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Top 30 Soldier Songs: #22 – “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town” by Kenny Rogers and the First Edition

November 14, 2008

“Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town” cover

Before Kenny Rogers was a country star, him and his original band hit crossover radio in a big way with Mel Tillis’s attempt to throw a small jab at  war with “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town”. The song was a huge hit and inspired Kenny to move into a more solid country music direction. Prior to Kenny it had become a hit for the likes of Johnny Darrell and Waylon Jennings, but the most popular version in today’s culture is Kenny’s.

Mel Tillis wrote the song based off of a couple he knew in Florida made up of a crippled WWII vet and his wife, a nurse who had cared for him in Europe. The song surrounds a war veteran who is in constant fear of his wife cheating on him and begs her consistently not to do so. The veteran is actually in a state of near death, his injuries taking their toll, and reveals, as Mel intended, that he was actually part of “that old crazy Asian war” rather that WWII like the man who inspired it. Mel originally had intended this Asian war to be the Korean War, however that changed when Kenny Rogers made his version popular in 1969.

The song became a hit for Roger’s fans in a time when the concept or injured war veterans was more relevant due to the escalating Vietnam War. The song was a hit for war protesters and, to many, showed the grief and torture that veterans were forced to deal with after losing their physical abilities due to war situations. It helped paint a picture of how relationships can be broken up and severely tested by the wounds of a soldier, both mental and physical, and the insecurity that can arise from a the situation.

Probably the most significant part of the song is the ending. The original couple that Mel Tillis based the song off of had a much different result. The solider apparently killed his wife in a murder-suicide. However, with respect to the couple supposedly, Mel changes his ending of the story to the vet contemplating this act instead of actually doing it simply concluding “If I could move I’d get my gun and put her in the ground.” To many this was meant to signify that even after returning from the war the vet stil, ironically, saw himself in battle to keep his life together.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. November 24, 2008 1:51 pm

    I have to admit to never hearing this one so I’ll have to look it up sometime soon.

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