Suggest a Songfact / Artistfact
Roland The Headless Thompson Gunner by Warren Zevon
Album: Excitable BoyReleased: 1976
Zevon wrote this in Spain when he was playing at The Dubliner in Sitges, a bar owned by former mercenary David Lindell. Zevon and Lindell wrote the song together. In the booklet to Zevon's Anthology album, he had this to say about the song: "In 1974 I ran off to Spain and got a job in an Irish bar called the Dubliner, in Sitges, on the Costa Brava. The proprietor was a piratical ex-merc named David Lindell. He and I wrote this song at the bar one afternoon, over many jars."
This was the last song Zevon played live in front of an audience before he died. He performed it on The David Letterman Show; he intended on closing with "Mutineer," but Letterman wanted "Roland" to close the show, so Zevon sang "Mutineer" first, "Genius" and then closed with "Roland." Later, after Zevon died, Letterman did a tribute and re-ran the "Mutineer" segment, so Zevon did, indeed, play Mutineer last.
This song not historically accurate; there was a war in Biafra in 1966 and 1967, but Biafra is in Nigeria, not the Congo, and the Ibo were fighting, not the Bantu. It is, however, an excellent conception - maybe the only conception - of European mercenaries in Africa (including their assassinations by the CIA and hanging out drinking in bars).