And the Band Played the Star Spangled Banner (Lyrics)
Saturday, May 29, 2004

Now when I was a young man and loose and free
And I followed a young man's drummer
I hitch-hiked from New York to Yosemite
And led me a beautiful summer
Then in December, nineteen forty-one
I heard the call, there was work to be done.
I joined the Army and they gave me a gun
And they shipped me away to the war
And the band played the Star Spangled Banner
As the ship pulled away from the shore
And amidst all the cheers, the music, and the tears
We sailed off to fight in the war.
And how well I remember how at Anzio
We strolled to the beach through the water
And the counterattack was a powerful blow
And we fell like lambs at the slaughter.
Who misread the enemy? Too late to tell.
We were pounded by bullets and bombs and by shell
And in two days they blew us to hell
Nearly blew us right back to New Jersey.
And the band played the Star Spangled Banner
As the flag was raised on the hill
We bowed our heads as we buried our dead
Then we went back to maim and to kill.
We marched north through Italy, tried to survive
In that mad world of death, blood and fire
And for ten weary weeks I kept myself alive
As the death toll got higher and higher

In a field north of Rome I raised up my head
And when I awoke in my hospital bed
And saw what had happened, I wished I was dead
And I lay there a month without talking.


They collected the wounded, the crippled, the maimed
And shipped us back home to New Jersey.
The legless, the armless, the blind, the insane
The proud, wounded heroes of Italy.
And when I was carried back to Fort Lee
I looked at the place where my legs used to be
And thanked Christ there was no one there waiting for me
To grieve and to mourn and to pity
And the band played the Star Spangled Banner
As we came to the U.S.A.
But nobody cheered, they just stood there and stared
Then they turned their faces away
So now on Memorial Day on my porch
I watch the parade pass before me
I see my old comrades, how proudly they march
Reliving old dreams and past glories
And the old men march slowly, their bones stiff and sore
Tired old men from a long ago war
And the young people ask "What are they marching for?"
And I ask myself the same question
But the band plays the Star Spangled Banner
And the old men answer the call
But year after year, those old men disappear
Soon no one will march there at all

Old Sweet Songs: A Prairie Home Companion 1974-1976

Old Sweet Songs

Lovingly selected from the earliest archives of A Prairie Home Companion, this heirloom collection represents the music from earliest years of the now legendary show: 1974–1976. With songs and tunes from jazz pianist Butch Thompson, mandolin maestro Peter Ostroushko, Dakota Dave Hull and the first house band, The Powdermilk Biscuit Band (Adam Granger, Bob Douglas and Mary DuShane).

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