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Riding With Private Malone

May 29, 2022

Every morning is a time for reflection. Here is my contribution today.

Riding with Private Malone is a song written by Wood Newton and Thom Shepherd, and recorded by American country music artist David Ball. It was released in August 2001 as the first single from his album Amigo. The song reached a peak of #2 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles and Tracks charts and #36 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was Ball’s first Top 40 country hit since “Look What Followed Me Home” in 1995. USA Today referred to it as “the country song that tapped most subtly and profoundly into the emotions of its audience” after the September 11 attacks, even though it was released to radio a few weeks before the attacks. This song is long (4:24), breaking the 3-20 rule but it was still a solid hit due to its resonating lyrics.

For me, this song has always had a very personal connection. In 1967, I answered a classified ad for a 1964 Pontiac Lemans. Like in this song, “I felt a little guilty as I counted out those bills” to the father of a Vietnam soldier who didn’t make it home. It was tough for him to sell his son’s prized car and I felt his pain intensely. Also like in the song, I fixed the car up and made it my own. It was the envy of many a young man after I painted it bright orange and had 12 inch glass packs installed. Indeed, “for every dream that’s shattered, another one comes true.”

Fate and music are often fickle friends. I charged around in my orange car, often oblivious to safety and prudence. I even raced it on Dead Man’s Curve on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. The car became my strength and my identity as I felt I was king of the road. Fortunately I grew up quickly and changed my ways, becoming much more conservative almost overnight. But suddenly I had to sell my beloved car when I got married (way too young). My best friend bought the car as it had been a dream of his to own it but within a week he called me to tell me that he had totaled the car in a bizarre accident. He walked away unharmed and bewilderingly questioned why. He is still alive and well today and so am I. It’s indeed a miracle of sorts.

When Riding With Private Malone came out in 2001, I immediately identified with the song. I took me back many years to a time when I too felt I was riding with an unknown guardian in his Lemans. A half-century later, I would like to thank that unknown soldier for watching over me and especially my friend in his time of need so many years ago.

Here is the David Ball recording. I hope you enjoy it and feel the same gratitude as me toward our armed services members, wherever and whenever they have served.

PS – I never found a note in that car but I did find a fossilized rock containing a fern underneath the passenger seat. I never understood that but imagined that the car’s original owner may have been a budding geologist. Unfortunately, We’ll never know as he died on a distant battlefield in Vietnam.

Here are the complete lyrics for word buffs like myself:

[Verse 1]
I was just out of the service thumbing through the classifieds
When an ad that said, “old Chevy” somehow caught my eye
The lady didn’t know the year or even if it ran
But I had that thousand dollars in my hand

[Verse 2]
It was way back in the corner of this old ramshackle barn
With thirty years of dust and dirt on that green Army tarp
And when I pulled the cover off, it took away my breath
What she called a Chevy was a sixty-six Corvette

[Verse 3]
I felt a little guilty as I counted out the bills
What a thrill I got when I sat behind the wheel
I opened up the glove box and that’s when I found the note
The date was nineteen sixty-six and this is what he wrote

He said, “My name is Private Andrew Malone
And if you’re reading this, then I didn’t make it home
But for every dream that’s shattered, another one comes true
This car was once a dream of mine, now it belongs to you
And though you may take her and make her your own
You’ll always be riding with Private Malone”

[Verse 4]
Well, it didn’t take me long at all, I had her running good
I loved to hear those horses thunder underneath her hood
I had her shining like a diamond and I’d put the ragtop down
All the pretty girls would stop and stare as I drove her through town

[Verse 5]
The buttons on the radio didn’t seem to work quite right
But it picked up that oldie show, especially late at night
I’d get the feeling sometimes, if I turned real quick I’d see
A soldier ridin’ shotgun in the seat right next to me

It was a young man named Private Andrew Malone
Who fought for his country and never made it home
But for every dream that’s shattered, another one comes true
This car was once a dream of his, back when it was new
He told me to take her and make her my own
And I was proud to be riding with Private Malone

Well, one night it was raining hard, I took the curve too fast
I still don’t remember much about that fiery crash
Someone said they thought they saw a soldier pull me out
They didn’t get his name, but I know without a doubt

It was a young man named Private Andrew Malone
Who fought for his country and never made it home
But for every dream that’s shattered, another one comes true
This car was once a dream of his, back when it was new
And I know I wouldn’t be here if he hadn’t tagged along
Yeah, that night, I was riding with Private Malone
Oh, thank God, I was riding with Private Malone
Private Malone

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  1. Wonderful tribute! Our boys were never prepared nor were they honored and thanked. I thank you for your service and for the sacrifice you made.

    Liked by 1 person

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