"The Ballad Of The Green Berets" is a patriotic song in the ballad style about the Green Berets, an elite special force in the U.S. Army. It is one of the very few songs of the 1960s to cast the military in a positive light, yet it became a major hit, reaching No. 1 on the Billboard charts for five weeks in 1966. It was also a crossover smash, reaching No. 1 on Billboard's Easy Listening chart and No. 2 on Billboard's Country survey.
The song was written by Robin Moore and Staff Sgt. Barry Sadler, while the latter was recuperating from a leg wound suffered as a medic in the Vietnam War. Moore also wrote a non-fiction book, The Green Berets, about the force. Lyrics include:
"Back at home a young wife waits/ Her Green Beret has met his fate/ He has died for those oppressed/ Leaving her this last request
Put silver wings on my son's chest/ Make him one of America's best/ He'll be a man they'll test one day/ Have him win the Green Beret"
The lyrics were written in honor of Green Beret James Gabriel, Jr., the first native-born Hawaiian who died in Vietnam, who was executed by the Viet Cong while on a training mission on April 8, 1962. One verse was written in honor of Gabriel, but it never made it into the final version. See Sadler's book I'm a Lucky One (Macmillan 1967, pp. 80-81).
Sadler debuted the song on television on January 30, 1966 on The Ed Sullivan Show.
The song was the No. 1 hit in the U.S. for five weeks in 1966, and was the No. 21 song of 1960s, despite the later unpopularity of the Vietnam War. It has sold over nine million singles and albums. It was the top single of a year in which the British Invasion, led by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, dominated the U.S. charts. The charts were "dominated" by soul and surfer music. The Beatles' top hit was We Can Work It Out (#16), the Stones' top hit was Paint It, Black (#21). See Billboard charts.
It is currently used as one of the four primary marching tunes of the Fightin' Texas Aggie Band.
The song is heard in a choral rendition by Ken Darby in the 1968 John Wayne film, The Green Berets, based on Moore's book. The score of the movie was never released as an album until Film Score Monthly released it in 2005. A film tie-in featuring artwork from the film and a cover version by Ennio Morricone was released in Europe, though the other tracks on the album were soundtracks from A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More.
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