard Truth" one time, I immediately went out and bought this record. I was familiar with Jamie's music when he recorded with Kieran Kane. As country music was on it's downhill slide, this record was truely a diamond in the rough. I remember the touching video of "50,000 Names" at the memorial. I haven't listened to this record in quite some time. Thank you for reminding me of this great album and to make this holiday more than a race and a BBQ.

May 30, 2010 at 7:52 AM  
Blogger Thom Schuyler said...

Dear Jeff - I am grateful for you comments here. 'Cold Hard Truth' was the song that set me on fire to make a record with Jamie.
I am glad that you gleaned something from the efforts made. I will check out the blog that is associated with you message.



May 31, 2010 at 7:07 PM  

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