‘Fortunate Son’ At The Concert For Valor. Not ‘Anti-Military,’ But Completely Appropriate

Some people didn't like the song selection at last night's Washington, D.C. concert for Veterans Day.

Bruce Springsteen Dave Grohl Zac Brown

At one point during last night’s Concert for Valor on the National Mall, Bruce Springsteen, Dave Grohl, and Zac Brown joined together for a performance of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Vietnam-era song Fortunate Son, and that didn’t sit too well with some people:

Who would have thought that that Bruce Springsteen, Dave Grohl, and Zac Brown, accomplished musicians all, would be so, well, tone-deaf? But how else to explain their choice of song—Creedence Clearwater’s famously anti-war anthem “Fortunate Son”—at the ostensibly pro-military “Concert for Valor” this evening on the National Mall?

The song, not to put too fine a point on it, is an anti-war screed, taking shots at “the red white and blue.” It was a particularly terrible choice given that Fortunate Son is, moreover, an anti-draft song, and this concert was largely organized to honor those who volunteered to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq.

That comes, not surprisingly, from a writer at The Weekly Standard, and prompted this response from one person on Twitter:

The reality, of course, is that songs like Fortunate Son, as well as Springsteen’s own Born In The USA do a better job of speaking about the truths that many veterans of war face than all of the patriotic anthems that the Weekly Standard author likely prefers on a day like yesterday, especially when speaking about the Vietnam era vets that both songs speak to. The fact that some people can’t see that, and falsely paint the song as “anti-military,” says more about the mindset of the author than anything else.

Just consider some of the lyrics:

Some folks are born made to wave the flag
Ooh, they’re red, white and blue
And when the band plays “Hail to the Chief”
Oh, they point the cannon at you, Lord

It ain’t me, it ain’t me
I ain’t no Senator’s son
It ain’t me, it ain’t me
I ain’t no fortunate one, no

(…)

Yeah, some folks inherit star spangled eyes
Ooh, they send you down to war, Lord
And when you ask them, “How much should we give?”
Oh, they only answer, more, more, more, oh

It ain’t me, it ain’t me
I ain’t no military son
It ain’t me, it ain’t me
I ain’t no fortunate one

Is there anything that more accurately portrays the reality of who fought in Vietnam, who sent them there, and who was able to get away with not fighting there? I can’t think of another example off the top of my head, but it certainly hits the nail on the head. Indeed, it seems like it could be said to be just as accurate a statement of the forces that were sent to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. How many of those men were the sons of Senators, Congressmen, or the members of the elite? Yes, there were some, but the harsh truth is that there were very few people among those who authorized and supported America’s most recent wars who had family members with their lives on the line, just as it was in the war the Creedence Clearwater Revival was singing about. Pointing out that reality isn’t “anti-military,” it’s pointing out a harsh reality that some people, like the Weekly Standard author, obviously don’t want to be reminded of. Including this song in a concert to honor the men and women who have actually fought the wars that people like him have advocated wasn’t an insult at all, it was entirely appropriate.

In any case, here’s a brief snippet of last night’s performance, which may or may not stay available on YouTube for much longer:

And here’s the original:

FILED UNDER: Military Affairs, Popular Culture, , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. John Peabody says:

    Agree. In the same vein, as I heard one pundit say yesterday, ANY movie that depicts war accurately will be an anti-war movie. -retired Army

  2. stonetools says:

    The 101st Keyboard Kommandos who cheerleaded Bush’s wars really want us to ignore the reality of who really served in those wars in favor of a haze of generalities about “patriotism.” Note that Dick Cheney or Mitt Romney ( both boosters of the Vietnam War) somehow found ways for not serving.
    The biggest of the Iraq War bloggers, Instapundit, fought the war from behind his keyboard. It’s a nice way to fight a war, if you can do it.

  3. legion says:

    Spot-on, Doug. The only people who think that song is anti-military are people who weren’t actually in the military…

  4. KM says:

    It accurately points out the unpleasant fact that not all veterans chose their path and that maybe they aren’t exactly pleased with the whole shebang. Doesn’t disrespect them, their service or the military as a whole – just a reflection of life as it was and is. Being military ain’t sunshine and roses and it does them more honor to give voice to all the views rather then just rah-rah-rah! and PR appeal.

