LISTEN: John Wayne Estate Rings In 4th of July with Duke Performing ‘America, Why I Love Her’

by Suzanne Halliburton

Briefly stop your barbecue and halt those bottle rockets. Now, turn up this John Wayne song as we the people celebrate the Fourth of July.

Actually, it’s a John Wayne narration of a poem called “America, Why I Love Her.” You can hear “America the Beautiful” and the snap, snap, snap of snare drums playing in the background.

Duke’s estate shared the clip to Instagram to celebrate the Fourth. The photo shows John Wayne in probably his most favorite spot on earth. He was on the back of the Wild Goose, with an American flag flying behind him.

John Mitchum Wrote Poems on the Album. He Read Them to Duke On Set

You’re probably asking yourself, when did John Wayne start doing poetry readings? Here’s the backstory. He narrated a record album of patriotic poetry back in 1973. John Mitchum, the brother of noted actor Robert Mitchum, wrote the poems. Back in 1970, John Mitchum, along with Forrest Tucker, were on location with John Wayne filming Chisum. Tucker heard Mitchum’s poem, “Why Are You Marching, Son?” Mitchum said he was inspired to write the poem after he saw his son become angry after seeing anti-war protestors burning an American flag. Tucker then asked Mitchum to read the poem to Duke. Halfway through the poem, Wayne wiped away tears.

And that was the genesis of Duke’s one and only album. He was known for playing heroes on screen. And his persona translated well to poetry. In an interview to promote the album, Wayne conceded he didn’t want to put his own money into the project because the album was one of “reflection.” He said he didn’t think music fans would buy it so they could put “their hands on their fat bellies and philosophize.”

He added: “I’ll be happy if it causes a little bit of rapport between everybody in our country. I’ll be very happy.”

A Book About a Seagull Beat John Wayne at the Grammys

The album earned a Grammy nomination in 1974. Here were the other nominees in the category of best spoken word album. Note the big names.

  • Richard Harris – Jonathan Livingston Seagull (winner)
  • Billie Holliday – Songs and Conversations
  • Kurt Vonnegut Jr. – Slaughterhouse Five
  • Vincent Price – Witches, Ghosts and Goblins

The John Wayne fans loved the album. In its first two weeks, it sold more than 100,000 records. It stayed on the pop album charts for 16 weeks. Meanwhile, on the country charts, the album surged to No. 13.

The family rereleased the album after 9-1-1. Michael Wayne, Duke’s oldest son, told the Associated Press in 2001: “My father thought the project had a united, healing message and he did it try and bring people together. Now, because of Sept. 11, we as a nation seem ready to embrace once again these patriotic messages.”

The John Wayne estate only posted part of the song. Here’s the full version. And Happy Fourth of July from Outsider.