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Guitarist Joe Walsh, Friends Stage VetsAid Concert

  • David Byrd

Joe Walsh is known for his guitar skills as a member of The James Gang and later as a member of the rock super group, The Eagles. He has received multiple Grammy awards, was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and was a Kennedy Center honoree.

But not many people know Walsh is also the son of a flight instructor who was killed while on active duty in Japan in 1949.

The 69-year-old guitarist told VOA that because of his own history, he wanted to help the families of veterans, especially those coming home from Afghanistan.

“We’re at war, Walsh said. "This is an ongoing war with no end in sight. And there are more and more troops coming home. And the transition back to civilian life is almost too big of a mountain to climb. And I just decided that I can do something about it to help.”

A little help from his friends

Walsh contacted others in the music industry to try to organize what became VetsAid – a concert series along the lines of the FarmAid program spearheaded by country entertainer Willie Nelson.

The guitarist and singer says finding acts to perform was more difficult than he thought – until he called country entertainer Keith Urban.

“Keith called up and said ‘You know I could actually do it, but I can’t really get my band there in time, but I could come and if like there’s a house band, I’ll be there." And then he called up and said ‘I’m bringing my whole band.'" Walsh said.

"And Gary Clark, Jr. had a commitment on the West Coast, and so I had written him off, but he called up and said ‘you know I’d much rather be there with you than doing what I am supposed to be doing out here. So I’ll be there.’ " Walsh added. "And Zac [Brown]. He’s so hot right now. But he said ‘I gotta be there, too.’ So he changed his tour around.”

Blues, Country, and Rock for Vets

Blues musician and singer Gary Clark, Jr. started the show to a crowd of around 7,500 fans. Clark, called “The Chosen One” for his guitar skills, included a cover of the Beatles “Come Together” in his set that had the fans cheering.

Keith Urban had the crowd on its feet with several of his hits, including “Sweet Thing,” “Blue Ain’t Your Color,” and “Wasted Time.”

Country superstars and multiple Grammy winners The Zac Brown Band performed several of their hits, including “Colder Weather” and “Chicken Fried." The players showed off their virtuosity by covering two guitar anthems – “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen and the Charlie Daniels’ Band’s “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.”

FILE - Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill. arrives for a closed-door Democratic policy luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington.
FILE - Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill. arrives for a closed-door Democratic policy luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Senator urges support for charity

Before Walsh took the stage, Illinois Democratic senator and combat wounded veteran Tammy Duckworth – who lost both legs when her helicopter was hit by a rocket propelled grenade in Iraq – urged the crowd to support Vets Aid.

“So tonight I am so grateful for my friend Joe Walsh, and I am proud to introduce him," she said. "And I’d also like you to join me in dedicating tonight’s performance to the memory of his father, Lt. Robert Newton Fiddler. And now, the great Joe Walsh!"

Walsh gave the fans what they came for – playing several of his hits including “Life’s Been Good,” “In the City,” and covering an Eagles’ hit “Take it to The Limit.” Gary Clark, Junior, Keith Urban, and Zac Brown then joined Walsh on stage for the final song.

Several charities – including Operation Mend, Warrior Canine Connections, Stop Soldier Suicide, TAPS, and the Semper Fi Fund – will benefit from the concert. Walsh says his goal is for veterans to realize they are not alone, and hopes that realization can be the beginning of healing.

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