This touching number is an elegy for Walter Cichon, the leader of Jersey Shore band the Motifs, who went missing in action in Vietnam in 1968. We hear Springsteen contemplate the lost potential of all those names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial ("the Wall") in Washington. He explained in the liner notes to High Hopes
: "'The Wall' is something I'd played on stage a few times and remains very close to my heart. The title and idea were (Pittsburgh rock musician) Joe Grushecky
's, then the song appeared after (second wife) Patti and I made a visit to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington."
"It was inspired by my memories of Walter Cichon," Springsteen added. "Walter was one of the great early Jersey Shore rockers, who along with his brother Ray (one of my early guitar mentors) led the 'Motifs.' The Motifs were a local rock band who were always a head above everybody else. Raw, sexy and rebellious, they were the heroes you aspired to be. But these were heroes you could touch, speak to, and go to with your musical inquiries. Cool, but always accessible, they were an inspiration to me, and many young working musicians in 1960's central New Jersey.
"Though my character in 'The Wall' is a Marine, Walter was actually in the Army, A Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Infantry," Springsteen continued. "He was the first person I ever stood in the presence of who was filled with the mystique of the true rock star. Walter went missing in action in Vietnam in March 1968. He still performs somewhat regularly in my mind, the way he stood, dressed, held the tambourine, the casual cool, the freeness. The man who by his attitude, his walk said 'you can defy all this, all of what's here, all of what you've been taught, taught to fear, to love and you'll still be alright.' His was a terrible loss to us, his loved ones and the local music scene. I still miss him."