John Wayne isn’t just the grittiest cowboy of them all, he’s also a fan of poetry.
Undoubtedly, John Wayne is an icon of the wild west. Fans know him best for his strong and stoic depictions of cowboys and soldiers in Hollywood movies. But there’s more to The Duke than just wearing chaps and wrangling horses.
In fact, there’s a poetic side to John Wayne. This is proven by his 1973 spoken album, America, Why I Love Her. The album is a compilation of John Mitchum poems recited by The Duke and backed by an orchestra and choir. Although it’s not widely known, the album was a hit on Billboard charts. America, Why I Love Her spent 16 weeks on the Billboard 200 albums chart and peaked in the 66th spot.
What Inspired Wayne to Record Poetry?
John Wayne was inspired to record the album when he was on the set of his 1970 film, Chisum. Actor Forrest Tucker heard John Mitchum recite his poem, “Why Are You Marching, Son?” Tucker was so moved by the poem that he asked Mitchum to recite it again for Wayne. Mitchum read the poem for Wayne and halfway through the reading, Wayne started tearing up. Legends say that Wayne was so moved that he told Mitchum, “I’ve never recorded anything in my life, but I’m going to record an album of your poetry.”
And like a true countryman, Wayne stayed true to his word. Just a few years later, Wayne released an entire album of Mitchum’s poems. During an interview, Wayne shared why he wanted to record the poems.
“John Mitchum thinks like I think and writes like I wish I could,” said Wayne. Wayne also said that he hoped the album would cause “a little bit of rapport between everybody in our country.”