It has been with great interest that I watch the rising debate on ‘cashing in’ on the Anzac theme this year. This is clearly a subject that gets people fired up and understandably so. Like many, I’ve been disappointed with the major corporations who have attempted to pull at the heartstrings of a caring nation seemingly in order to make money. I’ve seen Anzac bears, Gallipoli mugs, clothing, and at Target, I was even confronted by a scented Gallipoli candle. I don’t like to judge before knowing all the facts, so I did some research… Target, partnered with Camp Gallipoli (who have since removed the items from sale), claim that all surplus profits from the sale of ‘Camp Gallipoli’ merchandise would be donated to the RSL and Legacy. This I didn’t know, it eased my spikes on the matter a little. Still, we’re all pretty uncomfortable (and quite grumpy at Woolies, who had no such charity connections and didn’t even obtain the word ‘Anzac’ legally).
Every Australian has an emotional connection to the word Anzac, we want to remember our fallen with pride and let nothing disrespect or betray the Anzac legacy. An interesting read is ‘Poppies For Profit’ which has the sickening line:
80,000 Anzac troops died in the first world war. Surely we can make a few bucks out of that?
I can’t tell you how uncomfortable that makes me feel. And so does the long list of profiting companies on this site. It makes me want to reach for something to help me to honour the Anzacs. I can’t wear the commemorative Anzac footy t-shirt someone gave me, I can’t cool my drink with this Gallipoli stubby holder I was sent – it’s just not right, someone has made money from this.
And then a CD arrives in the mail. It’s Lee Kernaghan’s ‘Spirit Of The Anzacs,’ and I must say, I’m curious. I recently read posts on social media from people (and sadly many are fellow industry members) accusing Lee of the same ‘cashing in’ as the aforementioned companies. So I listen to the album.
I am in tears.
Lee and his cowriters have nailed it, simple as that. I wonder if his accusers have heard these songs? Lee hasn’t stuck a slouch hat on a teddy bear here; he has studied stories of Australians in all the wars, and retold them in these songs. He has sat down with people and listened to their stories, the stories of beloved family members and presented them back to them as music. Clearly, this is a project driven by heart and empathy, not profit… you can’t write these kind of songs with dollar signs in your eyes and those accusing him of it should take a listen… it’s brilliant!
And there is a close association and generous contributions to both Legacy and Soldier On which pleases me greatly.
This is what we DO as songwriters, as storytellers – there will be people listening to these songs getting their very first education into what this country has gone through, what these servicemen and women have sacrificed and what they have fought for. And you want to drag the guy down for that?
Most of these stories would have gone untold if it weren’t for Lee, as a very patriotic Australian, I am grateful.
My first education on the subject was through listening to Eric Bogle’s ‘And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda’ as a kid and later, John Williamson’s ‘The Diggers Of The Anzac’ (I think I was about 20) and of course John Schumann’s ‘I Was Only 19,’ incredible songs.
You can’t underestimate the power of these songs – no one dared to accuse John, Eric and JW of ‘cashing in’ so why attack Lee? He’s not bloody Woolworths!
Maybe there’s something in this:
Tall poppy syndrome: a social phenomenon in which people of genuine merit are resented, attacked, cut down, or criticised because their talents or achievements elevate them above or distinguish them from their peers.
Before you go accusing me of ‘sticking up for a mate’ – I need to add that I don’t know Lee well at all. We say g’day, kiss on the cheek and I’ve been on the same show as him a bunch of times, his wife Robby has always been kind and lovely to me but there’s no bond that drives me to defend him! I also can’t say there’s too much LK shuffling around my ipod, I admire him for sure but I can’t say I’ve been moved emotionally by him until now.
I haven’t written any specific Anzac or ‘war’ songs but many would know that I have great affection for our service women and men and have written a couple of more personal songs about my associations with specific diggers (I’m not even going to mention their names, I’m not about to plug myself in this blog!) – my heart would simply break if I was accused of writing those songs for a profit, especially by my peers.
We don’t accuse the moviemakers, who tell the stories of Gallipoli and beyond, of profiting from the war. I saw The Water Diviner the other day and wept uncontrollably (on the plane). The film made me ache for the Australians killed and for the families they left behind. We all need to find a way to ache for them.
This Saturday is Anzac day and my day will look like this: I will attend the dawn service and I will weep for our fallen. I won’t sing, I’ve told them I can’t, there will be no notes in my voice (I’m too much of a sook). I will watch the march, rain, hail or shine (weeping, of course). I will lose it completely when those marching give an ‘eyes right’ to the Legacy war widows. I will shake the hands of as many servicemen and women as I can and I will thank them. I will raise a glass of morning beer to my great grandfather, my godfather and my uncle and then I’ll go home and crank JW, John Schumann, Eric Bogle AND Lee’s album as loud as it will go and I WILL REMEMBER THEM.