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Who'll Stop the Rain
By John Ketwig (reviewer)
Who'll Stop the Rain: Respect, Remembrance, and Reconciliation in Post-Vietnam America
by Doug Bradley
(Warriors Publishing Group, 2019)
In 2015, Doug Bradley and Craig Werner published a terrific book, We Gotta Get Out of This Place: The Soundtrack of the Vietnam War, named the BEST MUSIC BOOK of 2015 by Rolling Stone magazine. They traveled America on a two-year book tour that was also, it seems, a pilgrimage to seek out communities of Vietnam veterans. In doing that, they found a nearly universal acceptance of their theory that the popular music of the time held a very special recognition and reverence for veterans, but also for our entire generation. Yes, we are the rock 'n roll generation, the Baby Boomers who grew up listening to a new musical expression that spoke to us. From incredible folks like Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, and Little Richard came Elvis, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Supremes, Temptations, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Otis Redding, the Doors, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Bruce Springsteen.
Bradley and Werner visited the shrines of our music, like the Stax Museum of American Soul Music in Memphis. Somehow, they got the word out, and flocks of fans, both of the music and the book, answered the call. "The veterans' interaction with the music created an intense emotional atmosphere shared by everyone in that sacred place," Bradley tells us, and then the two headed off on a splendid jaunt around the country, peddling their book and sharing with their audiences. In the process, they were able to touch base with a few old friends, a number of musicians, and an incredible array of Vietnam vets who have spent their lives helping the veterans community, and mankind at large, in a kaleidoscopic myriad of ways. Who'll Stop the Rain isn't a very big book, but it is enormous! It comes at a moment in time where the young people hear our music or view our history and respond with "Okay, Boomer," a put-down that has become the source of jokes by the hosts of the late-night talk shows. Reaching out, Bradley talks to Iraq and Afghanistan vets too, and recognizes their efforts to deal with their wars…especially through music. But the focus of this book is "post-Vietnam America," and this is a tale of intense, meaningful encounters from sea to shining sea and many all-American places in between.
The picture Doug Bradley creates, and the stories he tells, are all upbeat and positive. Perhaps that is his perspective or the happenstance personalities of the people he has met, or maybe he has carefully told us about a very specific grouping chosen from his audiences and adventures. No matter. This is a positive book, a very optimistic look at our aging generation and the variety of ways our peers have found to help their brother vets, make the world a better place, or simply create music that does far more than just entertain us. At this moment in time, in the fourth year of the Trump experiment, as the coronavirus threatens to become a pandemic and the rising ocean threatens to flood Mar-A-Lago, it is reassuring to read about our fellow veterans, rock 'n roll fans, who have confronted PTSD, suicides, Agent Orange and all the rest, and have made a difference! Get your hands on Who'll Stop the Rain, read it, and enjoy it. Allow a little optimism into your life. Be proud of our "Okay, Boomer" generation and the over-achievers, the musical geniuses, and the decent, caring folks that make it up. There are thousands of book titles available at your community's Barnes & Noble, or on Amazon. If you're looking for a book that will be an emotional respite from the evening news, give Who'll Stop the Rain a try. "Try it, you'll like it!"
John Ketwig is a lifetime member of VVAW, and the author of two books about the Vietnam War.