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Saddest Songs of Rock and Roll – #47

by Lawrence J. J, Leonard

Deep seeded memories can be as happy as hugs, kisses, laughter, smells, and compassion. Alternatively, we can sustain images of cruelty, neglect or harmful incidents.
This was the mindset of Americans after the Civil War (1861-1865) digging the graves of honorable veterans. Our grandparents and great-grandparents and their forebears were devastated and torn apart by violent conflict in this land we call home.

Canadian composer Robbie Robertson and his music project, The Band, took the view that this aspect of America’s homegrown war deserved a closer look. Robbie had been working on the song with founding band member Levon Helm in Woodstock.

They researched the Union Army’s “Stoneman Raids” and developed a song about Virgil. It is from this poor southerner’s perspective that the 1969 ballad expressed the sadness of a citizen crushed by the might of his own countrymen’s military fury.

The sorrowful lament was unranked when The Band released the record. It was thoughtfully re-released as a cover by American folk singer Joan Baez in 1971. War is hell.

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