Shannon McMahon

Wishing On Planes

The Story Behind 40 Years On

After a whole day of acting like a kid on Christmas Eve, I have just released my latest song, 40 Years On. I finished it in November of 2009 and finally got around to recording it this past week. I have been looking forward to its release for a while now, and was very excited that today is the day I can finally share it. This is the first song I have written that does not come from personal experience but it still comes from my heart. The song is about a friend of mine from Second Life who was a Vietnam veteran. Since this song strikes such a chord with me, I thought I would tell how it all came to be. I met Jimmy427 Alter (his Second Life name -- I never really knew his real name) at a Memorial Day show in Second Life that took place at his veterans memorial and museum. I was so happy to get a chance to sing there -- veterans, especially Vietnam veterans, have always held a special place in my heart. I have worn a POW-MIA bracelet for many years in tribute to those who were lost. Not long after that, Jimmy asked me if I might write a song about his experience as a Marine in Vietnam. I was truly honored that he entrusted me with the telling of his story, but not sure I was able to meet the challenge.

He sent me a note that detailed his story, some of it harrowing and heartbreaking. To take those facts and feelings and somehow distill them into a cohesive song that made sense proved daunting. I wrote a verse or two in June or July of 2009 and did not pick it up again until November of that year.  I wanted to capture the spirit and the story, without giving all the painful facts away. When I was finished, I recorded a demo version and sent it to Jimmy. I waited what seemed a lifetime to hear his thoughts, wondering if I had gotten it right.  He loved it. Jimmy was in and out of the hospital over the next few months, and had told me he played it for the nurses while he was there. Sadly, he won't get to hear the final version...he passed away on Febrary 19, 2010.

The song has amazed me in its reach. More people than I ever thought are responding and relating to it, and that means so much to me. The final version has a haunting violin melody by Beth Brown that drives home the poignancy and the grit of the story in such a lyrical way.

40 Years On is a tribute to Jimmy427 Alter, but also belongs to all those who serve -- soldiers and veterans in peace time and war time, on the front lines and behind the front desk, as well as those who have died so we can live the lives we choose.

© 2016 Shannon McMahon Music