Graham Reid | | 1 min read
In 2003-04 John Michael Montgomery's Letters From Home was one of the biggest hits in America -- although its success there didn't translate internationally.
But if you check the clip below -- not the official video, many people adopted it as their own and posted personalised You Tube versions -- you will see why: America was in a war and this sentimental but nonetheless strangely moving song struck a chord with many people who had sons, daughters, mothers, fathers or friends somewhere in places called Iraq or Afghanistan.
The "letter" song isn't uncommon, but Montgomery's was one of remarkably few during this period.
You need only look back to the Vietnam era to hear a slew of them: letters from fathers to dissenting sons, the rejoinder by the sons; letters from those in the field to dissenters or family back home and so on. A swag of them.
But there are always the exploitive, maudlin and downright horrible "letters" and this one by Little Becky takes the prize for base sentimentality and kitschness.
Although it never openly states that Little Becky's brother Tommy has been killed in Vietnam we might guess that was the point.
Becky was five when she recorded this and her dad Bill was the guy responsible.
Apparently in the States this letter to Santa regularly features on the best and worst Christmas song lists of all time.
If Tommy died fighting for democracy I'm grateful that he allows me the chance to exercise my freedom to vote for this . . . in that "worst" category.
A truly horrible song -- and it makes the lyrics of John Michael Montgomery's Letter From Home sound like a Shakespeare from Kentucky in the comparison.
The likelihood of finding this songs (and many of those other "letters", good and bad) is remote -- but it is on the remarkable box set; Next Stop is Vietnam; The War on Record 1961-2008.
This massive, 13 CD set of songs, radio spots and recordings made in-country by soldiers brings together all the most well known songs about the war in Vietnam alongside many dozens of schmaltzy, obscure, seldom-heard and strange records which had the war/soldiers/patriotism/dissent as their theme.
With an accompanying book (not a booklet) of photos, potted history and notes on the songs and artists this is one magnificent album-sized monster of a history lesson pulled together by Bear Family Records out of Germany (here).