Praise The Lord & Pass The Ammunition

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Wed Dec 14 15:46:00 UTC 2005

    A less crackly recording of the Nelson Eddy rendition can be heard here :

  How "good" is the song ?  Along with Richard Schickele, I believe that "if it sounds good, it is good."

  This song leaves me rather cold, however, because I find the melody uninteresting and the lyrics heavy-handed, false, and uninspiring. But I'm always cranky.

  Was it really true that "in every soldier's heart in all the Infantry /
Shines the name, shines the name of Rodger Young" ? I'm not convinced.

  Was it true that Young "stood" to draw the "deadly fire of the enemy" ? A bad idea; furthermore, the MOH citation says otherwise.

  "In the everlasting spirit of the Infantry / Breathes the spirit of Private Rodger Young."  What does that mean ?

  "Volunteered ! Volunteered ! ... Volunteered !"  Get it ? It's a "message song" with an ulterior purpose. Despite its claim, the song is not primarily designed to commemorate Rodger Young.

  "They've got no time for glory in the Infantry."  True enough, but then how can Young's name "shine in every soldier's heart" ? That word was pretty much drained of meaning even for propagandists by 1919. What's more, there's something a little too self-conscious about the hard-boiled diction. (Picture Loesser writing these words at his desk in his 42nd Street office....)

  The only "good" line in the song is "On the island of New Georgia in the Solomons," and that's only because any exotic geography casts a spell till you get used to it. (The inevitable irony implicit in the name "New Georgia" helps too.)

  A brief biography of Young, a genuine hero whose individuality comes through not at all in the song, is found here :

  Many more details here : .

  According to the latter account, evidently lifted directly from journalistic reports, the song came about when Pfc. Loesser was "asked" by the War Department to compose "a new Army theme song."

  And so he did. No more, no less.


  James Landau <jjjrlandau at EARTHLINK.NET> wrote:
  ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: James Landau
Subject: Re: Praise The Lord & Pass The Ammunition

How good is the song "Roger Young"? I'm not enough of a musician to want
to judge it, but I will note it is not a rousing song but more of a dirge.
The words basically repeat a single metaphor
"In the everlasting annals of the infantry/ shines the name of Roger

A couple of ADS-L members have said they don't like "God Bless America"
that much. I am curious whether they dislike the music, the words, the
sentiments, or the contexts in which it is encountered.

My pet peeve among US patriotic songs is "It's A Grand Old Flag" which (in
my humble opinion) has a great melody and words that are simply
embarrassing to listen to. While on the subject:
"This land is your land" - a very nice song, but not a rouser and therefore
never a competitor to "God Bless America"
"My Country 'tis of Thee"- let's give it back to the British
"Star Spangled Banner" - great words (if you can still distingusih them
after ten million repetitions) married to the wrong tune. It is, as far as
I know, the ONLY national anthem actually written on a battlefield by an

my favorite US patriotic songs:
"O, Columbia the Gem of the Ocean" now forgotten, except for one bad joke
on West Wing
"Rally Round the Flag, Boys"

Speaking of political songs, or actually political singers, the cantor at
our synagogue last night told someone "Don't worry. I teach bar mitzvah
kids all the time who have worse voices than Bob Dylan." Well, I never
cared for Bob Dylan's voice, but it was jarring to hear a professional
musician be so critical.

Also from my synagogue: some Gentile asked the rabbi for a mezuzah. The
rabbi asked why the person wanted it and was told "I want the luck of the
Jews". (Everyone the rabbi told this story to agreed that the Gentile in
question must have been Irish.)

On TV last week I heard someone refer to Michigan as "the big mitten." An
obvious nickname, but my wife, who is a native of Detroit and still points
to her hand when asked where she is from, never heard it before.

- James A. Landau
* * * * note new e-mail JJJRLandau at * * * * *

Aside to Wilson Gray: the only rendition of "Roger Young" I have ever
heard is by an African-American singing group, something called the "de
Paur Infantry Chorus" (formed from soldiers in some African-American unit
back in WWII)

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