The Aviator's Song

Album: Halcyon (2004)
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Songfacts®:

  • This song is extremely personal on many levels for singer/songwriter Gretchen Peters, who wrote it about her father. He was a bomber pilot in World War II, and was shot down over the North Sea on one of his bombing runs. "He and his crew went down with the plane, and they lost one guy, and the rest of them survived. They were in the North Sea for about eight hours, and were rescued," Peters explained to Songfacts.

    It is a story she went through childhood knowing, but an event her father rarely spoke of. "All us kids knew it. We knew it was a central event in his life. And I guess the motivation for me in writing it was partly that it was such a part of the background, such a part of the family mythology. I never really thought of the reality of that event, how that must have felt for a 21-year-old to be shot down out of the sky like that. I mean, it just never really sunk in, because I had always heard the story and I just sort of accepted it and didn't really think about it too much. So that was my starting point for the song, the whole first verse is that episode in his life, which was such a turning point, and such a central episode in his life. And then the subsequent verses are about him as well, although at different points in his life later. The second verse is his sort of middle age, then at that point the flying does become a metaphor. Then of course at the end, the last verse about his death is a metaphor. But it started with a real episode, with a real story." And then at age 43, as Peters puts it, he "fell out of life. He left my mom and us, and went on and had a second marriage. And that was a central event in all of our lives."

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