Tuesday, January 10, 2006

from left to right: me, Greg Garvey (Lest They Be Forgotten), Cliff Knizley (musician and creator, Letters To Baghdad)

from left to right: Greg Garvey (Lest They Be Forgotten) and Mark Miner (Boots In Baghdad)

LETTERS TO BAGHDAD - A Tribute to Our Troops

The following article can be found at Iraq War News.

Letters to Baghdad: a tribute to our troops

"Mark Miner's words inspired me, that night I wrote 'When I Get Home,' he asked me for the lyrics, and through the power of inspiration we became friends, and this project was born..."-- Cliff Knizley

Inspired by blogger Mark Miner of Boots in Baghdad, musician Cliff Knizley set to work creating a powerful tribute to our Heroes, and turned his talent into a way to support some of the projects that provide assistance to those who give so much to us."Letters to Baghdad: a tribute to our troops" is the result. I first heard of Cliff quite a while ago, when he was still working on the CD. Recently, he sent me a copy to listen to, and asked if I'd be willing to help get the word out.I told him I'd be happy to listen, review, and let people know about the CD, where they could get a copy, and how it's quite a bit more than just a CD.

The line-up of musicians on "Letters to Baghdad" is impressive: Drummer Stan Lynch was an original member of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, playing with them for about twenty years. His songwriting / producing efforts include work with Don Henley, The Mavericks, and Tim McGraw, to name a few. Bass player Ronny Cates is a Grammy winner, and a veteran of Petra. Guitarist/engineer Jeff Sims is a well-known veteran of the Gainesville music scene. And then there's singer/songwriter/guitarist Cliff Knizley - when I first checked out his website, I was hooked just listening the musical snippet you find there.

In the emails we've exchanged, Cliff's sincere desire to give something back through his music comes through loud and clear. And in the lyrics of his songs, so does his sincere appreciation for our Heroes.When I first listened to the CD, it was just before Christmas. Sort of unusual cookie-baking musical fare for me, but then again, maybe not so unusual. I found, as I listened, that the CD became intensely personal, right from the very first note. Each tune had some special significance for me - each reminded me of someone I knew. From the beginning, you find out that Cliff Knizley's lyrics are pointed and poignant.

From the start, this CD brought to me images and memories of the heroes I've been privileged to meet through letters, instant messages, pictures, emails, stories, and family members. It became a sort of a musical photo album, conjuring images of the finest among us. The instrumentation isn't artificial or unnecessrily complex - guitars, bass, drums... But it doesn't need to be - it's better than that, and forms a perfect, pure backdrop to the keen-edged lyrics.

Today saw the passing of a legend.
A hero to everyone he knew.
Today saw the passing of a legend.
Never has a soul been so true.

And no he didn't seek fortune and fame.
Few will ever remember his name.
His life wasn't given in vain
Today saw the passing of a friend.

The CD opens with "Passing of a Legend." It's a song that describes a simple hero, and a profound loss. I found myself remembering fallen heroes like PFC Gunnar Becker, Major Steve Reich, and so many others who have paid the ultimate price for all the gifts that freedom gives us. Although each name may not be familiar, each name in the casualty list is a son, a daughter, a spouse, a parent, a friend - a Hero. And each is felt..

Eighty days away from coming home.
After two years of bullets and blazing heat and sandstorms...

When I get home, I'll drop to my knees
and kiss that sacred ground.
When I get home, I'll thank God I'm back in my hometown.
When I get home, I'll still
see the blood and the sweat and the tears
and part of me stays right here.

The second song, "When I Get Home," literally had me trying to keep tears out of the cookie batter. Right away, I was taken back to instant message sessions with my first Soldiers' Angels adoptee - talking about what he was going to do when he left the sights and sounds of duty in Baghdad for the welcome return to his family, talking about what it was like to patrol the city streets. It was about my other adoptees, too - M---, doing convoy security, and who sent me a package, and C---, who voluntarily extended for another year to work with his original unit's replacements, and rejoiced over the historic Red Sox win. This is the song that blogger Mark Miner asked for the lyrics for; those lyrics are found inside the CD jacket. This is my favorite tune on the album, the one that, above all the others, I find playing in my head in idle moments. There's raw emotion in Knizley's voice, with well-woven guitar as a backdrop to deeply moving lyrics.

This is the story of the ones at home.
Who keep the faith and hold it strong.
This is the story of the ones at home.
Who keep the fire burning on.

"The Ones at Home" reminds you that the war isn't just over there - it's here at home, too, in the hearts and the minds and the fears of family and friends waiting and worrying. A wife trying to manage a household without her husband, a father clinging to the last moment with his daughter before she leaves to serve her country. For me, this was about the spouses I've met, the parents who have grieved over a loss, the Soldiers' Angels and others who work tirelessly to support our troops. It's was about the fact that they are all a part of this war.

Lie in waiting, senses are sharp and keen.
Anticipating something you've never seen.
Your heart is pounding and sweat beads up on your face.
For all you know, about to leave this human race.

Moment to moment, day to day,
The Great Unknown is just a step away.

This one is about what civvies like me can't possibly really understand - being there. Again, I was reminded of letters from the Sandbox - words that told of what it was like to be thousands of miles from home in a warzone. It's another one of my favorites. Once again, profoundly moving lyrics ride a wave of pure sound - Cliff's acoustic guitar.

I found that though I played the CD with posting about it in mind, I was quickly lost in the songs - in the stories, in the emotions, and the music. It quickly became less about the post, and more about tones and words and feelings - and about the Heroes that formed the inspiration for it all. Every time I listen to it - and I've listened alot, I find something new to like - some piece of the lyrics that sticks with me.

You can purchase the CD's at Cliff's website - Click to enter the site, and then click the "Boots in Baghdad" icon to sample music, read the lyrics, or purchase the CD. You can also click "albums" to view his other CD's.

Proceeds will be used to benefit some great charities - like Homes for Our Troops, the Freedom Alliance, and Lest They Be Forgotten, and you'll be getting top-notch music, too.

And Cliff has a special offer for Soldiers' Angels members - great for purchasing copies to send to your adoptees - email me for the details.

This is Mark Miner, Gregg Garvey (Lest They Be Forgotten) and Cliff at a recent release party
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