How Billy Ray Cyrus Is Reinventing 'Some Gave All' for Veterans Day - Rolling Stone
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How Billy Ray Cyrus Is Reinventing ‘Some Gave All’ for a Veterans Day Football Game

Songwriter joins a cappella group Voices of Service on his salute to U.S. veterans and their ultimate sacrifice at Sunday’s Tennessee Titans game

Billy Ray Cyrus

Billy Ray Cyrus reflects on his song "Some Gave All" and its importance to U.S. veterans.

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On Sunday, Billy Ray Cyrus will join a cappella group Voices of Service for a special performance during the halftime of the Titans-Chiefs football game at Nissan Stadium in Nashville. Cyrus and the northern Virginia-based quartet, who rose to national prominence on season 14 of America’s Got Talent, will perform Cyrus’ 1992 song “Some Gave All” in recognition of Veterans Day.

“Veterans Day is a special holiday for all of us to salute our veterans and say, ‘Thank you for your service and your sacrifice,'” Cyrus tells Rolling Stone Country. “To the militaries, to their families and their support of this great country and for our freedom.”

Cyrus and the quartet, who placed fifth on America’s Got Talent, chose “Some Gave All” for its timeless portrayal of the selfless sacrifice made by service members and their families. The song is anchored by the powerful lyric “all gave some, some gave all” and was inspired by a real-life encounter Cyrus had with a Vietnam War veteran named Sandy Kane in the late 1980s. Voices of Service was a natural collaborative fit for Cyrus, due both to the quartet’s focus on supporting veterans’ organizations and their preternatural gift for four-part harmonies.

“My dad was in a gospel quartet and it was all about four-part harmonies,” Cyrus says. “When I heard Voices [of Service], I was turned on because it was just so reminiscent of that four-part, Southern gospel harmony that is so much a part of my past, present, and future. It’s what I really love and I was turned on by their sound. Then certainly when I learned about their message and what they stand for, the hope and the therapy and the goodness of making music for your soul, for your mind, for your spirit — I just thought it was a beautiful thing. So it’s going to be really exciting to be with them on the 50-yard line.”

Cyrus first worked with Voices of Service when he joined them to perform “Some Gave All” on an episode of America’s Got Talent. The group comprises retired Master Sergeant Caleb Green, Sergeant First Class Jason L. Hannah, retired Staff Sergeant Ron Henry, and Sergeant Major Christal Rheams.

“As we move forward towards the remembrance of those who have served our nation, and the day that originally marked the end of World War I, the opportunity to once again partner with an industry legend such as Billy Ray Cyrus is an unfathomable musical honor for Voices of Service,” Green tells Rolling Stone Country. “We were sincerely humbled by his request for us to join him. The countless men and women who have served at home and abroad will be honored through this classic phrase ‘all gave some, some gave all.’”

When Cyrus wrote “Some Gave All” in 1989, the now-iconic country singer-songwriter was at a particularly low point in his life. His wife at the time, Cindy Smith, had kicked him out of the house and his music career couldn’t seem to take off. But after a particularly fruitful week of songwriting after his sets at Huntington, West Virginia’s Ragtime Lounge in 1989, he wrote “Some Gave All.” Two years later, it caught the ear of Mercury Records’ Harold Shedd, landed him a record deal, and would go on to become the title track of his landmark 1992 debut album, which has since more than nine million copies. Today, “Some Gave All” remains an essential piece of service-inspired songwriting, so much so that the words “all gave some, some gave all” are used to mark memorials for fallen soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I think it’s the reason I bought a guitar and started a band,” Cyrus says of the song. “If I had only written and recorded that one song, I think that was and is my purpose. ‘Some Gave All’ has run a very special course through the line of our military.”

“Our collective fabric has been woven through blood, sweat and tears, but we were blessed to be able to now stand in the gap and tell the story for those who no longer can,” Green adds. “That is paraphrase from our battle buddy, and the ‘First Lady’ of Voices of Service, Sergeant Major Christal Rheams.”

Cyrus recently recorded a cover of Eddy Raven’s “Climb to Glory” as part of a musical project to benefit TAPS (The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors), an organization offering “help, hope, and healing to all those grieving the death of a loved one serving in America’s Armed Forces.”

He is nominated for Musical Event of the Year at Wednesday’s CMA Awards for his RIAA Diamond-certified Lil Nas X collaboration “Old Town Road (Remix).” Cyrus and Lil Nas X also notched four American Music Awards nominations for “Old Town Road (Remix)” (the AMAs air November 24th).

The Titans-Chiefs game airs on CBS at 1:00 p.m. ET.

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