    Including this song in a concert to honor the men and women who have actually fought the wars that people like him have advocated wasn’t an insult at all, it was entirely appropriate.

    So true. If the actual veterans and attendees aren’t complaining, then it’s not a problem. Besides, it’s CCR – show the love, people!

  5. Rick DeMent says:

    And that in a nutshell is the problem with the, now vogue, pastime of holding the military in some kind of mythic awe as the exclusive well of all of our Freedom ™. It short circuits any real substantive thought and shuts down debate of any consequence in order to paint any critic of wartime policy as someone who “does not supporting the troops”.

    Another thing is that while I admire those who volunteer to serve there country let’s face fact’s I would venture all but a very small portion of those who do volunteer do it because they either don;t have a lot of good options of simply do it because they are adventure seekers. The idea that every single volunteer is some kind of heroic figure is absurd. The idea that the wars that have been fought over the last 30 years has anything to do with our Freedom ™ here at home is patently ridiculous.

    Finally it completely sucks all the air out of the room for recognizing that heroes come in all kinds of stripes and that the military does not have any kind of monopoly on heroic deeds. It’s the worst kind of fetishization of an institution that is, at best, a necessary evil, and one that the founders resolutely worked to minimize.

  6. Mr. Prosser says:

    Excellent post. Here’s one we sang over there at the time. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e7eHksngZlg

  7. C. Clavin says:

    Well, of course.
    The Weakly Standard and Cheney and McCain are still war-mongering. Leapin’ lizards…McCain just compared Obama’s approach to ISIS with Vietnam.

    President Barack Obama’s “incrementalism” in the fight against the Islamic State group “reminds me of another war we lost, my friend, and that was the Vietnam War

    This is the same approach that has ISIS receding, has cost no lives, and has cost taxpayers comparatively little money.
    These fools can’t handle the truth….

  8. Stephen Bloom says:

    So, if I understand you correctly, as the song is only class divisive and questions the patriotism of those amongst the ‘powerful’ who did not serve, it is appropriate? Any thought to the feelings of those veterans who consider all service honorable and no calling too hard who might be offended by the suggestion that their service was in vain and that they were mere dupes?

  9. Mr. Prosser says:

    @Stephen Bloom: Of course there’s class division. In 67 if you couldn’t get in or afford college your choices were service, prison, or emigration. Also, learning you have been duped is the first step in seeing reality.

  10. Todd says:

    As someone who went to both Iraq and Afghanistan, I consider the people who protested against the Iraq war to have done much more to attempt to “support the troops” than the ones who waved their little flags when military personnel come back home, then get offended by anything that might be considered “anti-war”.

  11. stonetools says:

    @Stephen Bloom:

    Any thought to the feelings of those veterans who consider all service honorable and no calling too hard who might be offended by the suggestion that their service was in vain and that they were mere dupes?

    Doesn’t most of the concert cater to those veterans?

  12. Tyrell says:

    We certainly thank and honor our veterans for their service to this country. General MacArthur said that there is no such thing as a good war or a bad peace. I read just a few biographies of the soldiers who were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. Simply amazing and inspiring the brave actions that they took to save others and win battles.
    I think that the message of the song mentioned is one of phony, false patriotism by politicians and leaders. Quick to send other people into battle. Contrast that with someone like Teddy Roosevelt who was at the front of the charge on San Juan Hill.
    “If this sign is in English, thank a veteran”

  13. C. Clavin says:

    @Tyrell:

    “If this sign is in English, thank a veteran”

    Jingoistic crap.

  14. steve says:

    As a vet from the Viet Nam era (not in country) and as a vet from Desert Storm (in country) let me note that we played that song in both eras. It’s just a fact of life that there are a lot of wealthy pro-war people who went to great lengths to avoid serving and would never let their kids serve. This is an old, old problem. If anything, this is probably anti-draft. I am sure that there are some vets somewhere who might actually be offended by this. I don’t think we should go to extremes to avoid that. This is pretty mainstream music, a classic, and good music. Good for them for playing this.

