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Staff Sgt. Barry Sadler

The timing of Staff Sgt. Barry Sadler's number-one smash "The Ballad of the Green Berets" couldn't have been more impeccable. Released in early 1966, when anti-war sentiment was beginning to swell, "The Ballad of the Green Berets" tapped into an enormous wellspring of patriotic fervor among Americans who were tired of the dissent and ambiguity surrounding Vietnam, and desperately wanted confirmation of America's heroism and moral virtue; that they were on the right side. Sadler was the perfect man to supply it: he was himself a member of the Green Berets, the Army's elite Special Forces unit, and a wounded Vietnam veteran who wanted to pay tribute to his comrades in arms. Although "The Ballad of the Green Berets" was the biggest hit single of 1966, Sadler never duplicated its blockbuster success, and soon retired from music to become a successful author.

Staff Sergeant Barry Allen Sadler was born in Carlsbad, NM, on November 1, 1940. His parents divorced when he was very young, and his father died of cancer when Sadler was just seven. His mother managed various restaurants and bars around the Southwest, moving the family wherever she could find work. Sadler first became interested in music at age 12, when he picked up a range of Western and Mexican songs at a logging camp, and began teaching himself guitar; during this period, he also discovered a talent for shooting, and developed a startling accuracy for his age. He quit school after tenth grade and hitchhiked around the country, and then enlisted in the Air Force in 1958. He spent a year in Japan working as an air traffic controller and radar specialist, and, unable to find a job after returning home, he traveled around the West with a friend, playing music at night while working whatever occasional odd jobs they could find. Frustrated, Sadler reenlisted, this time in the Army, and volunteered to become a paratrooper; impressed with his toughness, his instructors recommended him for Special Forces. Sadler earned his green beret and was trained as a medic and weapons expert; he served in several locations around the globe before being ordered to Saigon.

In 1965, while leading a patrol, Sadler was injured by a Vietnamese punji stick (sharpened bamboo covered with feces to increase the chances of infection). The infection did indeed set in, and Sadler nearly had to have his leg amputated. During his recuperation time, he sang and wrote songs for the other wounded soldiers in the hospital. One day, a TV news crew visiting the hospital filmed Sadler singing "The Ballad of the Green Berets"; when the song was aired back home, it became an instant sensation thanks to its themes of courage and achievement in the face of adversity. RCA quickly signed Sadler to a recording contract, and he recorded a full-length album, Ballads of the Green Berets, which was released in early 1966. Finally available as a single, "The Ballad of the Green Berets" was a monster seller, moving over two-million copies in its first five weeks of release; it spent five weeks at number one, winding up the number one single of 1966, and the album topped the charts as well. Sadler's unabashed, romanticized admiration for his fellow soldiers made him a symbol of American patriotism in a turbulent era, despite the fact that his songs didn't really make political or social statements. The Army ate him up, of course, and after several appearances on TV back home, Sadler joined the USO tour for awhile. He scored a minor hit with the follow-up single "The "A" Team," and went on to release two more albums, 1967's Back Home and 1968's The A Team (which, oddly enough, didn't contain that song).

Unable to duplicate his success, Sadler lived in Tucson for a while and tried unsuccessfully to make it as a bar owner. In need of money (he'd donated a substantial chunk of his royalties to a fund for the families of Vietnam casualties), Sadler moved his family to Nashville and tried to reinvent himself as a straight country singer; he did record on occasion, but the material was only released posthumously as Sadler Country. In the mid-'70s, Sadler pled guilty to second-degree manslaughter after shooting a man who'd previously threatened him in a bar (on a dark street, he mistook the man's car keys for a gun). In the late '70s, Sadler became a surprisingly successful military/adventure novelist, creating a series of books (22 in all) based on the character of Casca the Eternal Mercenary (a Roman soldier who supposedly speared Christ on the cross, and was condemned to live until the Second Coming). In 1983, Sadler moved to Central America to train and supply the Nicaraguan Contras, and later settled in Guatemala City, where he sold weapons and transportation to the military. In 1988, while returning to his mountain ranch house in a taxicab, Sadler was shot through the head in a mysterious robbery or assassination attempt (his son Thor believed drug runners were after his cache of guns). Although he survived, Sadler suffered severe brain damage. He was flown back to Nashville by Soldier of Fortune magazine editor Bob Brown, and though he eventually recovered consciousness and speech, he remained in a hospital bed for the rest of his life. Sadler died of heart failure on November 5, 1989. ~ Steve Huey, Rovi
full bio

Comments

R.I.P. Sgt Sadler..a true inspiration. Salute.
One that Obama need to here this for a real man song
tuck.r.04
Just heard Sgt Barry's song, since it was release in 1966. As scox332 wrote, did not know his story and am glad i read it. yes a tragic end to a good man, i give thanks to God for all the men who so bravely serve this country for our safety. Did not realize he was the one who wrote the book that the inspired a tv movie about the roman sholder.
God bless his family. and my he be in God's care. (my brother and husband also served in the Air Force.
scox332
I am glad I read this BIO. I never knew the story behind this song. Timing is everything. He lived proud. Too bad he was murdered (even though it was years after the shooting, I still consider that to be the cause of death). Think of all the great stories left untold by this man. He saw the world from a different perspective than those of us who see it through the news briefs.
smokeywolf19 7 5
I think of all the servicemen who fought for our country an the deserve to be remembered and never forgotten what they had to give their lives for our freedom just like my dad and my uncle to serve in Vietnam
I grew up listening to this album was one of dads favorites my he rest in peace I love ya DAD
Would be a good Movie...
Grew up listening to the LP on my grandmother' s player. By '98, as the infant internet was taking its first steps, I found an online CD warehouse discounter and bought CD copies for all 6 of grandmother' s children as well as her and myself. When she passed in early 2003, I insisted that she be buried with full military honors, having served the United States in WW2 in the Womens' Aux. in Italy and N. Africa. This album is about the only thing I have left to remember her, aside from her flag.
Was brought up with this lp my dadbeing army in england green beret is one of the best lp ever made
pgrdoug
Grew up listening to SSgt Sadler due to my Dad being a Green Beret at that same time. My goal was to win the Green Beret myself and follow in my Dad's bootsteps, but was injured before I got to try. ALL military are now in my heart and mind. HOOAH SSgt Sadler! Thank-you for your service to our Country.
Such a sad short life.
A true American!
Remember...h e was actually a Green Beret in Vietnam himself
One of my favorite songs to listen too...my husband served 24.5 years in the US Navy, Submarine Force and many of my friends and family serve in the US Navy and Marines
i was in the army and this singer uplifted my spirits whit the ballad of the green beretts...th i s is one great singer who knows what its like to lay his life down fur somethan he believes in
ehrlicher2

i like the pleasant melodies, the insightful words and the honor given to brave men.
I love the Ballad of the Green Berets. It's a nice upbeat song with great lyrics and a great melody. I also think that ssgt Barry Sadler is a great singer.
ssgt barry sadler is a great singer

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