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The Song That Changed Your Life: Picks

The Bullet and the Shrapnel by Andreas Dolberg

I was living the dream of a carefree life, looking to expand my horizons.  There was no better way than by connecting with a motley group of guys from different countries, roughing it on a west coast beach.

The Englishman among us was a passionate John Prine fan who sang Prine songs like they were his own.  He had no guitar, no harmonica, just a powerful voice with the campfire and ocean as background. The rest of us would occasionally sing along to some of the choruses, but mostly we were just captivated by the clever lyrical creations from one of the greatest.
When he sang Sam Stone, the heart-wrenching saga of a decorated war veteran, I was drawn into a world of my own.  Sam Stone’s time served had “left a little shrapnel in his knee” and my dad’s time served had left a bullet in his chest.  I couldn’t listen to that line without seeing my eighteen-year-old dad, just a year older than I was at the time, left for dead in a ditch. 

 They both survived their respective wars.  Sam Stone went home to his wife and family and my dad went home to his young sweetheart.  But their post war lives could not have been more different.

My dad married his sweetheart. They later left everything behind to start a new life in Canada with their young family. I had a loving dad who was a true role model.  He was a farmer who worked hard every day and believed in giving back to society.  I heard a number of stories about the war years.  My dad had tried to instill an understanding of its utter horror and an appreciation for peace and freedom.  I just never really got it.

Sam Stone’s kids weren’t so lucky after they welcomed their daddy home.  The stories they heard were of things that young ears should never have to hear.  The war had shattered their daddy’s nerves to the point where they could only watch as he fed his debilitating addiction. There was no money for clothes, they lost their home and life had lost its fun.  Then they lost their daddy as well.

My horizons were indeed expanded on that west coast beach, but from stories that had been with me all along.  Thanks to Sam Stone.

Andreas Dolberg is from Vancouver, BC

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