KLPZ Christmas in IraqBilly Joel is ‘retired’, but – as we learned recently from Garth Brooks – that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s given up music. For the first time since 1993, Joel has written a song which is being released as a single starting with iTunes tomorrow, called Christmas in Fallujah. But Billy won’t be on the recording: he’s written it for a handpicked 18-year old named Cass Dillon:

“I thought someone with a young voice should be singing this, someone just starting out in life,” he says. “Plus, you know, I’m 58 years old. My voice isn’t the voice I was thinking of when I was writing; I was thinking of a soldier, someone of that age.”

It isn’t as much a political song as it is a song about the thoughts that may be running through Joel’s own head if he were a soldier stationed in Iraq over the holidays:

It’s Evening In the Desert
I’m Tired and I’m cold
But I am just a solider
I do what I am told

We Came with the Crusaders
to save the holy land
It’s Christmas In Fallujah
and no one gives a damn

And I just got your letter
And this is what I read, you said

I’m fading from your memory
so I’m just as good as dead

We are the armies of the empire
We are the legionnaires of Rome

It’s Christmas In Fallujah
and we ain’t never coming home

Okay, so it’s a little political! And what discussion of Iraq isn’t? It certainly betrays the fact that this war hasn’t gone well. Of course no soldier would want to be in Iraq instead of home with their family over the holidays, but one has to wonder if Joel is accurate to portray the morale as being so low that “I’m just as good as dead”. I myself have had firsthand contact with American troops at Camp Anaconda north of Baghdad, where the radio station I work for has been addressing the very thing Joel does in his song: sending Christmas to the troops on behalf of our listeners. The smiling faces in this photograph are real, taken last week. So, while I believe he may be exaggerating, Billy Joel is depicting at least the opinion of many Americans on the war. It certainly isn’t, as I heard it described today, “apolitical”.  I heard a preview today: the song has a great mid-heavy rock feel, a steady anthemic rhythm, and some kick-ass guitar with just a hint of Middle-East colouring in the fills.

While not entirely original, I think the song represents the two parts of a sentiment a lot of people could reciprocate with over the holidays. It’s a call, from American citizens in the Middle East, to the American electorate, ahead of the 2008 presidential election. It says, “We’re still stuck in Iraq.”  And I have a feeling the electorate are listening.