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Isle de Goree
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folk, americana, ballad
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Tom Neilson
Tom Neilson 2016

Thu Jul 07, 2016
Acoustic : Folk
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Charts position
» highest in charts:   # 36   (150,394 songs currently listed in Acoustic)
» highest in sub-genre:   # 2   (13,397 songs currently listed in Acoustic > Folk)
About the song
In the Fall of 1976 I was on Goree (missing the accent on the first e) Island off the coast of Dakar, Senegal. I was living in Senegal at that time. Historically, the island was the holding station for captured Africans as they waited to be transported into slavery in the western hemisphere. Now the island is a museum displaying holding cells, shackles and related history, as well as food, drink and souvenirs. That afternoon, I met another United Statesian who had gone AWOL from Vietnam in 1970 which was the same year I left the U.S. to avoid the war. Jimmie told me his story and had I known that someday I would write a song about him, I would have interviewed him in a more comprehensive way, but we were just two guys having beers and telling our stories on a small island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. I don't recall how Jimmie slipped away and out of Nam. He said there were ways to do it and since then, he had lived those 6 years here and there and now he was here with me for a few hours on a piece of turf where began a brutal legacy that 500 years later still leaves blood on U.S. streets. I don't know if Jimmie participated in the subsequent amnesty. When we parted, I never saw or heard from him again.
Let me tell you a story about a guy I know
Our stories’ the same, ‘cept for a fork in the road.
I went wrong – he went right. He went looking through a rifle sight.

Jimmy had never shot a gun. Wasn’t any need – where he come from
But his number came up at 21. And he went to war for petroleum.

Well he liked to go - out on the obstacle run
& Learnin to shoot was a lot of fun
But o’er in Nam, it all came undone - Cause he didn’t want to kill anyone

There was smack and beer; the sex racketeer
Under the veneer of the war profiteer
And all the semper fi, couldn’t justify
He was caught in a lie, he couldn’t deny

Hey diddle-diddle, the cat and the fiddle;
Jimmy’s caught in the middle, of a Wall St riddle.
He wasn’t a coward; he hadn’t lost his nerve
But he was looking for a fast ball; and got thrown a curve

Then came the day, Jimmie slipped away
Heard his CO say, he was MIA
Well he never was found- Cause he went underground
And he’s livin today, On the Isle de Goree