Monday, July 04, 2011

RAGGED OLD FLAG

And she's getting thread bare, and she's wearin' thin,
But she's in good shape, for the shape she's in.
Cause she's been through the fire before
and i believe she can take a whole lot more.

Johnny Cash figured out about halfway through his career that while he liked rock and while he liked country, it was roots music that really spoke to him. He started finding songs that were the soul and heart of America, songs from its past and new songs that said something powerful that he could deliver in his music.

He sang bluegrass and blues, country, rock, and pop, but he turned it all into his inimitable style and made them feel like they were all an old part of the country, even songs like "Rusty Cage" by Soundgarden or "Hurt" by Nine Inch Nails.

And he sang about his love of the country, of the heart of the nation, of small towns and ordinary people who faced hard times and made it through together, no matter who they were or where they'd come from. This is one of those works, about a small town, one of Johnny Cash's spoken word bits:

I walked through a county courthouse square
On a park bench, an old man was sittin' there.
I said, "Your old court house is kinda run down,
He said, "Naw, it'll do for our little town".
I said, "Your old flag pole is leaned a little bit,
And that's a ragged old flag you got hangin' on it".
He said, "Have a seat", and I sat down,
"Is this the first time you've been to our little town"
I said, "I think it is"
He said "I don't like to brag, but we're kinda proud of
That Ragged Old Flag

"You see, we got a little hole in that flag there,
When Washington took it across the Delaware.
and It got powder burned the night Francis Scott Key sat watching it,
writing "Say Can You See"
It got a rip in New Orleans, with Packingham & Jackson
tugging at its seams.
and It almost fell at the Alamo
beside the Texas flag,
But she waved on though.
She got cut with a sword at Chancellorsville,
And she got cut again at Shiloh Hill.
There was Robert E. Lee and Beauregard and Bragg,
And the south wind blew hard on
That Ragged Old Flag

"On Flanders Field in World War I,
She got a big hole from a Bertha Gun,
She turned blood red in World War II
She hung limp, and low, a time or two,
She was in Korea, Vietnam, She went where she was sent
by her Uncle Sam.
She waved from our ships upon the briny foam
and now they've about quit wavin' back here at home
in her own good land here She's been abused,
She's been burned, dishonored, denied an' refused,
And the government for which she stands
Has been scandalized throughout out the land.
And she's getting thread bare, and she's wearin' thin,
But she's in good shape, for the shape she's in.
Cause she's been through the fire before
and i believe she can take a whole lot more.

"So we raise her up every morning
And we bring her down slow every night,
We don't let her touch the ground,
And we fold her up right.
On second thought
I *do* like to brag
Cause I'm mighty proud of
That Ragged Old Flag"

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