Chris's comments for
Red Baron


Message of song:

Although Manfred von Richthofen (the Red Baron) received a serious head wound on July 6, 1917, he refused to take a safe job away from combat. He felt it would be wrong to take advantage of his fame when every other soldier had to continue fighting at the front. So he went back into combat with fatigue, severe headaches, and depression until he was finally killed on . I wrote an informative speech in 1997 about the Fokker Triplane aircraft, the type in which he was killed. Here are colorized photographs of his triplane and of him playing with his dog.

How it was written:

Richthofen was shot in the head during aerial combat in July of 1917. Paralyzed and blinded, his plane fell from the sky. As wrote in his excellent book, The Day the Red Baron Died:

In a moment he recovered the use of his arms and legs, but not his sight. He fumbled blindly for the ignition switch, found it, and killed the runaway engine. He twisted his head to find the sun, but could not. Everywhere it was black. He tore off his goggles. Still there was no light. He was completely blind. Recalling that horrifying experience he later said: “At that moment the idea struck me: This is how it feels when one is shot down to his death!

These actual words of Richthofen (translated into English of course) set the meter and tone of the rest of the song. I started with this quotation, and wrote all the other lines to match it. This quotation can be found in many sources, but I quote the Dale Titler book here because this particular paragraph also mentions some of the other details of this incident which I describe in my song. The title of Dale Titler's book refers to , which is when Richthofen was finally killed.

Musical notes:

The verse music has a cool six note riff, with the B note ringing out like the buzz of an aircraft engine. The first and third parts of the chorus have a pause between the A and D; the second and fourth parts have no pause between the A and D. In the audio recording of the rhythm guitar, vocal track and lead guitar were all done in one take each and are among my best work up to that time. The version has an extended lead break and is more rock / less blues in style than the 2008 version.

Video notes:

The 2008 YouTube music video features relevant photographs and aviation art to go with the lyrics. The 2012 YouTube music video is from a live performance at a coffee shop. The images used in the 2008 music video are as historically accurate as I could find. I contacted several noted aviation artists and was pleasantly surprised when they all replied within one day giving me permission to use images of their copyrighted work in my tribute video to the Red Baron. Troy White had painted a depiction of the encounter of that is the central focus of my song. The cockpit and machine gun photographs are of an Albatros D.V, the type of aircraft von Richthofen was flying that day. The photograph of the goggles (“Tears his goggles off his face...”) shows the goggles von Richthofen was wearing the day he was killed, April 21, 1918.