Mike Doughty's War Anthem
Doughty explains the origins of the unorthodox war anthem: "Fort Hood" isn't exactly an anti-war song. It's more of a song about my own guilt for living life without thinking of the war every moment. I was invited by the USO to visit Walter Reed Army Medical Center in 2006; I went over and gave CDs to wounded guys, most of them in their 20s, most missing limbs. It was tremendously moving. As we left the hospital, I was thinking that I wanted to never lose that feeling I felt, of incredible gratitude for everything in life.
Fort Hood is the base in Texas that's lost the most people in Iraq and Afghanistan. The first verse is about guilt. That I can go about my daily life without thinking of the violence and the fear in Iraq, and the sacrifice people are making over there.
The first part of the second verse is about frustration with political pissing matches, instead of unity among our elected representatives to serve these guys. The second half is about how the war haunts me; how I see dudes in uniform in airports and wonder what's going on in their heads, what they've witnessed.
The bridge is about lost innocence. The lyrics are about what I wished a guy in his 20s was doing instead of being scarred by a f***ed-up war. One line is, "You should blast Young Jeezy with your friends in a parking lot." I changed it from "You should blast Toby Keith with your friends in a parking lot" -- mostly for reasons of singability. But also because I realized everybody would take it as a snobby dis on the soldier. I actually meant it in passionate sympathy; it's better to be a teenage jingoist than to come back with your consciousness or body shattered, knowing the tragic naivete of jingoism. Young guys go over there and come back scarred -- bodily, often, but also psychologically, such that so many of them will have the burden of post-traumatic stress disorder, nightmares, haunting images.
I grew up an Army brat on Army bases -- pretty much all the adult men had been in Vietnam, and looking at their collective bizarre behavior in hindsight, I realize I grew up in a crazy land where every adult man had post-traumatic stress disorder.
My dad never talked about Vietnam to my mom. As -- I think -- a passive-aggressive means of hurting my father, she took us all to see Milos Forman's film version of "Hair" (at the military cinema on a NATO base in Belgium!) without telling us what it was about. My dad was upset -- though he laughed, bitterly, when the character Berger got accidentally shipped off to the Vietnam war and killed in action.
The genesis of my song was: I downloaded from WFMU.org an mp3 of the Japanese cast of Hair doing "Sunshine." It was surreal and fun through the verses, which were in Japanese, but when it came to the end, the chorus was in English -- it was chilling, and so apt, and my eyes moistened up on the subway.
I moved to New York when I was 18, and the music everywhere was hip hop and house, and often based on samples and re-jiggered melodies from other songs. It's kind of weird in singer-songwriter land to take a chorus from another song, but it felt really natural to me.
- Mike Doughty "Fort Hood" Video