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50 Greatest City, State, And Town Songs – #2: “Galveston” by Glen Campbell

May 2, 2008

Galveston50 Greatest City, State, And Town Songs: #2

“Galveston” by Glen Campbell

Album: “Galveston”

Chart Peak: #1

City, State, or Town: Galveston, Texas

As we move so close to the #1 city, state, and town song we must first cross the path of one of the greatest country/western songs of all time. A tune that stirred controversy, inspiration and greatness in its own time, “Galveston” by the great Glen Campbell. Glen can be considered the country music version of Neil Diamond, a symbol of longevity in the business and a figure who has allowed countless anthems and lyrical messages to hit the airwaves and take hold of the hearts of music fans around the world. This was one of his most famous hits and possibly his most popular and symbolic in the ears of traditionalists and modernists throughout the country music world today. “Galveston” was widely seen as an anti-war anthem in the years of the Vietnam War, which helped stir the controversy and popularity surrounding it. Eventually the song would go one to earn honors that would seal it in time as one of the genre’s greatest songs in history.

The writer of the song, Jimmy Webb, wrote the song based on a soldier during the Spanish-American War. At least this is what he stated. However upon the songs release the nation was in the middle of the conflict in Vietnam. Naturally any song with references to war, especially away from the mainland, was taken as ether supportive or rebellious towards the situation. Although he was neutral on the issue, Glen did his best to express what is considered a huge work of art to the best of his ability. He pushed aside all controversial or argumental significance of it and turned to the power and sincerity of the story, told through the perspective of a soldier caught in the midst of war and wishing for a return home to Galveston, Texas. Through the use of this Texas town both Jimmy and Glen were able to express the emotional significance of the homeland to an American war figure and, in addition, show the fear and terror that comes with being placed in the center of a war forced to fend for your own life for the sake of those back home with no proof or guarantee that you’ll ever see home again.

Glen sings the song through the eyes of a soldier in several short, yet significant line that are used to express his longing to return home and his fear or war, specifically death. The song is sung almost in the form of a prayer or a calling out to the town of Galveston, giving it an immediate humanistic characteristic. He makes direct reference to the sea winds recalling specific details of the town. This alone shows the single importance of the town to the soldier because he is able to recall such specific and small details just through his mind. He can allow himself to hear the waves without actually having to be there. He comments on “her” dark eyes glowing. This is probably a reference to lighthouses or the light from the town. The soldier gives Galveston, Texas a humanistic label as a female figure showing an almost romantic feel towards the town. The dark eyes refer to both the feminine beauty of the town and more specific details that the are being reborn from memory. Glen’s soldier character also specifies the age of the town as 21, a possible reference to its feminine charm as a young and attractive beauty in his eyes or to the actual youth of the town at the time of the Spanish-American War, which, as I mentioned, was the original setting of the story.

The second set of lines in the song really bring out what people see as the anti-war aspect of it. The soldier becomes more descriptive and expresses memories of more beautiful and noticeable aspects of the town by referring to the crashing waves rather than the blowing wind. The wave would have been more noticeable and attractive to the naked eye and would be more significant to people in their everyday admiration that a simple blowing of the wind. That being said it also brings out another more admirable aspect of the town once again expressing its beauty and his vision of it’s perfection. Finally the soldier places himself in the scene of a war by referring to cannons firing. Whether he is in the midst of a battle or not is unclear, but we are made aware that something is taking place that is causing this man to dream of his home and try to find what we would call he “happy place”. He wants to be back n Texas where he belong instead of in the situation he is in right now. Finally he states how he is cleaning his gun while the cannons are firing and the events are unfolding and the only other thing he can bare to do is think of Galveston. He finds himself avoiding the use of his gun and involvement in combat, and dreaming of being back home in his apparently beautiful and attractive home that would possibly have been considered less attractive or pleasing under more appealing circumstances.

Seeking refuge in his thoughts, the soldiers relation to his hometown becomes much more romantic and personal as he continues his romantic reference and humanizing of the small town. He sees her by the water yet again, another reference to the see but this time glorifies ts beauty without using any real characteristics labeling it as a natural beauty like that of a woman. He also posses a question, an odd one at that, about whether she is waiting for him or not. In tried to occupy himself by expressing a marital like dedication between himself and the town to give himself the feeling that he is wanted and will be remembered whether or not he is to return. Thus we get closer to the most controversial point of the story, the soldier’s fear of death that brings the song to it’s climax and its conclusion. In a last prayer like shout out to his home town of Galveston, Texas, Glen’s soldier confides his fear of dying in war to the town. A fear that would normally be shared between trusted friends of family is only shared between him and the land he loves so much. He also verifies to himself that he will be missed by the town itself and even posses another possible feminine character by referring to the she as separated from the town itself.

What is defiantly a country anthem and a timeless classic is the second best city, state and town song  out there. Glen takes the persona of soldier at war that escapes his terrifying reality to try to calm himself down and reunite with his hometown that he misses so much. His longing for the town becomes more serious and apparent as he begins to see it having feminine characteristics and labels it as a human, specifically a woman whom he show affection and love for. This not only shows the power of home to a person’s heart, but is used to express fear and terror in the world of war. This aspect brought out the most valuable, yet controversial aspects of the lyrics by not only referring to true human fear but also allowing a first person perspective into the life and feelings of an American soldier when considering the possibility and probability that they will not return. It shows the fear of death, the fear of not returning home, a fear of being forgotten, and a fear of being unable to see the one thing that has been a constant in one’s life again. The lyrics are poetic, organized, and powerful. Separated into a few simple lines representing the organized and calming thought processes that keep sanity within a war zone, this song truly set the bar for country music greatness. Glen Campbell will forever be held in history for his adaptation of this story about a young soldier searching for peace, love and ultimate freedom and escape in his home town of Galveston, Texas. Only one song is better and more deserving that this powerful story. Stick around to find out!!!!


3 Comments leave one →
  1. Leeann permalink
    May 2, 2008 9:54 pm

    This surely has been a very interesting feature. I love it! It’ll be a little sad to see it end, but I look forward to the revelation of the #1 slot.

  2. cowboybleau permalink*
    May 3, 2008 3:30 am

    I know LeeAnn. I already know the #1, lol, so its already over for me. It seems like so long ago I started this when in reality it hasn’t been that long at all. I don’t know what I’m gonna do afterwards.

  3. KathyP permalink
    May 3, 2008 2:14 pm

    Out of earshot, out of mind. I’d forgotten this song. I used to love it. Will have to go find it on itunes and dowload. Probably a few others from this list, too. Great series. Looking forward to No. 1. Thanks.

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