Freda Payne's Antiwar Anthem

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Each
morning since this wicked war began, I have spun the same 45 record
on our dusty old turntable: Freda Payne’s "Bring the Boys Home,"
an isolationist anthem if ever there was one. Freda, best known
for her bouncy drama of wedding-night impotence, "Band of Gold,"
recorded "Bring
the Boys Home
" in 1971 on the Invictus label. It never
rose higher than #12 on the charts. But it’s a heartbreaker, one
of the best antiwar pop songs because, like Jimmy Webb’s "Galveston"
or Eric Bogle’s "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda,"
it measures the cost of war on a human scale. An affecting mixture
of Motown and dirge, the song begins with Freda’s lament:

Fathers are
pleading
Lovers are all alone
Mothers are praying
Send our sons back home
You marched them away
on ships and planes
to a senseless war
Facing death in vain

Freda
and her backup singers beseech, implore, demand:

Bring the
boys home
Bring ‘em back alive!

She
imagines "all the soldiers that are dying…just trying to
get home," and she ends with a beautifully furious question:

What they
doin’ over there?
When we need ‘em over here?

Thirty
years later, as brave American boys once again die for nothing halfway
around the globe, our rulers still haven’t answered that question.
But until the Department of Homeland Security confiscates seditious
pop records, Freda Payne will keep asking. Bring the boys home…NOW!

April
10, 2003

Bill
Kauffman’s [send him mail]
Dispatches
from the Muckdog Gazette: A Mostly Affectionate Account of a Small
Town’s Fight to Survive
has just been published by Henry
Holt.


     

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