Here's something I posted about a year ago on the old site. I received a few responses then, thought I'd let it fly here to see what people think. The post starts with quoting the song lyrics...
In the tall grass we held handsDown by the river we made plansOf what would and would not beIt was impossible to seeTheir black boots shone in the sunThey were waiting on the Annandale train when my baby comeLittle girl with the long black hairDo you know what lies 'neath the long coats that they wearOnce I swore you'd ride with me (to some far and distant shore)Down where this river meets the sea (I'll make you mine forevermore)Over these dark hills I'd walk along (just to hold you in my arms)To lie with you on a bed of stoneRiver blood red with the yearsYou can flood this valley with a thousand tearsWash away all that's been foundBut you'll never wash away the soundOf the stray bullet that shot my baby down, (stray bullet shot my baby down)Of the stray bullet that shot my baby down, (stray bullet shot my baby down)Of the stray bullet that shot my baby down, (stray bullet shot my baby down)Of the stray bullet that shot my baby downWhen Stray Bullet first came out, there were threads here discussing the meaning of the song. One theory I proposed at the time was that it is written from the point of view of woman widowed by war. This interpretation was based on reading the second verse as referring to government or army officials coming to advise the news that the narrator's lover had been killed in war. But I couldn't reconcile the rest of the song with this interpretation.
A few months ago, I read Ron Kovic's Born On The Fourth Of July for the first time. An incredible, powerful book for the few here who may not have read it.
But it lead me back to this song. In particular, the guilt and anguish Ron felt about shooting a fellow American accidentally in a friendly fire incident. The torment of thinking about that soldier's beloved other expressed by Ron in the book was disturbing and moving.
And it made everything in this song fit into that scenario for me. It perfectly expresses lyrically and emotionally Ron's writing on the effect his stray bullet killing a fellow soldier potentially had. Remember, at the stage this song was written and recorded Bruce's exposure to the Vietnam Vet experience was limited to reading Ron's book and subsequently meeting Ron. Vietnam Vets show was still 12 to 18 months away, his more explicit writing on the subject even later.
I might still have it wrong, but the way this song lyrically and emotionally perfectly evokes Ron's musings on the effect his tragic accidental shooting potentially had on a third party and the potentially had on a third party and the potential future once shared but now lost just seems so close to the bone for me.