    Steve

  15. Pinky says:

    So far, I’ve heard more complaints about Eminem’s mf’ing set than about this.

  16. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Tyrell:

    He should be applauded because when he promoted an unnecessary and useless war, he did it for the pure reason that he wanted to kill a guy in combat?

    (Or, if memory serves, shoot him the back as he retreated. Semantics, I suppose.)

  17. anjin-san says:

    Ethan Epstein does not look like he is old enough to remember Grenada, much less Viet Nam. I also have a sawbuck that says he never served. I know a lot of people who went to Nam that love that song.

  18. michael reynolds says:

    It grates every time I hear that ridiculous “defending freedom” trope. In Afghanistan? Sure, at least at first. Iraq, Granada, Panama, Vietnam, Libya? Those involved various issues, none of which had much at all to do with freedom.

    We need to grow beyond our need for myth. We fight wars to further the interests of the United States: to protect access to resources, to block potential adversaries, to forestall terrorist attacks. We have a professional military – they aren’t idiots, they know they’re not in Fallujah to “defend the homeland.” Isn’t honesty the least we owe these men and women? Right now it’s almost like we’re mocking them — like we all know the truth, but you soldiers you’re fighting to keep us free, wink, wink. It’s condescending.

    We are the sole superpower with an interest in keeping goods and services flowing freely and maintaining long-term stability and quashing nascent threats to our people and property. That’s what we send our soldiers to do. Why can’t we just be honest about it?

  19. wr says:

    @Stephen Bloom: “Any thought to the feelings of those veterans who consider all service honorable and no calling too hard who might be offended by the suggestion that their service was in vain and that they were mere dupes?”

    I think they should be treated as adults who are able to hear a concept that does not match up exactly with their own way of thinking and somehow not need a couch to faint on. They are veterans, not toddlers or delicate flowers.

  20. wr says:

    @michael reynolds: “Why can’t we just be honest about it?”

    Apparently because of people like Stephen Bloom.

  21. Mikey says:

    @michael reynolds:

    We are the sole superpower with an interest in keeping goods and services flowing freely and maintaining long-term stability and quashing nascent threats to our people and property. That’s what we send our soldiers to do. Why can’t we just be honest about it?

    I don’t know, honestly. Pretty much all of us who’ve served in the military know what the deal is. Being honest about why we project force around the world isn’t going to offend any of us. I knew being stationed in Germany wasn’t directly protecting New York, but I also knew how vital a free Western Europe was to America’s long-term interests and prosperity.

    Today is somewhat different from back then–one could say preventing the resurgence of al Qaeda by fighting them in Afghanistan actually does directly protect New York. But the basic principle of force projection to protect and defend American interests is the same.

    I and those with whom I served know the meaning and context of “Fortunate Son.” I highly doubt any of us was offended by its inclusion in last night’s concert. I know I wasn’t.

  22. Stephen Bloom says:

    The point of the discussion was the appropriateness of the song. I agree that mature people can take different points of view. However, I think the song choice was irreverent.

  23. J-Dub says:

    @michael reynolds:

    We are the sole superpower with an interest in keeping goods and services flowing freely and maintaining long-term stability and quashing nascent threats to our people and property. That’s what we send our soldiers to do. Why can’t we just be honest about it?

    Probably because they would demand pay commensurate to a job where your life/limbs are threatened. People will defend the idea of freedom much more cheaply than they will to defend shipping lanes.

  24. anjin-san says:

    I’m curious, did any of the folks in country music like Toby Keith that sing uber-patriotic tunes ever serve? After all, Country Joe McDonald, who wrote and performed probably the definitive anti-war song of the Viet Nam era volunteered for the US Navy and served 1962-’65.

  25. anjin-san says:

    @Stephen Bloom:

    The point of the discussion was the appropriateness of the song. I agree that mature people can take different points of view. However, I think the song choice was irreverent.

    Perhaps you can tell us what song you would have preferred to hear in it’s place.

  26. Stephen Bloom says:

    Heart of Oak.

  27. anjin-san says:

    @Stephen Bloom:

    Is that not a British military song? What does it have to do with US vets?

