Top 30 Soldier Songs: #7 – “If I Don’t Make It Back” by Tracy Lawrence
When you talk to a soldier it isn’t easy for them to admit they’re scared, especially in front of their friends. This is the concept that Tracy focused on in his 2006 single “If I Don’t Make it Back”. Packed with some of the most haunting fiddle you will ever hear, this song tugged at the heartstrings and although it wasn’t given it’s due credit at radio, it became a very popular and touching part of Tracy’s live shows as a huge sentiment to American soldiers.
Soldiers are typically seen as tough on the outside, but Tracy takes a deeper look to the inner feelings of a soldier through the eyes of one of his buddies. Before going off to war, the narrators friend struggles with the possibility that he might die, and chooses to share this with his buddies. This is a completely different vision of the American troop from what many other songs have portrayed them as. Country music has shown them through the battlefield, through the return home and even through their letter home after they die in battle. However, very seldom do we see the soldier before he leaves having to face leaving everything behind and the real emotion behind understanding that they might not return to the people they love and who depend on them more than anyone they’ll be fighting for. The biggest fear over all others is being remembered. That is why, as with this song, when a soldier admits his deepest fears, he does it only to those closest to him.
The song is actually sung through the eyes of a buddy of the soldier going to war. It is their last night together before he leaves and they all go out for drinks at which time the soldier decides to admit his deepest fear of not returning home. He makes his friends promise to keep his memory alive if he doesn’t make it back suggesting a few things they can do to insure this. He even makessure his friend s will help his wife move on if he dies in battle. Despite his friends confidence that he won’t die, “if we know you you’ll pull through without a scratch“, he does perish at war and his friends keep their promise. The narrator reveals that in the present day his buddy is dead and reviews all the things they did in his memory, all of them thins that he enjoyed so much, and how he has tried to help the wife move on.
Usually the concept of death is not addressed until afterwards, as with letters home and recollection of better days. Tracy’s approach proved to be just as powerful, if not more, by focusing on the soldier before the death, before the chaos, and before he is in any real danger. We see a soldier who lays it all out on the table and comes to grips with the possibility that he may not return and just wants to make sure he is remembered and everything he loves is taken care of. That’s why this song is so important. It focuses on a part of the soldier we don;t get to see very often, what lies beneath his tough and prideful exterior. By the time this song is done you have goosebumps up to your neck and you really feel for the soldier in the song and how scared he was to die not because it’s dieing, but because of what he would leave behind.