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Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Dos: Day 303
Mon, Nov 12, 2012

“Drive On”
Johnny Cash

1994

“♫ You’re a
walkin’ talkin’
miracle from
Vietnam
♫”

According to Tony Tost’s and his most excellent 33 1/3 tome on American Recordings, Johnny Cash once said, “The only thing good to come out of war is a song.” True, today on this historic holiday, I’ll amend Cash’s statement by saying the only thing good to come home from war is our brave soldiers. Johnny Cash penned his own tribute to Veterans as he explained, ““Drive On” was my Vietnam song. It came from what I remembered about Vietnam, being there in ’69 plus a lot of books I read, and talking to a lot of veterans.” Cash penned “Drive On” after sending a letter to President George Bush a protest for the first Iraqi War. A warrior at heart, Cash believed in non-violence and wanted to keep his soldier brethren from going and dying in war.

““Drive On, it don’t mean nothing” is an expression they used a lot in Vietnam.” Johnny Cash once said. In Tost’s 33 1/3 American Recordings, Tony wrote, “[Cash] adopted the soldiers “drive on” mantra as a method of coping with his own trials.

Cash expanded on his idea for the term “Drive On” when he explained, “Since I had my sixtieth birthday, I’ve been trying to learn that I can’t sweat the little things the way I used to do. So What if I’ve got a broken jaw? It could be worse. Could be a broken back. Screw it. It don’t mean nothing. Drive On.”

You can hear why artists, soldiers, devotion dreamers and social outcasts all connect with the word and gospel that is Johnny Cash. Cash is an American Original. When Johnny sung that he’d been to “Folsom Prison” you believed him. Cash has this integrity in his voice and brutal honesty in his lyrics. Johnny was no politician, Cash was a man who gave a voice for all people. “I think they’ll know the real me. There’s nothing to hide behind and that was scary.” Johnny Cash said before the release of his stripped down guitar and vocal rawness of 1994’s American Recordings. AR was so raw that Johnny’s guitar on “Drive On” sounds out of tune yet it’s the imperfect honesty in that take that captures the essence of Johnny Cash.

“Drive On” was conceived as a protest song against the first Iraqi War and dedicated to the forgotten veterans from the Vietnam war. “Drive On” is actually an acoustic anthem of perseverance that not only reflects the Man in Black spirit of Johnny Cash but also the dedicated determination faced by our military and veterans daily. So today if you see a Veteran and/or someone in Military uniform I encourage you walk up and thank them for their service. Better yet, buy them a coffee, a cold drink or pay for their tab. Our military stands at the front lines and protects us. Happy Veterans Day to our soldiers. Johnny Cash rallied and sung for you, our defenders of freedom, we salute you—“Drive On.”

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