    I’m not understanding how “Fortunate Son” is irreverent. It’s not anti-American, anti-troop or anti-military. It’s anti-chickenhawk (hence the fury we are seeing from neocons)

  28. michael reynolds says:

    @Stephen Bloom:

    Heart of Oak? It’s a Navy song. Specifically a Royal Navy song. That they sang while they were at war with us.

  29. sam says:

    Maybe too much Aubrey–Maturin.

  30. Rafer Janders says:

    @Stephen Bloom:

    However, I think the song choice was irreverent.

    To whom, chickenhawks? Privileged draft-dodgers?

  31. Kathy Kattenburg says:

    Superb response, Doug. Thank you.

  32. Stephen Bloom says:

    RCN – it is the march of the Royal Canadian Navy as well.

  33. Tyrell says:

    The song “Still In Saigon” , written by Dan Dailey and sung by Charlie Daniels would have been a good choice – it deals with how Vietnam vets were treated.

  34. Grewgills says:

    Maybe they would have like this one better?

  35. anjin-san says:

    @Grewgills:

    Good call. Of course this is a classic

  36. JKB says:

    Well, it isn’t good or bad. But as Instapundit points out, the song is just more Lefty hypocrisy. Fogerty was himself a “fortunate” son”, serving a stint as a weekend warrior. He also, described the song as a “confrontation with Richard Nixon”. Nixon, a man who had waived his own lawful deferment to serve in the Pacific.

    Hypocrisy, but then we are in the time when those who hid want to bathe in the service of those who stood. Happens every time.

  37. al-Ameda says:

    This comments on this thread shows us that the War in Vietnam definitely is not over.

  38. anjin-san says:

    @JKB:

    Fogerty was himself a “fortunate” son”, serving a stint as a weekend warrior.

    Clearly you don’t understand the song. “Fortunate Son” is about class privilege. Fogerty was raised by a single mother of five children. His roots are working class through and through. And yes, he did fast talk his way into the Army Reserve. So what? Did it ever occur that the song is about all working class kids who faced far fewer choices than their more fortunate peers, and not Fogerty personally?

  39. Mr. Prosser says:

    @al-Ameda: The war over there is over but the suffering of the Vietnamese exposed to massive doses of Agent Orange isn’t over and the really corrosive divides between those of us who fought but saw the BS and those that thumped the war tub at home or snickered about how they got out of it all will last until the final trump.

  40. wr says:

    @JKB: “But as Instapundit points out”

    Ah, five words that guarantee I will never read a sixth.

  41. JKB says:

    @wr: five words that guarantee I will never read a sixth.

    And yet, you could not restrain your urge to comment with your usual level of ignorance.

  42. stonetools says:

    @JKB:

    Well, it isn’t good or bad. But as Instapundit points out, the song

    Did Instapundit serve?So far as I can tell. he did not. But he sure is glad to voulunteer other people into wars. Maybe he should just shut up about Fogerty’s choices.

  43. James Pearce says:

    @wr:

    Ah, five words that guarantee I will never read a sixth.

    Heh. Indeed.

  44. al-Ameda says:

    @anjin-san:

    Good call. Of course this is a classic

    It doesn’t get much better than Marvin Gaye and “What’s Going On”

    For all of it’s references to long hair, picket lines and picket signs, that song might be dated but it will never ever be out-of-date. Lyrics that apply today, and always:

    you know we’ve got to find a way
    to bring some understanding here today

    talk to me, so you can see
    what’s going on

    The song soars, there’s a lightness there.
    Just beautiful

  45. wr says:

    @JKB: Yes, because the definition of ignorance is refusing to waste time “reading” one-sentence propaganda blasts and obvious lies.

    Love to hear how you define wisdom!

  46. From the post that Doug quoted:

    Creedence Clearwater’s famously anti-war anthem

    So, the inference here is that Veteran’s Day, at least the WS perspective, is a celebration not of veteran’s, but of war.

    And therein lies the problem.

  47. Mikey says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Indeed, indeed. There are a great many American military veterans who never went to war. Their service is no less honorable.

  48. charles austin says:

    Everybody has to be a victim.

  49. anjin-san says:

    I think you can hate war and support the troops:

    I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.
    Dwight D. Eisenhower