Tom Waits has just released a new video of his song, Hell Broke Luce, from his last album, Bad As Me. A reader, John Lewis Dickerson, sent me the words with a recommendation, saying it was a powerful anti-war song. After reading the lyrics, I couldn’t tell whether I’d like the song or not. I decided to search the web to see if I could actually hear it–and struck gold. NPR’s music producers had an entire post about the song along with the video.
The song is good, but the video is absolutely amazing. It’s a riveting Dadaist masterpiece with macabre, visually mesmerizing imagery. Not since George Groscz, Kathe Kollwitz or Picasso’s Guernica has their been such imagery to document the horrors of modern war. It tells the story of Cpl. Jeff Lucey, a 23 year old Marine who hung himself in his family’s basement with a garden hose.
Lucey’s story is far more complicated than anything you would expect. Though he claimed he’s participated in war crimes including the executions of Iraqi prisoners, the truth is more disturbing because he took his life for reasons that aren’t clear to anyone. He appears to have created stories about his wartime experience to accompany genuine post traumatic stress disorder that afflicted him as a convoy truck driver in Iraq. The stories, while possibly not literally true, were dramatizations of what was happening inside of him and manifestations of how his combat experience affected him. Lucey’s life and death testifies to the horrific corrosive effect war can have on those even peripherally involved in it.