(Soundbite of guitar)
Mr. MIKE BECK (Musician): My name is Mike Beck. I made my living for a long time cowboying. Now I work with horses and play music, write songs. I travel all over the place helping people with their horses.
LIANE HANSEN, host:
For Mike Beck, the war in Iraq seemed far away and just a blur of headlines. But then he met some students who gave him a sense of the immediacy of the war. This week, for What's in a Song, our occasional series from the Western Folklife Center about one song and its story, we hear from Mike Beck about his song, Amanda Come Home.
Mr. BECK: I've got a band down in Monterrey, California, where I live and we have quite a little following. And there was a lot of these gals coming in, and young guys too, they were coming into the bar and dancing, having a great time. So I'd start visiting with them and I'd say, where are you from? One was from New York, one was from wherever. You know, what are you doing here? Oh, we're going to school. What are you taking in school? And then they'd get kind of hesitant and they'd say, well, Arabic.
(Singing) Rolling down some desert highway on the other side of the world, all dressed up in camo, she's someone's little girl.
(Speaking) So there's this Defense Language Institute down in the Old Presidio in Monterrey. And so some of these gals were - I'm in the Marines. Another one would say I'm in the Army, I'm in the Air Force. And so they became big fans of the band and we'd start to have barbecues, you know, and they'd come over and drink beer. And I thought, man, there should be a song about these women going over.
(Singing) On the outskirts of Bakuba, the IED's are going down. Ring of the cell phone, it could be the last sound.
(Speaking) I feel that women are healers and they're very intuitive. So to see them in this position of being in the military is just a little odd. I'm not saying they can't do the job. They certainly are doing the job.
(Singing) Yesterday she was a little girl, bringing home a bird with a broken wing.
(Speaking) My way about writing the song was that wasn't that long ago that she brought home a bird with a broken wing, like a young girl will, as a healer. Mom, look what I found, this hurt bird.
(Singing) Amanda, come home.
(Speaking) The common thread with these students was they weren't exactly political. You know, they weren't going to go get some people and kill them, you know? It was more like they were trying - all of them were trying to better their lives somehow. Didn't have the money. This particular gal was going to school at UC Davis as a wildlife biology major and she ran out of money and, you know, made this choice.
(Singing) Never heard her talk political, college was her biggest dream. Her daddy laid off down at the factory, things down in her neighborhood were pretty lean.
(Speaking) And I got a call from Amanda just as she was getting on a plane flying to Kuwait. It was real surreal for me. And it put a face on the whole conflict, and she's over there now.
(Singing) Last night I had a dream, you couldn't remember your name. You couldn't wash that smell off of your skin, you couldn't stop hearing all the cries of pain. But when you get home, we'll mend the bird with the broken wing. Amanda, come home. Amanda, come home.
HANSEN: What's in a Song is produced by Hal Cannon and Taki Telonidis of the Western Folklife Center. To listen to archived segments of What's in a Song, please go to our Web site, NPR.org.
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen.
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