Streams

Phil Kline's Zippo Songs

A Song Cycle from Composer Philip Kline and Cantaloupe Music

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Composer Phil Kline discovered a new song cycle in the poems that American GIs scratched into their Zippo lighters. Here, in Kline's own words, is a description of the project.

"A few years ago, I read a story about the poems that American GIs inscribed on their lighters in Viet Nam. It seemed to me that buried somewhere in this small body of literature was the basis for a song cycle. Since military issue Zippos are highly collectible they were easy to find and there were hundreds of poems to work with.... Zippo Songs then began to take a shape as a sequence of varied moods and activities, getting bummed, getting high, getting horny, getting bored, dying, finding god.
--Phil Kline

John Schaefer played a Zippo song on New Sounds recently.

The poems follow:

1

OURS IS NOT
TO DO OR DIE
OURS IS TO SMOKE
AND STAY HIGH

IN LIFE WE
OFTEN HAVE TO
DO THINGS THAT
JUST ARE NOT
OUR BAG

ALWAYS RIPPED
OR ALWAYS STONED
I MADE IT YEAR
I¹M GOING HOME

NO HOPE WITHOUT DOPE

2


BEEN TO HELL
LIVED TO TELL

YEA THOUGH I WALK
THROUGH THE VALLEY OF
THE SHADOW OF DEATH
I FEAR NO EVIL FOR
I¹M THE EVILEST SON OF
A BITCH IN THE VALLEY

DEATH IS MY
BUSINESS
AND BUSINESS
HAS BEEN GOOD

IF YOU DON¹T
KNOW WHAT
HELL IS LIKE
FUCK WITH
ME AND YOU¹LL
FIND OUT

LET ME WIN YOUR
HEART AND MIND
OR I¹LL BURN
YOUR HUT DOWN


3

REBECCA

MY BELOVED WIFE


AWAY FROM YOU
I SO MUCH HUNGER
FOR YOUR TOUCH

WHEN THE
POWER OF LOVE
OVERCOMES THE
LOVE OF POWER
THE WORLD WILL
KNOW PEACE


4

IF I HAD A FARM
IN VIETNAM AND A
HOME IN HELL I¹D SELL MY FARM
AND GO HOME

IF I HAD A
FARM IN HELL
AND A HOUSE
IN VIET NAM
I WOULD SELL
THEM BOTH

PLEASE
DON¹T TELL ME
ABOUT VIETNAM
BECAUSE I HAVE
BEEN THERE


5

WHEN I¹M DEAD
AND IN MY GRAVE
NO MORE PUSSY
WILL I CRAVE

WHEN I DIE BURY
ME FACE DOWN SO
THE WHOLE WORLD
CAN KISS MY ASS

IF YOU GOT
THIS OFF
MY DEAD ASS
I HOPE
IT BRINGS YOU
THE SAME LUCK
IT BROUGHT ME

WHEN I DIE
I¹LL GO TO
HEAVEN BECAUSE
I¹VE SPENT MY
TIME IN HELL

WHEN I KNOW
I¹M DEAD I¹LL FEAR
NO WAR NO COMBAT
NO FIGHTING BECAUSE
THE GOD APPEARS
BEHIND ME



6

WE CAME BECAUSE
WE BELIEVE
WE LEAVE BECAUSE
WE ARE DISILLUSIONED
WE COME BACK BECAUSE
WE ARE LOST
WE DIE BECAUSE
WE ARE COMMITTED

WE ARE THE UNWILLING
LED BY THE UNQUALIFIED
DOING THE UNNECESSARY
FOR THE UNGRATEFUL


7


YOU¹VE NEVER
LIVED
UNTIL YOU¹VE
NEARLY DIED

YOU ONLY LIVE
TWICE
ONCE WHEN YOU¹RE
BORN AND
ONCE WHEN YOU¹VE
LOOKED DEATH IN
THE FACE

YESTERDAY IS
HISTORY
TOMORROW IS
A MYSTERY
TODAY IS THE
GOLDEN AGE
BETWEEN

FOR THOSE WHO HAVE
TO FIGHT FOR IT
LIFE HAS A FLAVOR
THE PROTECTED WILL
NEVER KNOW

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Comments [1]

john r. delia from Daytona Beach, Fl.

Phil, had spoken to you earlier today. I'm John Delia's (musician) cousin who was looking for a different Phil Kline. I came across this and it brought me back to my time in Vietnam. I arrived there in January 1968 just in time for the TET offensive. We were a supporting outfit for the 101st airborne out of Fort Campbell, Ky. I don't remember when I purchased my lighter but I had it most of my tour. The day before I was to ship home, it was stolen out of my duffle bag. Broke my heart. On it was inscribed the "Unwilling led by the Unqualifed" etc. which you had on your list. Just brought back a flood of memories. Thanks for remembering us when it seemed nobody wanted anything to do with us. Your friend, John

Aug. 09 2013 01:43 PM

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