Happy Birthday, Emmylou Harris

Ms. Harris wrote this song for her father, Walter Harris, a Marine who served in both World War II and Korea as a fighter pilot, flying Corsairs. He was shot down in Korea and spent almost a year in a North Korean POW camp. Major Harris is buried in Arlington National Cemetery*, where lie many of our heroes.

*[Arlington belonged to the family of Robert E. Lee’s wife, a Custis by birth. The Union took over the house and began burying their dead on the property well before the Civil War ended. Lee never lived there again, moving to Richmond after the War.]

The lyrics are below the fold.

I meant to ask you how to fix that car
I always meant to ask you about the war
And what you saw across a bridge too far
Did it leave a scar.

Or how you navigated wings of fire and steel
Up where heaven had no more secrets to conceal
And still you found the ground beneath your wheels
How did it feel.

Bang the drum slowly play the pipe lowly
To dust be returning from dust we begin
Bang the drum slowly I’ll speak of things holy
Above and below me world without end.

I meant to ask you how when everything seemed lost
And your fate was in a game of dice they tossed
There was still that line that you would never cross
At any cost.

I meant to ask you how you lived what you believed
With nothing but your heart up your sleeve
And if you ever really were deceived
By the likes of me.

Bang the drum slowly play the pipe lowly
To dust be returning from dust we begin
Bang the drum slowly I’ll speak of things holy
Above and below me world without end.

Gone now is the day and gone the sun
There is peace tonight all over Arlington
But the songs of my life will still be sung
By the light of the moon you hung.

I meant to ask you how to plow that field
I meant to bring you water from the well
And be the one beside you when you fell
Could you tell.

Bang the drum slowly play the pipe lowly
To dust be returning from dust we begin
Bang the drum slowly I’ll speak of things holy
Above and below me world without end…

6 thoughts on “Happy Birthday, Emmylou Harris

  1. The Corsair was the first 400mph single-engined fighter ‘plane; the US Navy turned it down for carrier operation due to the long nose (restricting visibility) and “bouncy” undercarriage, so early examples went to the Marines.

    We Brits were bad at producing naval fighters (mainly because procurement was managed by the RAF), so we made the Corsair work by raising the cockpit, modifying the undercarriage, and developing the technique of approaching the carrier from the side, only straightening up just before touchdown; only then did the US Navy adopt them. Apologies to those who’ve fallen asleep by now!

    • Not I, I’m wide awake! If you look at the Corsair wiki link, there’s a great photo of a Marine Corsair. I grew up in a Navy town with two airfields. We knew many of the pilots, not all of whom survived the steep learning curve those carrier landings demanded. Later, it was largely jets. But a sound remains from my very early childhood: clear summer mornings with the far-off drone of prop planes competing with bird song. Even now when outside gardening in the good weather, those sounds return. There must be two engine Cessnas nearby – Lord knows there are several wealthy counties around us which could support those planes.

      The futureB is also a military buff. When he wrote his history thesis for 8th grade 😉 he chose to focus on the European air theatre. His paper turned out to be quite knowledgeable, so much so that his history teacher strongly urged him to major in history when he got to college. Later, for his Eagle Scout project, he did an oral history of the remaining WWII vets in our county and had great enjoyment listening to their stories. At college, he took the military courses that were ROTC requirements and was invariably the most enthusiastic of the group. The ROTCsie boys would say, “so tell me again why you’re taking this class if you don’t have to?” but they didn’t grok his reasoning or why he cared. [I plan to send him that wiki just for the picture. I’m sure he’ll tell me some tales they forgot to mention about the Corsair. I’ll include your liner notes!]

      • Thanks Dymphna. The great British pilot Eric Brown: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eric_Brown_(pilot) whom I had the honour of meeting in at Duxford in 2010, said every carrier landing is a controlled crash.

        Maybe the fB will make it here sometime, and we could take in an airshow. For the 75th anniversary of D-Day in June, close to forty C-47s, mainly from the US, will assemble at Duxford before visiting Normandy on the 6th.

    • Ummm…I think I get your drift, Col BB. A redolent aroma of chicken coop, perhaps? Don’t worry: just as surely as cow flatulence will be outlawed by Occasional Cortex’s Green Nude Eel plan, so will chicken excreta.

      A world covered in soybeans will increase the human flatus level, though. That’s why she plans to depopulate the earth.

  2. I know that looks and tastes of elderly gentlemen are not a major concern at GoV, but Emmylou is still a looker at 71(?). I remember that beautiful brunette singing the Les Paul and Mary Ford version of “How high the moon”.

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