connections between many of the songs on the compilation Does
Anybody Know I'm' Here?: Vietnam Through The Eyes Of Black America
1962-1972 (Kent) and the songs on the rap album Live From Iraq
(4th25.com) made by black GIs
Goodbye" by William Bell, himself a Vietnam era draftee, finds
its echo in "The Deployment," as does "Please Wait For Me My Darling"
by The Masters of Soul in Live from Iraq's "Dirty." "Am I Ever
Gonna See My Baby Again?" by the Sweet Inspirations is a stateside
version of "Live"'s title track ("This is one mortar round
from/Bein' over no continues"). But
the Temptations' rendition of "War" ("What is it good for?/Absolutely
nothing!") has no equivalent on Live From Iraq.
The soldiers of 4th25 (Fourth Quarter) use their considerable
skills to defend the invasion of Iraq. They glory in the killing
("Regardless of sex or age/I will retire them/In 24 hours this
place/Will be fine again"), complain that their superiors
will not allow them to kill enough Iraqis, and stand up for soldiers
accused of atrocities ("Questioning how we get down/Stand 'em
up we lay 'em down"). These shocking lyrics are driven home
by state of the art production values, even though the CD was
recorded smack dab in the middle of a war zone. The sound is dense
and dramatic, with just drum machines and keyboards producing
powerful sounds ranging from sweet orchestration to hard rock.
soldiers do have second thoughts ("Future unknown and damn
I really hate it") and they understand the position they've
been put in by a power structure they're not part of - "Built
on murder/our country's expanded" or "Got out here like
slaves/Fresh off the ship." They even have doubts about the
militaristic sentiments they express so fervently, rapping "I
know my thoughts are not fair
it's too late here to be worried
about whether or not this is right." On "Matter of Time," 4th25
put the ball back in the court of an American public they accuse
of ignoring them: "So if you think that I'm wrong/Get me outta
But all doubts
evaporate as the album moves along and hearts harden ("And
though it once killed me to kill/I'd gladly do it again").
Big Neal sums up the 4th25 attitude on their web site: "Fuck
every American who doesn't understand how soldiers, war, and death
have made their lives easier to take for granted." How
can infantry soldiers in the line of fire support the war in Iraq,
a war rapidly becoming as unpopular at home as the one in Vietnam
which generated the anti-war music of Does Anyone Know I'm Here?
only begins with the life or death situation these soldiers have
been forced into, where they feel they must kill or be killed.
With the end of the draft, our army has become increasingly separate
from society and a culture of us versus them on all fronts has
taken hold in the military. Above all, Big Neal's outlook is confirmed
by American history, in which we only get our butter because of
our guns. That's been true from the extermination of the Native
Americans up through the booming war-fueled economy of the Vietnam
But now every
dollar that is spent on the guns of Iraq is directly subtracted
from the butter of education, health care, and housing here in
the U.S. (see costofwar.com). With each passing day, there's even
less for the guys in 4th25 to come home to.
home alive comes first and many people are hearing the cry of
"Get me outta here." For instance, Elvis Costello has revised
the lyrics to "Scarlet Tide," his 2004 Oscar-nominated song for
Cold Mountain, adding the words: "I thought I heard a black
bell toll up in the highest dome/Admit you're wrong/And bring
the boys back home." Costello debuted the new version on Today
and then made it part of his summer tour set list.
a considerable roar of approval in Boston," he told Billboard
's Jim Bessman, "but I was even more encouraged to receive a similar
response in Pittsburgh, which I always regarded as a more working
class town." Costello says his inspiration for the lyric changes
came from Freda Payne's 1971 classic, "Bring the Boys Home."
- Rock & Rap Confidential