Sharing patriotism through song…
By: Gina Kay Singerhouse
There is nothing like a hot cup of Irish tea in the morning, he thinks to himself as he takes a sip and sets his cup back down upon the table. It’s the early mornings that he loves the best. Back home in Tennessee, it’s heaven on earth in the morning dew. If he were home right now, he would be walking out to the barn to check on his beloved horses, including his new colt.
This morning he is out on the road, another town and another job to do. He looks out the window of his tour bus to see that the sun is just peaking over the horizon. The bus slows as they enter into another small town, some where in America.
The highway that they are on, leads them down main street and up pass the local court house. As they drive by, the colors of old glory wave in the gentle morning breeze. The red, white and blue makes him reminisce of all the great towns and cities he has visited throughout his career. The lonely highway has brought him all over the United States and it still does.
Patriotism...where did it all go?
He remembers bits from his childhood days. He grew up in a port town on the east coast. He recalls the old timers telling stories of how the Nazi U-boats sunk American ships of the coast during World War II. Like any child, he was captivated by the local town folk telling stories of watching the sunken ships burning off on the horizon in the night sky.
The thing he remembers most, is how our country came together during that horrific time. The memories of searching and gathering metal for the war effort flood his mind’s eye, as the humming of the tires eco in the background.
Through his journeys, he has met many American heroes. He has been to Iraq and has entertained our brave soldiers all over the world. His heart fills with honor and pride each time he shakes the hands of men and women in uniform, for they are the real heroes. He has come to know many who served, including the legendary Johnny Cash.
It was in 1950, when Johnny Cash enlisted in the United States Air Force. His father was proud of his enlistment as he too had served during World War I. Service in our nation’s military was a duty amongst the Cash men for nearly three hundred years.
“Maybe that’s one reason why I love my country so much and believe in it so strongly. A lot of family blood has been shed for it.” writes Johnny Cash in his 1975 autobiography Man In Black. “It’s that American heritage which compelled me to write ‘Ragged Old Flag.’”
In 1974, Johnny Cash released his forty-seventh album entitled Ragged Old Flag. The album consisted of twelve songs that addressed several political and ethical issues. At the time, our country was facing the Watergate scandal and our troops were about to pull out of Vietnam. The highlight of the album was the title song in which Johnny shares his love and respect for our country’s flag.
Ragged Old Flag
(John R. Cash)
I walked through a county courthouse square
On a park bench an old man was sitting there
I said, your old courthouse is kinda run down
He said, naw, it'll do for our little town
I said, your old flagpole has leaned a little bit
And that's a ragged old flag you got hanging on it
He said, have a seat, and I sat down
Is this the first time you've been to our little town?
I said, I think it is
He said, I don't like to brag
But we're kinda proud of that ragged old flag
You see, we got a little hole in that flag there when
Washington took it across the Delaware
And it got powder-burned the night Francis Scott Key
Sat watching it writing say can you see
And it got a bad rip in New Orleans
With Packingham and Jackson tuggin' at its seams
And it almost fell at the Alamo
Beside the texas flag, but she waved on though
She got cut with a sword at Chancellorsville
And she got cut again at Shiloh Hill
There was Robert E. Lee, Beauregard, and Bragg
And the south wind blew hard on that ragged old flag
On Flanders field in World War one
She got a big hole from a Bertha gun
She turned blood red in World War Two
She hung limp and low a time or two
She was in Korea and Vietnam
She went where she was sent by Uncle Sam
She waved from our ships upon the Briny foam
And now they've about quit waving her back here at home
In her own good land here she's been abused
She's been burned, dishonored, denied, and refused
And the government for which she stands
Is scandalized throughout the land
And she's getting threadbare and wearing thin
But she's in good shape for the shape she's in
'Cause she's been through the fire before
And I believe she can take a whole lot more
So we raise her up every morning
We take her down every night
We don't let her touch the ground and we fold her up right
On second thought, I do like to brag
'Cause I'm mighty proud of that ragged old flag
“Johnny made you believe it when he did it.” shares Country Music Hall of Fame member and Spirit Award winner Charlie Daniels. “He had such a believable voice. You know he talks about the flag and what it means and what it’s been through and you really believe him! He’s just that kind of guy. He had that kind of personality. He was one of those bigger than life characters that really sold you on it, when he said it.”
