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Top 30 Soldier Songs: #4 – “Arlington” by Trace Adkins

December 14, 2008

Songs About Me cover

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.

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14 Comments leave one →
  1. William Shives permalink
    April 7, 2009 2:13 pm

    Where did anyone get the idea to associate the word ‘infamous’ with Arlington cemetery? It is completely inappropriate and has no connection whatsoever with Arlington. Revered, hallowed or perhaprs even famous, but never infamous.

  2. cowboybleau permalink*
    April 7, 2009 3:41 pm

    That is completely my fault William. It was poor editing and word play on my part. I have changed it, sry for that.

  3. William Shives permalink
    April 7, 2009 6:38 pm

    Thank You. That sounds and reads much better.

  4. April 7, 2009 8:36 pm

    I, somehow, missed the controversy surrounding this song. I didn’t know people had a problem with it.

  5. cowboybleau permalink*
    April 8, 2009 8:46 am

    It kinda flew under the radar, but there were a lot of people who found this song effensive because of where it was based around etc. Apparently they’ve cooled down now because his new one is just reelin in the downloads.

  6. Matthew Birkinbine permalink
    April 19, 2009 12:08 am

    I’d never associate infamous with “Arlington” I think it’s a downright patriotic song, and anyone who’s been burried there after serving this great nation deserves a 21 gun salute and a flag at half staff every day of the year.

  7. Grunt4Life permalink
    May 8, 2010 10:40 pm

    What a great song!

    I am a retired Marine and thought it was beautifully written.

    It reminded me of several friends who are buried in Arlington.

  8. cara permalink
    March 8, 2011 7:02 pm

    I cannot hear this song without crying for my Grandpa who died serving our country… and thankful my Daddy came home.

  9. cara permalink
    March 8, 2011 7:05 pm

    correction.& be not &and

  10. April 13, 2011 6:11 am

    hi,good socks in your post,I love that nice socks,I need to find one for me,bill

  11. June 25, 2011 6:21 am

    I had the privalage to hear Jeremy sing this song tonight after a family dinner. Some of us around the table were talking about the controversy and the real reason the song was written at all. Jeremy’s brother in law, Rick a retired Air force Colonel stated he wrote the song to help a friend who was dealing with the loss of a son from the war. There was more interest in giving some peace than was put into making a song for sale. Just a family note.

  12. Bill N permalink
    January 14, 2012 4:42 pm

    I retired after a 20 year Air Force career in 1981. My wife and I both wish to have our burials at Arlington and I have instructed my children of that wish. As a career military man we moved frequently all over this great country. We had our favorite locations but have still never managed to call any specific place home. I have always thought Arlington would be my ultimate home. Thanks Trace Adkins and the writers of this beautiful song. I shall treasure it always.

  13. Anonymous permalink
    February 7, 2012 8:58 pm

    My family is a military bratt. I’m sure all soldiers and veterans appreciate on what Trace Adkins is doing/supporting! I know my family is!

  14. Renee Demaray permalink
    May 27, 2014 7:58 pm

    I’m late to this “controversy” but absolutely disagree with any military families having a problem with this song. My husband was buried in Arlington in 2012; and the lyrics absolutely capture his mindset. He was muchly decorated and had no regrets about his military service; and he most definitely was fixated on being buried in Arlington and being in the same place as warriors from all the previous wars and conflicts. When he was alive, he went to funerals at the national cemetery in our home town, as a veteran representaive for those fallen soldiers who had no families to witness their “planting” and was very proud to do that service for them. If you don’t have a family member who’s done his time in the service of his country during times of combat, you cannot understand how much it means to them years later to know their final resting place is somewhere special and yes … hallowed and sacred.
    Thanks to the guys who wrote and performed this song … I was out of the country when it came out and only heard it this weekend for the first time, on Memorial Day. I had to pull over (I was out driving) and cry, I was so overcome with the poignancy of the lyrics.

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