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I was only 19

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The Herd, a band who is notorious for rapping about political conflicts, have interpreted John Shumman’s ‘I was only 19’ for a new generation. Their motivation was to draw the attention to the subject of war, whilst still appealing to the modern audience. With the use of modern vernacular, inspiration of recent wars, and the hip-hop medium they have managed to reinvent a classic.

The Herd tried to use the hip-hop medium as a method of urban story telling, to display the significances in a way that will appeal to the modern audience. As the responder, I feel that it’s indicative of how our generation is naïve and cannot simply have the initiative to listen to the original. The fact that we have to imitate something from past generations, and didn’t think of it ourselves shows, in better words how lazy and contingent we are.

Although in another perspective it’s comforting to know that the idea, maybe like Shumman’s, came from sympathy and commiseration for, in this case, todays soldiers fighting in current conflicts for the future of our country too.

Once again, like stated in the Story of John Shumman “The Vietnam war has slipped into the background” but thankfully an individual group not only bought up the issues of recent wars but also many that have passed, giving todays younger generations a chance to recognize and show gratitude towards our soldiers. The date that the song was released (2005) is also important, as it was released at the time when these issues were most current, allowing the ages of today to generate further consideration and support, as they realize those being sent to war are of the same age as them.

A major reason to why The Herd released a version of the song is that they believe that war is an issue that should not be moderated thus taking this song and arranging it for the audience of today’s society, so that they respond to the messages and the significance, but more so understand the intensity of the lyrics. Unfortunately they have made small alterations in the lyrics, using modern vernacular, which seem to be cliché and even offensive towards a responder of the targeted audience.

With phrases such as “Cause’ it’s like, man, he’s sad”, and poor use of words like, “I can’t hardly eat” creates a generalization of the younger generations. This is one aspect that can be seen as a direct attack and later discards original respect, consequently leaving an uninterested audience. Although their intentions in re-creating the song where good, small adjustments like this have demoted the heart felt, meaningful lyrics, to something that many will simply overlook.

The difference as the responder, in the lyrics, between The Herd’s version and the original by John Schumann, is urgency. With the constant use of, phrases such as “Please, can you tell me” and “What the hell’s this rash” particularly regarding the words “please” and “hell’s” which are both excluded in the original, give the responder a sense of urgency, and confusion. With this and the quote “The noise, the mosquitoes and the heat surprising” displays the naivety of the soldiers who don’t understand the consequences, nor additions of war. Ultimately this can be taken as one reason for refashioning the song, assuring that new recruits to the Army Services aren’t as naïve as those in the past.

In conclusion, The Herd is a band not reluctant of having their say about politics, with that, there is the issue of war being promoted but discouraged in today’s society, therefore they can perform the cover with sincerity, as the ideals behind it are something they can relate to and support. As the responder I disagree with the result of the cover, but in it’s entirety I believe it was an opportunity that they have taken with great success. The Changes to tempo, and the modern alterations, have given the audience a feeling of familiarity and a chance to relate to common issues, allowing them to extend the feeling of sympathy, and their opinions about war and it’s consequences.

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