Forty-two years have pass since Johnny Cash recorded and released this iconic song. When we take a look back at what happened in our country when the song was released and what is happening in our world today, nothing has really changed. Once again, our nation is dealing with various scandals and once again we are dealing with war. The one thing that remains the same, throughout our country’s history is the embodiment of the American flag.
“I am one hundred percent patriotic American.” shares Daniels on his feelings about seeing old glory. “There is no better place on earth. This is it. It don’t get any better than this. If you’re looking for a better place, you’d better start getting ready to go to heaven...I tell people, when I leave Tennessee, I want to go to heaven. That’s exactly what I mean. It’s exactly what I want to do. There is no place like America. I haven’t been to all of the world, but I’ve been to quite a bit of it and I am here to tell you—there’s some good places in the world, there’s no doubt about it. But none of them compare to America. There is no place like a America, this is it!”
Charlie Daniels has such a high respect for America and the brave men and women who serve our nation’s military that in 2014 he founded The Journey Home Project (thejourneyhomeproject.org). A not-for-profit organization, The Journey Home Project helps Veterans of the United States Armed Forces connect with other not-for-profit organizations to help them integrate back into civilian life. It is through this event that Charlie met Mark “Oz” Geist. Geist, a Marine who was one of the survivors of the events that took place in Benghazi on September 11, 2012. Mark recounts his involvement in the horrific events in a book he co-wrote called 13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened In Benghazi.
“We have an organization called The Journey Home, which is for the benefit of Veterans. We try to help Veterans get settled back in to civilian life after they come back and he came to one of our fundraisers.” shares Charlie. “We met him [Mark Geist] and we kind of hit it off and hit it off and kind of became friends with him. He’s just a good guy. He’s a very patriotic person. He just came up with the idea... it was just one of those things that kind of happened.”
Mark came up with the idea for the two of them to re-record Johnny Cash’s iconic song “Ragged Old Flag.” Charlie worked with Geist to create a newly updated version of this iconic song. Geist takes on the role of the young man visiting the town while Daniels takes the role of the ‘old’ man telling the story of the town’s flag. Although their version gives a fresh new introspective, it still relays the powerful message that Johnny Cash relayed four decades ago.
“I just want them to listen to the lyrics and to understand that we’re talking about America.” tells Charlie about the song. “About what America has been through, things that they did not learn in their history books. All the things that Johnny talks about—all the battles that he refers too have been fought under this flag...that they are all real and that they all stood for something very real. That it was brave people who were standing between us and our enemies. They fought, they bled and they died to keep this nation what it is. We at least owe them the respect and the gratitude to respect what they did. Definitely, that’s what I want them to remember.”
On June 30th, Charlie released his version of Johnny Cash’s song “Ragged Old Flag.” The song is available where ever digital downloads are sold. He also released a video that can be viewed on our website at Strictly-Country.com.
Charlie Daniels is currently is touring in support of his new album Night Hawk, that was released in 2016. The ten cut album is a collection of songs that honor the working ranchers. Songs that include his versions of notable tunes like “Stay All Night (Stay A Little Longer)” and “(Ghost) Riders In The Sky.” The album also includes three songs that will hit our list of Top Songs of 2017 and have been nominated for the Spirit Award’s Song of The Year Award with “Yippie Ki Yea,” “Old Chisholm Trail” and “Running With The Crowd.” Mr. Daniels also earned several other nominations with his June 9th performance in Minnesota. He is nominated for Entertainer of The Year, Male Vocalist, Vocal Group and Living Legend of The Year. Fans can vote for him starting December 10th.
Charlie will close out 2017 with the release of his memoir called Never Look At The Empty Seats. In the book, he talks about his early childhood, his faith and struggles he has had to endure through his life. Fans can look for his book come October.
There is no greater feeling than seeing old glory waving in the gentle breeze. She stands for so much and he wishes that every American would understand her significance. As he travels down the lonely roads of America, he knows that this great land is free—because of all who fought for that Ragged Old Flag...
(This article was printed in the July - August 2017 issue of Strictly Country Magazine.)
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