Jodies as resistance (long, with examples)

Judith M S Pine (jmsp@U.WASHINGTON.EDU)
Sat, 17 Feb 1996 12:33:28 -0800

It seems to me that a lot of social commentary goes on in some Jodies.
>From my own service (Army, 85-89), one that particularly comes to mind
was a marching Jody that included the following:

used to drive a Cadillac
Now I pack it on my back
used to drive a Chevrolet
now I'm marching every day
Mama, mama can't you see
what the Army's done to me

Used to wear my old blue jeans
Now I'm wearing Army greens ...(memory fails here, but the "mama, mama
refrain continues throughout)

There was also a Jody with the refrain "Jody's got your girl and gone",
referring to the stay behind enjoying all the things the soldier has
lost. And another which comments on what you do have:

They say that in the Army the pay is mighty fine
they give you a hundred dollars, and take back 99

oh lord I wanna go, but they won't let me go, oh lord I wanna go home

They say that in the Army, the food is mighty fine
a biscuit fell off the table and killed a friend of mine
(alternatively "a chicken jumped off the table and started marking time")

oh lord ....


Sometimes, Jody is constructed as a bad influence, a civilian with whom
the soldier still has contact. I have a rather vague recollection of a
Jody in which the soldier confesses to having been down by the railroad
tracks smoking dope or drinking whisky with Jody. Anyone out there
remember that one?

I'm familiar with the jodie about killing the little yellow bird, and a
couple which are directed against/construct enemies. Some still in use
about "commie Cong", despite being hopelessly out of date. The soldiers
singing are fully aware of the dissonance between what they're singing
and current reality, which in a lot of ways makes the continued
popularity of these jodies scarier. Since I was doing most of this
singing in a Combat Support unit, not an actual Combat Arms unit, the use
of fight-and-kill sorts of jodies seems less about being able to do what
you sing and more about being part of the overall organization. I think
that most jodies are developed in Combat Arms units and then filter down
to the CS and CSS units, where they are sometimes revised and adapted and
sometimes simply sung as recieved.

(For non-vets, the Army divides itself into three sorts of unit -- Combat
Arms, which is the folks who actually fight; Combat Support, which
are resources used to do this fighting, in my case that wonderful
oxymoron Military Intelligence; and Combat Service Support, who
provide the "beans and bullets", and other logistic support for the first
two sorts of unit. Not a lot of space for "females" in the Combat Arms,
which is also the place where promotion is fastest and goes farthest.)

Finally, as I sit here in a damp and grey Seattle, I find myself
thinking about a Jody with the line "In the early morning rain". Again,
I can't produce the text, but the subject matter was the individual's
experience of combat, and creates the sense of being trapped in the
role of a killer. It seems to me that Jodies are a very complex
discourse between soldiers and the service, and among soldiers themselves.
They may have originated as a form of resistance, but they have been
incorporated into daily life, and into standard training, and made
acceptable. That does not mean that the subaltern have been silenced. I
remember hearing about some "women's" versions of jodies, developed in
response to some of the more explicit men's versions. Never got to sing them
in a mixed unit, and I _know_ there are some men's versions I was never
allowed to hear due to my gender. I imagine, though, that some of these
jodies will gradually creep into general usage, and gradually shift the
discourse to be more inclusive of women as soldiers, rather than just

Gosh, I just wrote "just civilians", and I've been one for quite a bit
now. Foucault know whereof he wrote, I have been shaped and molded.
Still sing jodies to myself, especially when I run. From a functionalist
perspective, jodies help me ignore the pain in my knees and shins, and I
have a feeling a lot of soldiers use them this way.

Forgive my rambling.

Judy Pine
Anth grad