The rough-and-tumble life of Special Forces vet and Sixties pop star Barry Sadler The top Billboard Hot 100 single of 1966 wasn t Paint It Black or Yellow Submarine --it was The Ballad of the Green Berets, a hyper-patriotic tribute to the men of the Special Forces by Vietnam vet Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler. But Sadler s clean-cut, all-American image hid a darker side, a HuThe rough-and-tumble life of Special Forces vet and Sixties pop star Barry Sadler The top Billboard Hot 100 single of 1966 wasn t Paint It Black or Yellow Submarine --it was The Ballad of the Green Berets, a hyper-patriotic tribute to the men of the Special Forces by Vietnam vet Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler. But Sadler s clean-cut, all-American image hid a darker side, a Hunter Thompson-esque life of booze, girls, and guns. Unable to score another hit song, he wrote articles for Soldier of Fortune and pulp novels that made Rambo look like a stroll through Disneyland. He killed a lover s ex-boyfriend in Tennessee. Settling in Central America, Sadler ran guns, allegedly trained guerrillas, provided medical care to residents, and caroused at his villa. In 1988 he was shot in the head by a robber on the streets of Guatemala and died a year later. This life-and-times biography of an American character recounts the sensational details of Sadler s life vividly but soberly, setting his meteoric rise and tragic fall against the big picture of American society and culture during and after the Vietnam War."...
|Title||:||Ballad of the Green Beret: The Life and Wars of Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler from the Vietnam War and Pop Stardom to Murder and an Unsolved, Violent Death|
|Number of Pages||:||320 Pages|
|Status||:||Available For Download|
|Last checked||:||21 Minutes ago!|
Ballad of the Green Beret: The Life and Wars of Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler from the Vietnam War and Pop Stardom to Murder and an Unsolved, Violent Death Reviews
Interesting life story of Barry Sadler who composed and sang the sixties hit, "The Ballad of the Green Berets" and wrote the best-selling Casca, the eternal mercenary paperback series. Born and raised in a whorehouse in Leadville, Colorado, Sadler became a pop star, then an arms dealer and eventually a writer of pulp fiction, before being shot in the head in a cab in Guatemala under mysterious circumstances.This could have been a four or five star book if it weren't for the fact that Marc Leepson is very unsympathetic to his subject, at times bordering on thinly-veiled disdain and the book is poorly edited.
I always find it fascinating that in 1966 the top Billboard Single was "Ballad of the Green Berets" by Barry Sadler. Marc Leepson has written the first real biography of Sadler outside of Sadler's obscure dictated memoir of the 1970s. Unfortunately, this biography is marred by some significant flaws that I will discuss at the end. Who was Sadler? He grew up a hardscrabble life in Colorado and by most accounts his mother was a prostitute for most of his formative years. Sadler dropped out of high school and enlisted in the United States Air Force during the late-1950s. On his enlistment papers, Sadler gave for his home address the address of a well-known bar (and brothel) in his small Colorado mining town. Sadler spent four years in the AF, ending his commitment at Beale Air Force Base in Marysville, California (which happens to be the exact base where I was born on Jan. 28, 1989 when my dad was finishing a four-year stint in the AF at Beale). Soon after Sadler separated from the USAF, he volunteered for service with the United States Army. He opted to take the army's basic course, even though he completed basic training in the AF. He later went to jump school and then to special forces training where he eventually completed his training as a medic and joined the hallowed ranks of the "Green Berets." From Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Sadler went to Vietnam in 1964 and served with the 5th Special Forces in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. Sadler spent most of his tour providing