The fearlessness of Loretta Lynn was on full display in her song “Dear Uncle Sam.” Long before she started sending shockwaves through country music with songs such as “Rated’ X'” and “The Pill,” the Coal Miner’s Daughter explored another controversial topic: war and the emotional havoc it wreaks.
Released as a single in 1966 off her studio album, I Like ‘Em Country, the song peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles.
One of The First Country Music Songs Sing About War
Written by Loretta Lynn herself, “Dear Uncle Sam” tells the tale of a woman left behind as her husband went off to heed the country’s call of joining the Vietnam War.
The song details how a wife loves her husband at the same time understands that he must go and fight. In the end, when her husband is killed at war, she writes the president asking what she is to do now that he is gone.
“Dear Uncle Sam, I know you’re a busy man. And tonight, I write to you through tears with a trembling hand. My darling answered when he got that call from you. You said you really need him, but you don’t need him like I do,” the song goes.
“Dear Uncle Sam” was among the first country music songs to discuss the war. As the Vietnam War started in 1955, US involvement escalated during the first half of the 1960s, while public concern grew and became much more evident from 1967. Meanwhile, only a few country artists were even acknowledging the war, while protest singers were already becoming more effusive in the pop world.
Lynn even said in interviews that she was skeptical when her husband, Oliver Lynn, suggested she write a war song after listening to the radio and felt upset about the Vietnam War. “He looked over at me and said, ‘Loretta, why don’t you write a song about the war?'” Lynn recalled in her book Honky Tonk Girl: My Life in Lyrics, released in 2012.
“I said, ‘Doo, I don’t know anything good about war, so I really don’t know what there is good to write about it.’ He said, ‘What’s wrong with writing to Uncle Sam?’ And I realized he’s the man that all the mothers ought to write to.”
The song became one of Lynn’s regular choices in her concerts. And every time she performs it, she acknowledges that war still weighs heavily in her fans’ hearts and minds. Tune in and watch Loretta Lynn’s heart-tugging performance of “Dear Uncle Sam” in the video below.
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