Some may not consider this a “song”, as there is no singing, but perhaps one does not have to sing to make a song a “song”. There are a great number of songs that are spoken rather than sung and today I chose to focus on the great musical storyteller, Johnny Cash. He certainly has a number of hits where he instead talks to tell the story such as “A Boy Named Sue” or “One Piece at a Time”. In addition to these spoken classics, he also wrote this one…
“Ragged Old Flag”
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
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 bad rip in New Orleans,
tugging at its seams.
and It almost fell at the Alamo
beside the Texas flag,
But she waved on though.
And she got cut again at Shiloh Hill.
There was Robert E. Lee, Beauregard and Bragg,
And the south wind blew hard on
That Ragged Old Flag
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,
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
Is 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.
and I believe she can take a whole lot more.
We take her down 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”
Cash served in the Air Force for a number of years and is no stranger to patriotism. Though this is a simple song that tells a story through words rather than a sung melody, you can feel his love for this country in the lyrics which make it just as powerful as if it were sung. One can visualize the battles that the flag went through while listening as Cash leads us through all of the wars this country has been involved in. One may also empathize with the meaning of the flag and the respect that it is given (or not given), or perhaps one may reminisce thinking back to the different times of war in our history. Nonetheless, Cash’s message that America is strong and will persevere is certainly felt by the end of the story.
So that is why Johnny Cash’s “Ragged Old Flag” is on my list of one of the BEST Patriotic Songs of All Time. Thank you for your service to our country and your music Mr. Cash, you are a true American patriot.
Happy 4th of July to everyone! Especially those who have fought to protect our flag and keep our country free.