medical care to the indigenous Montagnards but spent plenty of time on operations. A debilitating leg wound from a fecal covered punji stick ended his tour in Vietnam. He returned to Fort Bragg in 1965 for physical therapy and rehabilitation. During his time at Fort Bragg recovering from his wounds, Barry worked diligently on polishing up the "Ballad" that he had honed over the years playing guitar for his buddies in the SF. Long story short, a Public Information Officer (PIO) for the Special Forces caught wind that Barry had written a decent song about the heroism and valor of the "Green Berets" during a time with the SF Commander, General Yarborough, was driving a massive PR campaign to heighten national awareness of the SF and drive recruitment. The PIO helped Barry polish the lyrics and strike a music deal with the company Music Music Music in New York City. At this point, Sadler's story intertwined with that of another famous pro-war hawk: Robin Moore, author of The Green Berets, and John Wayne, who would later produce a Hollywood adaptation of Moore's book. Moore helped Sadler with the "Ballad" by adding another verse and attaching his name to the song in exchange for a percentage of royalties. The rest was history: in 1966, the "Ballad" single sold millions and the album became Gold. By the end of 1966, the "Ballad" was the Number One single, beating out the Rolling Stones' "Paint it Black" and the Beatles' "Yellow Submarine." Unfortunately, the rest of Sadler's life was not quite so glamorous. Sadler became rich overnight but, as described by friends, was poor with managing his money. The song remained popular in 1966 and 1967 but as the cultural milieu of the Baby Boomers changed dramatically in the late Sixties, the song's pro-war, patriotic, and simplistic stance on Vietnam lost a lot of currency among an American audience increasingly frustrated with the deceit and dishonesty surrounding the war. The army decided that Sadler would retire from any future overseas assignments because his value as a recruiting tool was too great—Sadler spent the last two years of his enlistment in the army on a nationwide tour of American Legion posts, Fourth of July parades, SF events, ball games, etc. Sadler who saw himself first and foremost a soldier became disillusioned with his gig as a "glorified recruiter" and separated from the army with an honorable discharge in 1967-1968. Afterward, Sadler moved to Tucson and--opened a bar that went bankrupt, started a B-movie venture that failed and cost him $100,000, tried his hand at acting on Westerns, and squandered a small fortune on collecting World War II-era rifles and memorabilia. By the 1970s, Sadler and his family (wife, three children) moved to Nashville where he hoped to strike it rich in the music business. Outside of small gigs, imbibing an inordinate amount of alcohol in local bars (including the "Hall of Fame Motor Inn"), womanizing, Sadler made no comeback on the music scene. By 1979-1980, Sadler was being tried and eventually plead guilty to murdering a washed-up country music singer named Lee Bellamy. Sadler had an on-going affair with an aspiring country-music singer he met at the Hall of Fame Motor Inn whose ex-boyfriend (the wash-up) stalked her. One night when the ex-boyfriend attempted to break into the woman's apartment, Sadler accosted him in the parking lot. When Sadler suspected Bellamy was reaching for a concealed pistol in his van, Sadler shot Bellamy between the eyes. That, apparently, was not enough. Sadler then jumped into the van and beat Bellamy about the shoulders and head with a police nightstick. Sadler subsequently planted a .38 revolver on Bellamy, got his .32 semi-automatic, and lied to police saying that Bellamy either shot himself with the .38 or a bullet from the .32 ricocheted off the van's glass and struck Bellamy in the face. In the end, Sadler served 30 days in a county prison workhouse after pleading guilty to lesser charges. In the final chapter of Sadler's life the ex-Green Beret moved to Guatemala where he wrote prolifically in the historical fiction/fantasy genre about a Roman legionnaire, Casca Rufio Longinus, who speared Jesus