One of John Prine’s saddest songs — heard with a new resonance today in the midst of our nations’ opioid crisis, is his ballad of Vietnam veteran turned junkie Sam Stone. The song, originally titled “The Great Society Conflict Veteran’s Blues,” was chosen as one of the ten saddest pop songs of all time in a Rolling Stone readers’ poll in 2013. It’s unforgettable line, “There’s a hole in daddy’s arm where all the money goes,” is a haunting reminder of the cost that everyone pays when drug abuse takes over.
Song - Prine - Drug - Problem - Vietnam
In 1971, when this song was released, Prine was singing about a specific drug problem that grew out of the Vietnam War, the conflict which divided our nation and caused many to doubt our true commitment to its ideals. In 1965 Deputy Secretary of State George Ball answered a question asked by President Johnson about whether we could win the war with these prophetic words: “I think we have all underestimated the seriousness of this situation. Like giving cobalt treatment to a terminal cancer case. I think a long protracted war will disclose our weakness, not our strength.”
When veterans came home from Vietnam they were not always treated well and soon forgotten because of the war’s unpopularity. Many vets felt isolated from American society as though they had carried back some contagion from the front lines. Class distinctions added to the resentment many veterans felt. Most who fought were from poor and working-class backgrounds while many...
Wake Up To Breaking News!
Have you forgotten?