Bill Wylie plays guitar, writes the odd song and is retired from the railroad after a 30-year career. Like many Canadians, he wears a poppy and some of his family served in world wars.
But Wylie remembers his late family members and all veterans year-round. Two years ago, he wrote a song encouraging other Canadians to do the same. Today, he’s sharing that song called “These Volunteers” with the world.
“These Volunteers” captures the Canadian experience of going to war with breadth and feeling that will resonate with families near and far.
In it, Wylie captures veterans taking a train to Petawawa before leaving "our rocky shore," then, they continue onward to Korea, Dieppe, Hong Kong, Sicily and Afghanistan where they "gave their youthful innocence so people could be free.”
Some — but sadly not all — of these soldiers go on to return home to Canada where many would begin to start families and a life. The veterans are never the same and they wonder if anything has changed for the people they fought to serve.
Wylie is intentional in refusing to speculate on what happened overseas.
"I just wanted to try to get the feeling of what it was like before and what it was like after," Wylie said. "There was no way I could describe the in-between part."
The lyrics carry with them a vast, gently rolling story line that reflects Canadian folk music and takes inspiration from songwriters Fred Eaglesmith and Richard Thompson.
That timeless feel is surely due in part to inspiration Wylie took from his family's history of high participation in multiple war efforts. His late great-uncle is the famous First World War artist Russell Rabjohn, whose sketches are immortalized in "A Soldier's Sketchbook: The Illustrated First World War Diary of R.H. Rabjohn.”
Also, his father, William Wylie, served with the Princess Patricias (Second World War) and his grandfather (also William Wylie, Bill the musician being the fifth) served with the Princess Louise Fusiliers (First World War). Both veterans refused to talk about the war except while joking.
Wylie's grandfather lost many fingers on one hand and the rest were disfigured - an obvious injury, yet he never explained how this happened. William Wylie the fourth (Bill's father) was also injured in the head two times. From that came a family joke: "A bump on the head never hurt a Wylie," Bill laughs.
No laughing matter to him is the importance of remembering those that serve our freedom today, as well as those who served in the past.
"It's not just the older fellas selling poppies, it's guys 18, 19, 20 years old today," Wylie said. "We should be thinking about them, too"
This song is for people to remember the veterans and to remember the freedom that we have here. That freedom is a lot more important than a lot of other things."
Interested in listening to more of Bill Wylie's music? Visit his page on SoundCloud, here: https://soundcloud.com/user-357726326