during the Crucifixion. Jesus condemned Longinus to an eternity of soldiering and warfare. Thus, in a 22-book series between 1979 and 1991, Longinus appeared in wars ranging from the Hundred Years' War to the Yom Kippur War. Although now a brilliant writer, Sadler made a comfortable living on the series, selling hundreds of thousands of books. Unfortuantely, Sadler's luck ran out in 1989, when soon after celebrating his 49th birthday, Sadler was the victim of an assassination attempt when a bullet fired from a high-powered rifle struck him in the head as he was riding in the passenger seat of a taxi in Guatemala City. His final two years of life were spent in a confused and semi-lucid state in and out of VA hospitals until his heart failed. What I found particularly interesting was how during the 1960s and 1970s, Sadler continued to use his clout as a "Green Beret" and famous composer of the "Ballad" to condemn anti-war protestors, government cowards, and advocate (during the Sixties) a pro-war line and during the late-1970s the winnable war thesis. Here was a case of a Vietnam veteran making significant contributions to home front popular culture and, for a brief period, trying to shape the national debate surrounding Vietnam and questioning the legitimacy of protesting the war. Sadler was born in 1940 and thus not part of the Baby Boomer generation that matured during the 1960s and comprised much of the counterculture and anti-war movements. So part of it I tend to chalk up to Sadler being culturally alienated from a younger generation coming into its own between 1967 and 1970. On the other hand, Sadler served during the first year of a serious American commitment to Vietnam (1965) and not later when even many soldiers began questioning the legitimacy of the conflict. There is also much to dislike about Sadler. He was an admirer of Hitler, the Nazis, and the German Wehrmacht—he collected SS and Wehrmacht memorabilia, German rifles, submachine guns, and pistols from World War II, an autographed copy of Mein Kampf, and even a Schwinnwagen. It wasn't that Sadler's collecting of Wehrmacht and SS artifacts was problematic, but his anti-Semitic comments and apparent admiration for Hitler that he expressed with his family and closest confidants. Sadler was also, by some accounts, an avowed racist and anti-gay bigot who lambasted Hollywood, the music industry, and other elements of American culture as Jewish conspiracies or "faggy influences." Sadler also suffered from more common human flaws—he was an alcoholic, spendthrift, and womanizer who kept a Winnebago parked at the Hall of Fame Motor Inn for his various romps. On the whole, though, I think Leepson wrote a fairly poor biography of Sadler. If the basic purpose of a biography is to give us a well-rounded appreciation of an individual—their flaws, strengths, inner struggles, etc.—this book fails considerably. Leepson is rarely charitable in his judgment, often agreeing with contemporaneous sources that Sadler's music was simplistic and banal, dismissing his singing, acting, and writing as elementary or crude, and tending, in my opinion, to focus entirely too much on the negative aspects of Sadler's life (womanizing, alcohol abuse). The most glaring omission from this biography is that Leepson does not really assess how Sadler's Vietnam war service might have been formative for his post-war life. Leepson quotes Sadler describing how he missed the camaraderie of being in Vietnam; his alienation from most civilians, especially the Baby Boomers; flashbacks and regrets; depression. But Leepson does not try to connect these various dots and offer us his assessment of whether Sadler's many antics during the 1970s and 1980s stemmed in some way from physiological or psychological trauma from Nam. There were also some general editorial problems that are inexcusable—typos, transposed words or missing words, and a few garbled sentences appear in the book. 3/5 I wouldn't recommend this book unless you are specifically interested in learning more about Barry Sadler. Leepson has done everyone a service by compiling a short biography about a truly important cultural icon during the 1960s.
