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Top 30 Soldier Songs: #11 – “Riding With Private Malone” by David Ball

December 7, 2008


In 2001 David Ball released what would become his first top 40 hit sense 1995, and his only one since. Inspired by an actual urban legend of the Vet’s Vette, David’s “Riding With Private Malone” follows the story of a man who purchases a 1966 Corvette formerly owned by a victim of the Vietnam War. The song was so successful on its own power it helped David score his second #2 hit, the highest point he ever reached on the charts.

Writers Wood Newton and Thom Shepherd based the story of the song off of an actual legend of a war veteran who haunted the Corvette that he left behind after he died in battle. Although both the video and the song had classical feels to it, incorporating few production tricks on the song’s part and very few details to the video’s credit, both were highly successful among fans who were able to see the story in the song as one of unity between today’s soldier and yesterday’s veterans. The two characters, one dead (Private Malone) and one living (narrator), form a strong bond that is not limited by death, but is actually made stronger by their histories as soldiers and their ownerships of the same vehicle upon their exit from the service.

The now classic story that is portrayed in this song is one of a former American soldier who is just released from the service and upon his freedom from duty decides to buy a 1966 Corvette on a whim. After buying the car for a steal he explores it features and finds a note in the glove box from the car’s former owner Private Malone, dated 1966 during the Vietnam War conflicts. The letter serves as his last thoughts before he left his beloved car to go to war, thoughts that he hoped would be shared with whoever inherited the vehicle if he did not return. As the story progresses the narrator enjoys his new ride and throughout his travels in the car swears he has experiences where a soldier is sitting shotgun with him, Private Malone. One night after crashing the car in the rain the soldier awakes with no memory of the event except being rescued by a strange soldier, Private Malone.

Although this song didn’t incorporate the tricks and emotional power of other songs of its kind, it still managed to reach the masses as a legitimate work of art in the soldier genre. It tells the story of a bond between two soldiers, one dead and one alive, that serves as a testament to the unity of men that serving one’s country seems to brings. These two figures treat each other like friends and even like brothers although they haven’t seen each other, can’t speak to each other and didn’t even exist at the same time. Even today “Riding With Private Malone” remains one of the most popular soldier songs for a new generation of country fan.

44 Comments leave one →
  1. December 7, 2008 3:19 am

    Very well written article! This song always kinda creeps me out though.:)

  2. December 8, 2008 7:10 pm

    I wish David Ball would’ve received more recognition than he has. “Thinkin’ Problem” is a tremendous song, but except for “Riding”, he never followed up.

  3. December 8, 2008 9:49 pm

    I particularly liked “When The Thought of You Catches up With Me.” I should go back and see if I’d like him these days. I probably would.

  4. Chris D. permalink
    December 9, 2008 8:53 pm

    Wow, I haven’t heard about this song for years! This is one song that stands out in my childhood for some reason. I remember hearing it on the radio every year around Halloween (for the ghost part, I guess), but I haven’t heard it for years now. Thanks for reminding me of this song!

  5. Matthew Birkinbine permalink
    April 19, 2009 12:13 am

    Why hasn’t this song moved up into the top ten?

  6. John Reed permalink
    April 23, 2009 9:20 pm

    It reminded me of a friend I graduated from high school with. He had a 65 vette that he wrecked and always intended to rebuild. He kept it garaged up until his death from cancer a few years ago.

  7. July 11, 2010 6:09 pm

    Creepy story. I hate ghosts, but maybe it’s not bad seeing a famous celebrity again. It serves as entertainment. Who wouldn’t want to see Elvis Presley’s ghost? :))

  8. October 22, 2012 8:38 am

    Ridiculous story there. What occurred after?
    Good luck!

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