Top 30 Soldier Songs: #2 – “Travelin’ Soldier” by the Dixie Chicks
In 2002 the Dixie Chicks released what would become not only their sixth #1 single, but their final top ten hit at country radio. This song has a long history, having been written in 1996 and recorded by its writer Bruce Robison and Ty England. The song was re-written by Bruce in 1999 and resulted in one of the Dixie Chicks’ most popular singles to this day. This was the soldier song “Travelin’ Soldier”.
The story of the traveling soldier has become one of the most beloved in the country music world. Written in an interesting style, Bruce Robison meant for his work to be neither anti-war nor pro-war, but instead to hover over the issues to create a feeling and an image of Americana at the time of the Vietnam War. The song’s story revolves around a shy soldier who meets a high school girl who later becomes his only contact back home. Although the song is centered around the most controversial war in the nation’s history, the story is less evocative and more of a romantic tale between two lovers who are forced to be apart thanks to the war. In fact the song is not really written in an evocative fashion until the final verse which puts into question the carelessness of American society for their armed forces when these men needed their people the most.
The story does revolved around a shy and lonely American soldier who is preparing to leave for Vietnam. He stops in a cafe and meets a girl who is only in high school and asks if she would be willing to talk with him. She agree and the two meet after her shift at which time he asks if he can write to her, claiming to have no-one else. After she agrees her new friend is sent to war, but as she receives his letters and gets a first hand image of what he’s going through she begins to fall in love with him and feel sorry for what he is going through. The chorus revolves around this growing love as she promises to wait for her soldier to come home, never holding the hand of another guy. Throughout the verses the writer uses the imagery of different Americana details like the Pier, cafe, and eventually a Friday night football game to portray what was the image of the nation at that time. The final verse has become the most effective as the high school girl becomes the only one crying when her soldier’s name is said in the list of local dead Vietnam soldiers.
Putting aside the controversy of the war, writer Bruce Robison created one of the most timeless tales in the history of the genre. As a result the Dixie Chicks scored one of the most memorable hits of not only their career, but of the millennium and struck a chord with every corner of American society with their story of two lovers separated by the most controversial conflict in American history sense the Civil War. Painted with images of society and culture at the time, this powerful ballad focused on how soldier’s were treated at the time and indirectly revolves around one of the most prominent fears that soldiers suffer from in war times, the fear of being forgotten and alone.