The rough-and-tumble life of Special Forces vet and Sixties pop star Barry Sadler The top Billboard Hot 100 single of 1966 wasn t Paint It Black or Yellow Submarine --it was The Ballad of the Green Berets, a hyper-patriotic tribute to the men of the Special Forces by Vietnam vet Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler. But Sadler s clean-cut, all-American image hid a darker side, a Hunter Thompson-esque life of booze, girls, and guns. Unable to score another hit song, he wrote articles for Soldier of Fortune and pulp novels that made Rambo look like a stroll through Disneyland. He killed a lover s ex-boyfriend in Tennessee. Settling in Central America, Sadler ran guns, allegedly trained guerrillas, provided medical care to residents, and caroused at his villa. In 1988 he was shot in the head by a robber on the streets of Guatemala and died a year later. This life-and-times biography of an American character recounts the sensational details of Sadler s life vividly but soberly, setting his meteoric rise and tragic fall against the big picture of American society and culture during and after the Vietnam War."My rating:4 starsI grow up listen to the song The Ballad of the Green Berets,and it's still one of my all time favorite songs to listen to, so as soon as I saw this on NetGalley,I knew I had to request it, and read it, it's the type of story that makes you want to read it, and feel for the main character , because of all the stuff he went through before and after he wrote the song, how the fame he gained made his life hard to live when all he wanted was to be a solider , how no matter how hard he tried to put his life together it just didn't work out, its a must read .With that said I would love to think NetGalley for giving me the chance at reading this and finding out so much more about the life and death of the man who wrote a song that to this days is the song about the Green Berets.
Mr. Leepson digs beneath the well-known one-dimensional public-relations creation “Barry Sadler” to reveal an intriguingly complex and resilient man. Along the way, there are insights into the U.S. military, the recording business, Hollywood, and the publishing world, as well as vivid portraits of some amazing characters, and depictions of events by turns inspiring, horrifying, ironic, comic, surreal, and heartbreaking. Would make a terrific movie.
A good read for those parents and grandparents who believe the army is the place to straighten out their troubled children. It was not for Barry Sadler. A young man from an unstable home found his moment in the sun, of belonging and a purpose, in the army family before dark clouds of returned in the form of financial exploitation, alcohol, and sex. There are moments of happiness, but no happy ending to his story. Fame is fleeting in the big scheme of life and opportunity a limited quantity. An interesting, but sad story. PTSD had not been explored in his time. It would be interesting to see how his case would be reviewed by psychologists today.
Decades, years even, are roller coasters. They undulate, smoothly at times, precipitously at others. You can catch a glimpse of America's dizzying ride in the 1960s in about a six month period on the Billboard music charts. On September 25, 1965, Barry Maguire's version of "Eve of Destruction" ("You're old enough to kill but not for votin'/You don't believe in war, but what's that gun you're totin'") was the number one single in the country. Before winter ended, Barry Sadler would reach that top spot with "The Ballad of the Green Berets," a song praising "Fighting soldiers from the sky/Fearless men who jump and die."At the time, the former seemed a slight dip in the roller coaster's course. Banned by a number of radio stations in 20 of the country's 50 largest radio markets, "Eve of Destruction" spent a grand total of a week at # 1. "Ballad," however, not only spent five weeks there, it was the top single of the year. In retrospect, though, the song was a trough that today delineates the end of an era. It was the only notable and popular pro-military song of the Vietnam War era. And just as that war splintered the United States, the song wholly refashioned the life of Barry Sadler, the soldier who wrote and recorded it."Ballad" was released in January 1966, a year during which U.S. troop levels in Vietnam would more than double. It sold more than 2 million copies within a month of its release and made Sadler a household name. But other than knowing he served as a Green Beret in Vietnam, his life before and after is little known. Marc Leepson endeavors to change that with Ballad of the Green Beret: The Life and Wars of Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler from the Vietnam War and Pop Stardom to Murder and an Unsolved, Violent Death.Thoroughly researched, Ballad of the Green Beret takes readers from Sadler's hardscrabble and chaotic childhood and adolescence through his tour of Vietnam and the creation and success of his chart-topping song. Leepson also delves into Sadler's life after "stardom," which included a manslaughter conviction, a series of mass market paperbacks about an immortal mercenary that sold hundreds of thousands of copies, and an exodus