During the mid-1960s the Vietnam War and the anti-war protest movement were gearing up. Dozens of artists such as Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and Phil Ochs were producing music that supported this movement. Into that vortex stepped SSgt. Barry Sadler. His Ballads of the Green Berets topped the American charts for five weeks and the title song was the number one single release of the year. His music honored those who fought in Vietnam, which set it apart from most of what was being issued at the time. Real Gone Music has now reissued Ballads of the Green Berets.
Barry Sadler was a member of the United States Special Forces who was wounded in Vietnam during mid-1965. By January 30, 1966, he had recovered and debuted his hit song on The Ed Sullivan Show.
Ballads of the Green Berets is an album of its time as the music pertains to heroism, service, courage, and death during the Vietnam War. While the Patriotic nature of the music may still have appeal, it is very much an album of the 1960s.
The lyrics were straightforward stories, which are supported by simple melodies. It can best be described as a cross between pop and folk. The title song had a precise military beat as it told about the death of a soldier and the effects upon his wife and son. “The Soldier Coming Home” and “The Trooper’s Lament” are also ballads about the ultimate sacrifice.
“Salute to the Nurses” was an upbeat interlude with a shuffle beat that was a tribute to the nurses who sometimes are forgotten. The humorous “Saigon” and “The Paris of the East” were about the joys and follies of leave away from the battlefield.
The only bonus track is “The A-Team,” which was his only other hit single. It was a tribute to the members of a Green Beret unit and is more sophisticated than most of his music as it has a smooth, mid-tempo pop feel.
The sound is clear and is superior to the original vinyl release. There is a booklet that provides a good biography of Sadler plus notes about the music.
Sadler would have little commercial success apart from his chart topping album. He would write a series of successful novels but would be tried for murder and die of complications from being shot in the head during a robbery in Guatemala City at the age of 49.
His lasting claim to fame was his Ballads of the Green Berets. It is music that inspired both pro and con emotions at the time of its release and in its own way was just as controversial as much of the anti-war music of the day. It remains a heartfelt tribute to the armed services and the people who served.
Article first published as Music Review: SSgt Barry Sadler – Ballads of the Green Berets on Blogcritics.