Bruce Springsteen Honors MIA With Song

Walter A. Cichon

Walter A. Cichon

In the mid-1960s, a New Jersey shore band exploded onto to the music scene with a British invasion-inspired sound and a particularly charismatic lead singer. The Motifs was a sensation in the area and an inspiration to other fledgling musicians, most notably a young Bruce Springsteen. But in 1967, front man Walter Cichon was drafted.

On March 30, 1968, Walter’s company came under enemy fire while attempting to seize a hill about 15 miles southwest of Dak To. Cinchon received a head wound and his company was forced to withdraw without him. A later body-recovery team was unable to locate Cichon. He remains MIA to this day.*

Long after the war ended, in December 1997, Bruce Springsteen came to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. The trip inspired him to write “The Wall.” While he had performed the song before, he did not release it on an album until January of this year. In announcing his album High Hopes on his website, Springsteen wrote about his memories of Cichon:

Walter was one of the great early Jersey Shore rockers, who along with his brother Ray (one of my early guitar mentors) led the Motifs. The Motifs were a local rock band who were always a head above everbody else. Raw, sexy and rebellious, they were the heroes you aspired to be. But these were heroes you could touch, speak to, and go to with your musical inquiries. Cool, but always accessible, they were an inspiration to me, and many young working musicians in 1960s central New Jersey… [Cichon] was the first person I ever stood in the presence of who was filled with the mystique of the true rock star.

Springsteen also wrote about the song in the liner notes to his 2014 album High Hopes:

Though my character in “The Wall” is a Marine, Walter was actually in the Army, A Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Infantry. He was the first person I ever stood in the presence of who was filled with the mystique of the true rock star. Walter went missing in action in Vietnam in March 1968. He still performs somewhat regularly in my mind, the way he stood, dressed, held the tambourine, the casual cool, the freeness. The man who by his attitude, his walk said “you can defy all this, all of what’s here, all of what you’ve been taught, taught to fear, to love and you’ll still be alright.” His was a terrible loss to us, his loved ones and the local music scene. I still miss him.

Today we honor Cichon for his enormous sacrifice. The world lost a great musician far too soon.

*Information from POW Network