to Guatemala, where a shooting left him all but paraplegic for the last 14 months of his life and led to an acrimonious family feud over his care.Ascertaining Sadler's story isn’t always easy. He had a tendency to tell people what he thought they wanted to hear. And, as Leepson notes, that Sadler's own autobiography, released in 1967 when Sadler was only 26, not only was "often vague about dates and places" it was "cluttered with filler and other non-autobiographical chronology detours." The task didn't become easier as Sadler tried music, acting and writing careers, and allegedly was an arms dealer in Guatemala. His friends admit it was sometimes hard to tell where the truth ended and where “the legend Barry was creating around himself began.”This includes the creation of his smash hit. Sadler told several versions but agreed the song went through numerous variations of the song as suggestions from others were added and discarded. Much of it, originally titled "The Ballad of the Green Beret," was actually composed before Sadler served as a medic in Vietnam. He was there about six months before a punji stick pierced the side of his left knee in mid-May 1965. Following his return to the United States, Sadler sought to record the song. During this process he met Robin Moore, author of the novel The Green Berets, published in 1965. Moore suggested the last word of the title be changed to the plural for cross-promotion with his book. He also received a half interest in the song for writing a new third verse (interestingly, Leeson’s book doesn’t contain the song's lyrics) and agreeing to do his best to promote the song. Sadler’s photo appeared on the cover of the paperback edition of the book released in 1966 but, ironically, the 1968 film based on the book used a choral arrangement of his song.Sadler would end up in a recording studio on December 18, 1965. "Ballad” was one of a dozen songs recorded in nine hours that day. The single was released on January 11, 1966, and an album of the same name nine days later. Sadler appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show on January 30, By the end of the week the song began a five week run at the top of Billboard’s pop charts. In becoming the year's top single, it bested songs now considered classics, such as The Beatles' "Paperback Writer," "Paint It Black" by The Rolling Stones and "Good Vibrations" by The Beach Boys.The song’s popularity and surrounding media frenzy came in an America that overwhelmingly supported the Vietnam War. One Missouri newspaper reflected one of the stronger views of the song, opining that it might "inspire some of the pickets and peace demonstrators to put on a uniform and try to win the coveted green beret." Of course, less than 2,000 U.S. troops died in Vietnam in the year before the song's release; more than 34,000 died over the next three years.The Green Berets immediately sought to exploit the song and Staff Sgt. Sadler to its advantage. He was reassigned to the Public Information Office and spent his last 15 months in the military making personal appearances throughout the country. The extent and thoroughness of Leepson's research shows through in the three chapters examining this period and its effect on Sadler, who felt relegated to what he called a "glorified recruiter." Sadler released another album in May 1966. Two months later, it finally reached the album charts --at 132 -- and dropped off entirely two weeks later. Yet even that was a bigger success than Sadler's post-discharge efforts at music, acting and film careers and owning a bar. He spent all his royalties by the end of 1971 and the following year said, "If I had to do it all over again I'd probably throw the song in the trash can."Sadler took another shot at music when he moved to Nashville. But there his life would reach its nadir in December 1978. Here, again, Leepson's meticulous research shows through. He efficiently dissects the events surrounding Sadler shooting and killing an ex-boyfriend of a woman he was seeing and his subsequent conviction for involuntary manslaughter. Some good fortune arose, though, as during this time Sadler managed to sell his eternal mercenary pulp novels. In January 1984 he moved to Guatemala, where he continued writing and used his medic training to help local villagers. He also supposedly trained Contra rebels and dealt arms, claims Leepson ventures to evaluate. In September 1988, though, Sadler was shot in the head in a cab in Guatemala City. Friends arranged for him to be flown to the United States for medical care but he would remain brain damaged and wheelchair bound until dying in November 1989 at age 49. Quite readable and straightforward, Ballad of the Green Beret is bolstered by the 70 different individuals Leepson interviewed and an extensive bibliography. This variety of sources and viewpoints leaves the reader pondering how Sadler's life would have differed had he thrown his song in the trash and remained a medic. Just as Sadler's one hit wonder today reflects a nation on the threshold of a massive cultural transformation, the book illuminates the law of unintended consequences in one individual's life.(Originally posted at A Progressive on the Prairie.)