A lot of years ago, after he has starred in over 200 movies, John Wayne put his love for America on a record. This was in 1973, just six years before “The Duke” would pass on in 1979 at the age of 72.
Several weeks before I first heard John Wayne’s tribute, radio legend Luther Massingill was giving a lot of air time to a fabulous version of “God Bless America,” by Roger Williams. I had hunted everywhere for the song … I still want music in my heart each day … and that’s when Luther stopped by the newspaper office with a cassette that he’s made for me. He also had a record album full of John Wayne’s voice narrating some patriotic scores. This was just when the album was ready to be released and, man, I about drove everybody in the house wacky because I’d play it over and over.
In the last several weeks I’ve gotten about 10 versions of country great Charlie Daniels reviving the song.
While Charlie has gotten so good and his voice has now been perfectly seasoned (he’s 82) this may be one of his best legacies. I am partial, of course, to Charlie’s telling of the kid named Johnny who made the devil leave the golden fiddle at his feet.
John Wayne’s song, “You Ask Me Why I Love Her?” was written, believe it or not, by Robert Mitchum’s younger brother John. Robert, you may remember, starred in and sang the song “Thunder Road” that was a huge hit in “The Longest Day.” John trademarked the song in 1971 and the Duke made it happen two years later.
Every time I hear it, I can still repeat the words from memory but I’ll admit, John Wayne's voice carries more weight. It was Duke who taught us, “Talk low, talk slow, and don’t say too much … Nobody ever saw a cowboy on the psychiatrist’s couch.
“Words are what men live by…words they say and mean …” and “You tangle with me, I’ll have your hide.
“Give the American people a good cause, and there’s nothing they can’t lick.”
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“AMERICA … AND YOU ASK ME WHY I LOVE HER”
(Note: This poem, written by John Mitchum in 1971, was recited by John Wayne to world-wide acclaim)
You ask me why I love her? Give me time and I'll explain;
Have you seen a Kansas sunset, or an Arizona rain?
Have you drifted on a bayou down Louisiana way?
Have you seen the cold fog drift over San Francisco Bay?
Have you heard a Bobwhite calling in the Carolina pines,
Or the bellow of a diesel in the Appalachian mines?
Does the call of the Niagara thrill you when you hear her waters roar,
Do you look with awe and wonder at her Massachusetts shore
where men who braved a hard new world first stepped on Plymouth's rock?
Do you think of them when you stroll along New York city dock?
Have you seen a snowflake drifting in the Rockies, way up high?
Have you seen the sun come blazing down from a bright Nevada sky?
Do you hail to the Columbia as she rushes to the sea?
Do you bow your head at Gettysburg at our struggle to be free?
Have you seen the mighty Tetons? Have you watched an eagle soar?
Have you seen the Mississippi roll along Missouri's shore?
Have you felt a chill at Michigan, when on a winter's day
her waters raged along the shore in thunderous display?
Does the word 'Aloha' make you warm?
Do you stare in disbelief when you see the surf come roaring in at Waiamea reef?
From Alaska's cold to the everglades, from the Rio Grande to Maine,
My heart cries out, my pulse runs fast at the might of her domain.
You ask me why I love her? I've a million reasons why --
My beautiful America, beneath God's wide, wide sky.
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To hear John Wayne recite, “America, Why I Love Her,“ CLICK HERE
To hear John Wayne recite “What America Means To Use” PLEASE CLICK HERE
To hear John Wayne recite and explain, "I pledge allegiance to the flag", CLICK HERE