I reconnected with an old acquaintance, David J. Nass, at our 50th high school reunion. Seems we had both been in the service – Dave, a Marine, and me, an Army Cavalry Trooper. At one of the less formal gatherings during the reunion weekend, he broke out an acoustic guitar and played some amusing, yet very profound songs. As I my wife and I departed, I had the feeling that something special had just happened. A few weeks later I sent David a short poem that I had written. The poem was a collection of thoughts – or more accurately feelings – about my tour of duty in the former Republic of Vietnam in from January 1968 through part of March 1969. I knew, somehow, that he would understand my feelings better than most. Perhaps that’s unfair to say because others have been touched by those simple words, too. The poem has been rewritten and condensed over the years to eliminate redundancies, and cumbersome phrases and thoughts, in an attempt to distill their essence. It has kind of taken on a life of its own.
David called one night a few weeks later, saying he’d be back in Wisconsin on business, and asked if he could drop by. It was a lovely summer day, and we enjoyed catching up on the deck. As the day turned into night, I had the feeling that something was on his mind. Before he left, he handed me a CD and asked me to play it. He’d taken my simple poem, added some lines and phrases that had “just been missing” and “completed” it.
It’s like he got into my head, and that can be a scary place at times! He turned my words into a wonderful song, recorded in a professional studio and at his own expense. Listening to that CD was quite an emotional conclusion to the day. This was his first recorded song, and I know that there are more to come.
On September 2, 2016, I journeyed to The Highground Veterans Memorial Park near Neillsville, Wis., to discuss using the song as a fundraiser for the park. While I was there, I looked at the new “My War” exhibit of wartime photos taken by those who served in Vietnam. This is a display of candid photos of day-to-day life, not combat. Thoughts, diary entries and some poems were included in the exhibit. I was shocked to find my framed poem hanging among them. I’d completely forgotten I’d sent the poem to the Highground a couple of years earlier to use however they saw fit. My meeting at the Memorial Park went well, and I was asked if the David’s song could be the voice of the “My War” exhibit show. I was honored to say “yes” on behalf of David J. Nass, whose song Good-Bye, Good-Bye will be played wherever the exhibit travels…across the United States, and it is hoped, the world.
I had talked to David about my vision for the song as a fundraiser for that hallowed ground, and this is where Racine Lutheran High School came in. He asked if RLHS had anything that honored our alumni veterans for their service, whether they served in peace or war. A week later, I met with Krista Long, Development and Alumni Relations, and David Burgess, Executive Director (I always seem to wind up in the principal’s office, even after all these years!), and the RLHS Veterans Project was born.
What follows is the account of David’s struggle with that poem and how it evolved into the song Good-Bye, Good-Bye from a simple poem Vietnam, They Ask, What Was It Like?
David Nass: Good-Bye, Good-Bye. The Process.
Bruce Canny and I met at our 2015 RLHS reunion and talked briefly about the purposeless war that had impacted us and classmates. He didn’t mention his marvelous poem Vietnam, They Ask, What Was It Like? That arrived in my email back in North Carolina days later. I was immediately struck by the dynamics of the poem and knew instinctively that something more should be done to share the piece with others.
The poem sat on my living room floor staring up at me for weeks. One Sunday morning, I skipped church, picked up the guitar, hit a couple of chords and within five minutes had the song. I had never experienced anything like that EVER, and I knew in those few minutes that for some reason this song was meant to be.
There could be a million Vietnam vets who remain quietly frustrated STILL awaiting some palatable explanation as to “why” our nation wasted so many lives. The song brings that frustration to life in a way that I think many vets will relate to. Hopefully it then becomes partly curative for past warriors who hear it reminding them not to feel alone, as many share some similar degree of malcontent.
It took 10 months to refine Good-Bye, Good-Bye and just one studio session to record, but many hours in production (done personally by Hubert Deans, aka “The Wizard,” at his Snow Hill Recording studio in North Carolina). Hubert was great! Canny’s hard-hitting poem, in combination with “The Wizard’s” meticulous production work adding in various effects, put “wow” into the song. It has been a true privilege for me to be part of this creative project.
Bruce is shown with his exhibited poem, which has touched countless veterans.
Please visit these sites to learn more!
Coverage of “My War” exhibit that is referenced above:
- on Fox News: http://www.wiproud.com/news/local-news/-my-war-exhibit-in-neillsville_20160809033801
Bruce’s poem was featured with photos:
Bruce’s poem was featured on New York Times’ site:
The RLHS community is grateful to those who served our country. God bless you!
Vietnam, They Ask, So What Was it Like?
I felt so young
I felt so old
I felt so hot
I felt so cold
still can hear
the choppers fly
a weapon fires
some would live
some would die
the still of night
till cannons roar
knock mighty trees
to jungle floor
the small of life
the smell of death
a newborn baby
draws first breath
it don’t mean nothin’ ***
but that’s a lie
now there’s time
to stop and cry
take the hill
let it go
I still ask why
do any know
©2016 Clyde B. Canny
Who proudly served with the
11th Armored Cavalry Regiment
***This expression was commonly used to defer painful reactions to battlefield experiences to a time when they could safely be processed. Unfortunately, for some, that time has yet to come.