Story Behind the Song: Darryl Worley, ‘Have You Forgotten’
When Darryl Worley and Wynn Varble sat down to write "Have You Forgotten?," the devastating Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks were several months in the past. For the two songwriters, the sense of patriotism that was so prevalent following the tragedies of that day remained as strong as ever; however, it seemed as though others didn't share the sentiment.
Inspired by both the American spirit and their dismay that the country as a whole seemed to, in many ways, have forgotten the tragedy and the triumph of 9/11, Worley and Varble sat down to write what became the biggest hit of Worley's career. Below, Worley recalls to The Boot the day he and Varble wrote "Have You Forgotten?"
I come from a military family, on both sides -- lots and lots of military. Every conflict that this nation has ever been in, I’ve got family members who participated, and I’ve seen the effects of the wounds since I’ve been alive. So when 9/11 happened, everybody’s like, "Toby [Keith] wrote a song," "Alan [Jackson] wrote a song." I said, "I have to let that stuff soak in and digest before I write a song. I don’t just get up the next morning and write a song. That’s just not how I am. It has to stew a little bit.”
They called me from the Sgt. Major of the Army’s office and asked if I would go and do a tour in Afghanistan right after the war started, and I said, “Absolutely. I’m happy to go and stay as long as you want me to." Obviously that’s not for pay; you just go and you give back to the men and women of the military. So I said, “Yes,” and we went at Christmastime -- left the family behind and went over there for 17 or 18 days.
It was life-changing for me. On the way home I told Ted [Hacker], my manager, I said, “I have to do something. I don’t know if it’s a fish fry -- I don’t know. I have got to do something for these men and women.”
I drove home, and on the way, it was like a parade route -- the red, white and blue. I said, “What a shame it has to come to this for people to fly the colors," as we’re driving home. Two weeks later, it was all gone. I was driving home on the same road. There was an occasional flag out, but those people always flew the flags. I knew those houses because I know that.
I told Wynn, “That really bothers me." This country has been affected by the media to the point where they want us to forget about anything that might be negative overnight. And that’s crazy. Those are our enemies. We don’t need to forget about it.
The effect of that journey and what I saw and the people I hung out with, I just had to get somewhere to myself and try to soak it in and digest it and process it. I couldn’t really talk about it.
But I was talking to my family, and I told Wynn about this guy that was in the gym where I was working out in my hometown. I’ve known him all my life. He came up to me and started spewing all this crap, dogging [then-]President [George W.] Bush. He said, “They’re just looking for a fight anywhere they can go find one. It’s going to destroy our nation.”
I told Wynn that. He says to me, “I talked to a guy yesterday, and he was spewing that same crap," and he said, "I just wanted to grab him by the throat and say, ‘Have you forgotten?’"
He said that, I went, “Dude. That’s the song title. That’s the question we need to ask."
And we started writing it right away, and in two hours, it was finished.
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