He Called Me Dad

I grew up in Lawrence, there by the water
In the shadow of a textile mill
Sometimes I feel just like that building
Empty but standing there still
I liked the President, I liked the union
I believed in the Rights of Man
So I signed up when it was time to fight Hitler
And they sent me off to Japan

I couldn’t describe it, it was all just so bad
I kept my head down, tried to stay alive
I got shot in the leg, took me out of the action
So I was lucky enough to survive
I came home from the war, met a girl named Maria
We had ourselves a son
When I first saw Jim’s face, the first thing I thought
I hope he never has to carry a gun

It was a long time ago, another life that I had
A little boy who called me dad

I’d have terrible dreams of my time overseas
But otherwise life was alright
I had a job and a wife and a fine little lad
With eyes so cheery and bright
When his number came up I said let’s move up north
To Halifax, what do you say?
But my Jim wouldn’t have it, he said if I’m gonna be drafted
I don’t want to run away


After just a few months the letters stopped coming
And one morning a knock on the door
Two nervous young men handed me a flag
Said your son died in the war
He gave his life for his country was what the man said
He didn’t believe it and neither did I
I closed the front door, dropped the flag on the floor
And I sat down in Jim’s room and cried


It was less than a year when my wife said to me
You look so much like our little Jim
She had to go, I don’t blame her, you know
I also remind me of him
Now it’s been forty years, I’d be a grandpa by now
But instead I just sit here alone
No one calls much these days, but anytime the phone rings
I think maybe the boy’s coming back home


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Sheet music:
He Called Me Dad

“He Called Me Dad” originally appeared as an iPhone Broadside of sorts, recorded on a house boat in London a few days or so after I wrote the song. It then appeared on the 2012 CD, Meanwhile In Afghanistan.

There are thousands of stories of World War 2 veterans who survived the war, came home, had kids, only to see one or more of their male offspring go to Vietnam and die there. I’ve sung it on Veterans Day and other occasions like that, which is the right occasion, among many.