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 Aaron Tippin Stands for Something

Aaron Tippin waves the "Stars and Stripes" on a patriotic single recorded since the Sept. 11 attacks.

By Brian Mansfield
CDNOW Senior Editor, Country

When the country's in trouble, there are a few entertainers the country audience just expects to hear from. Charlie Daniels is one. Aaron Tippin is another.


A dyed-in-the-wool patriot, Tippin first garnered attention with his song "You've Got to Stand for Something," a hit during the Gulf War. Since then, he's become known for writing songs about pride and honor -- "I Got It Honest," "Working Man's Ph.D.," and others.

So when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, few people were surprised that Tippin was the first country singer in the studio recording material that addressed the nation's mood in the wake of the strikes. Within a week of the attacks, "When the Stars and Stripes and the Eagles Fly" -- along with a newly recorded version of "You've Got to Stand for Something" -- was playing on radio stations across the United States.

CDNOW: What's the story behind "Where the Stars and Stripes and the Eagle Fly"?

Aaron Tippin: Actually, it was written by myself, Kenny Beard, and Casey Beathard. We wrote it about two and a half years ago. We had intended it for People Like Us, but for some reason, it didn't end up on the album.

I write a lot of songs every year or so. I thought, "It just didn't make it. We'll lay it back here, see what happens." You always think later down the road, there'll be another album you'll have a chance to put it on. But I had no idea this was coming.

When Lyric Street called me and asked me if I wanted to do a benefit record for the victims of this terrorist tragedy, I said, "Yes, I want to help." They said, "Well, we'll re-record 'You've Got to Stand for Something,' put it out on a CD, then all the net proceeds from that can go to the victims." I said count me in.

So, I'm watching the television, along with everybody else. This guy doesn't even know he did it, but there's some cameraman out there that got a shot looking back into Manhattan from the Statue of Liberty. You could see the Statue of Liberty, then Manhattan behind it. That's when I remembered that song.

"I'm watching the television, along with everybody else There's some cameraman out there that got a shot looking back into Manhattan from the Statue of Liberty. You could see the Statue of Liberty, then Manhattan behind it. That's when I remembered that song."

Did you rewrite "Where the Stars and Stripes and the Eagle Fly" before you recorded it?

We did some touch-up lines. Lines like the Statue of Liberty line, it was in there. The first thing we finished was the bridge -- "There's a lady that stands in the harbor" -- and the [Liberty] Bell thing. That was kind of the core of this thing. Once we got the hook, that was really the core of it. So it was there from the get-go.

But there were some lines in the song that I thought needed reworking. I'm a rewrite idiot. I come from the school of "great songs aren't written, they're re-written." It's nothing unusual for me to be changing lines right up until the last minute. I'll stop and say, "Wait, let me change this line," in the studio. I'm the world's worst.

Do you remember the circumstances of writing "Where the Stars and Stripes and the Eagle Fly" in the first place?

It was just a great idea. I think "You've Got to Stand for Something" was the kickoff of my career. That song was certainly like this one is. Kenny's the one that came up with the idea. He was out riding with me on the highway. We were out doing shows, and he was just riding around with me, working on songs. He said, "Hey, I've got a song idea I think's perfect for you, Aaron -- 'Where the Stars and Stripes and the Eagle Fly.'" I went, "Wow, that is great."

When an event like those on Sept. 11 happens, there are certain people you expect to hear from with records that address it -- Charlie Daniels, Aaron Tippin.

"You've Got to Stand for Something" is a good example of that. Of course, even though people are whispering, sometimes you hear. There's a lot of folks that say, "Oh, he's just a flag waver."

Anybody who knows me knows that "You've Got to Stand for Something" was as heartfelt as anything I could've ever done. And my participation in going over in the gulf and entertaining our troops is the most glorious thing I've ever done in my career, to me. Those who realize that know that.

This song is kind of aimed at country fans like myself that feel this way, and the guys and gals at country radio, and the entertainers of country music. This song is kind of how we feel. And I think those people do realize that this is who Aaron is, who I've always been. I try not to worry about that.


Do you write a lot of songs like that?

Well, not a lot of them. The feeling has to really strike you. But there are songs lying back there, now, that are on old albums that are kind of like that. Most of the time I let them lay in the catalog because I've been pretty beat up for them in the past. This one was one that, without a doubt, was God-given.

When did you record "When the Stars and Stripes and the Eagle Fly"?

We did this Saturday night after the attack.

What was the recording session like?

That was a whirlwind week. The events in the studio were spectacular. All the players, they were that kind of inspired, ready to help out and do something and say something. Everybody went in there and just played their tails off. In about two or three takes, we had down what was going to be the base track for this thing.

"My dad, if we stood up for the Pledge of Allegiance or if 'The Star Spangled Banner' was being played, and if someone around him wasn't giving just honor to our country, when they got through, he'd go tell them about it."

What patriotic songs made an impact on you?

"I'm proud to be an Okie from Muskogee" -- that's probably the biggest one. "The Star Spangled Banner."

All of this roots from one thing -- my dad. My dad, if we stood up for the "Pledge of Allegiance" or if the "Star Spangled Banner" was being played, and if someone around him wasn't giving just honor to our country, when they got through, he'd go tell them about it. Man, if I didn't stand up, take my hat off, and sing along -- my dad, he ain't no singer, but "joyful noise unto the Lord" -- he'd paddle my tail when we got through. That's just as plain as I can put it.

He demanded that you respect this country and that you honor freedom. He is the reason. He is "Stand for Something." Him and my uncle, and that Tippin way of thinking.

I called him the day after we got all this done. We got it out to radio, and I called him. I said, "Dad, there's a song you're going to be hearing on the radio. Anytime you hear one of these songs, like 'Stand for Something,' or 'Got It Honest,' 'Stars and Stripes,' or 'Working Man's Ph.D.,' anything like that -- remember, this is you through me." I said, "This is you."

We're not too emotional. No more than we can help, you know. But I really thought before this chance got away I needed to say this to him.

All this has probably overshadowed the release of your Christmas album, hasn't it?

You know something? The label's really kicking me in the tail for this, because I don't want to talk about it a lot. Not that I want to cast a shadow on my own Christmas album, but this is important. This is very important. If my Christmas album got completely overshadowed, I'd say, so what? We'll get 'em next time. This is a big deal. It's very important.

It's hard to get me to talk about it. I think it's wonderful; I think it's great. It's special to me, because Thea's singing so much with me, and that's just so cool and wonderful. But, man, I don't want to take any focus off what we're thinking about and talking about.

 

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Sep 17, 2001

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