Top 30 Soldier Songs: #4 – “Arlington” by Trace Adkins
In mid-2005 Trace Adkins went through a mid-career crisis in which he dropped what could have been one of his most successful singles of his career. This song stirred up a lot of controversy as it spoke from the perspective of a dead American soldier lying in his grace in the famous Arlington cemetery. Thus the song was appropriately titled “Arlington” and began what would be a huge comeback for Trace as it established him as an artist who is willing to stand out for the sake of the song, not the fame.
This powerful fiddle and acoustic guitar powered ballad was written as a dedication to the soldier who now lie in Arlington cemetery for giving their lives for their country. It speaks through the perspective of one of the newest additions to this “peaceful peace of property” as he explains how he feels about dying. Trace provides an excellent baritone performance that dulls down the intensity of the song just enough to get the message across without overshadowing the haunting imagery that the main character provides in his narration. Despite it’s greatness this song stirred up a lot of controversy for Trace and writers Jeremy Spillman and Dave Turnbull for making a bold assumption of what a dead soldier might think about the service he has done and about going to Arlington cemetery. Although the lyrics contain no bashes towards the war or government and no strikes against the armed forces, it was considered inappropriate and disrespectful to the men and women lieing under those white graves. The video was shot in Arlington cemetery and features images of the White House and the tomb of the unknown soldiers as well as the graveyard itself.
As I mentioned, this song is sung through the persona of a dead soldier who is now going to Arlington to be buried for his dying in battle. The song is written through his narration of what it’s like to die and what he is thinking as he joins the thousands of other souls who’s bodies lay to rest in the most famous burial ground in the country. The soldier first addresses how he always thought he was going to die an old man at home. Instead he is being buried, as he puts it, “on this peaceful peace of property” which was set aside for those like him as his parents are given a folded up flag. He moves on to recalling when he first saw the graveyard and finding his grandfather’s grave. Now, however, he has joined him in that cemetery and in this new world that he is in he discovers how proud his grandfather is of him. Addressing the men who have died and who will die as heroes he concludes the song by repeating the consistent message in the chorus, “we’re thankful for those thankful for the things we’ve done” and asks that his people don’t cry for these soldiers because they are finally at peace.
Despite it’s moderate chart run and the controversy that came along with it this song has become a signature ballad in Trace Adkin’s career. It helped fuel what would become his eventual comeback parade and inspired millions with a non-bias look at the afterlife and the honor that the soldiers who are buried in Arlington would likely have felt if they could express their emotions from whatever other world there might be. The simplified production and low range that Trace and his producers apply to the ballad help to make it all the more haunting and help present the imagery of this soldier’s “ghost” if you will as if he was real and as if it was him spreading this message for the nation to hear and that Trace’s only job was to make sure it was heard loud and clear.