Thursday, April 28, 2011

Arlington Reads: Rock’n’Roll Soldier: A Memoir

 Katie finishes off our month of reads highlighting this years Arlington Reads theme, "The Soldier's Story: Serving Country and Community." If you'd like to see the rest of our posts on this topic, click here.

Rock 'n' Roll Soldier: A Memoir
by Dean Ellis Kohler

It’s impossible for me to read a book about music and Vietnam and not start thinking in Bob Dylan quotes, like: "Democracy don't rule the world, You'd better get that in your head; This world is ruled by violence, But I guess that's better left unsaid."
In some ways, our country’s memory of Vietnam is very much tied up in the musicians and music of the 1960s. For Dean Ellis Kohler that is doubly true.
Dean was 19 when he was drafted by the Army to serve in Vietnam. Being drafted was like having someone hit the pause button on your life for nearly two years. Dean leaves behind a loving family, a girlfriend, his band, and a record deal to serve as a member of the Military Police in Qui Nhon.
image from author's website
With the soldiers’ lives on hold and vicious fighting all around, Dean’s captain decides something needs to be done about troop morale. His solution: ask Dean to start a band. Rock’n’Roll Soldier is the story of how Dean does just that--from getting instruments in a remote part of the world, finding band mates among his fellow MPs, practicing, and even touring--all the while serving his country in a war zone. Witnessing death and terror, facing snipers, explosions, and ambushes, and interacting with the natives, Dean wonders whether he is a musician or a killer--does he create or does he destroy?
This is, of course, a war story, but it is also a love letter to the power of music and friendship to get us through the bleakest times in our life. An excellent read for anyone whose ever wanted to know more about Vietnam or just wanted to be in a band.
Oh, and I should mention, Dean’s music style is a bit more rock than Dylan. To hear tracks off the record Electrical Banana made in Vietnam check out This site also includes a photo gallery, videos, and a play list.

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