Whether you’re honoring our veterans for Memorial Day or celebrating the Fourth of July, you might want to stop for a moment and think about the song, “Before You Go.” With lyrics written by Doctor Sam and music composed by John Melnick, this one song has been viewed over twenty million times and played around the world. Although “Before You Go” is a widely-shared song, the story behind how this song evolved truly shows how there is a song for each and every one of us.
At the heart of this story is a retired doctor named Dr. Sam, who leads the group “Dr. Sam and the Managed Care Blues Band,” specializing in entertaining and humorous songs for the health care industry. In 2002, Dr. Sam was leaving an airport parking structure in Florida and handed his money to an older gentleman who worked as the parking attendant. The attendant muttered, “Gee, I took two bullets for this country and look what I’m doing.” Dr. Sam thanked him for his service, and the veteran started to cry. Shaken up by the experience, Dr. Sam drove home and wrote the lyrics to “Before You Go.” For three years, Dr. Sam searched for someone to set his powerful lyrics to music but couldn’t get anyone interested. As luck would have it, lifelong musician John Melnick joined Dr. Sam’s band in 2005. When Dr. Sam asked John whether or not he’d be interested, John had no idea how powerful this song would become. Two weeks after John sat down with Dr. Sam and the lyrics, “Before You Go” was finally finished.
You can listen to the song “Before You Go” here: http://www.beforeyougo.us/
After the song was finished, Dr. Sam put together a pictorial to illustrate the song’s lyrics and emailed the link to about a hundred friends and family. The effect of that one, single email was phenomenal. What started out as a few visits a day to http://www.beforeyougo.us snowballed into an average of sixty thousand daily visitors who have all listened to the song for free.
Performed in the House of Representatives for Flag Day in 2006, this single song of gratitude has touched people so deeply that they’ve sent letters, emails and responses to Dr. Sam and John. For John, this song has a tremendous connection for him because he grew up in the Vietnam era near Long Island, where the community was specifically built for the GIs that returned home from WWII. John expresses that, “My parents grew up in that period of time and this song is a way of honoring their generation.” John also shared with us a chilling reminder: the soldiers who served in World War II didn’t know what the outcome of the war was going to be. Although history books describe the winners of wars around the world, many of the men and women who served their duty were simply lucky to survive.
Although Dr. Sam and John could have capitalized on the song, they’ve decided to offer it for free because it’s the “right thing to do.” The message of honoring the soldiers and their sacrifices is so powerful to them, that they’ve allowed you to create your own pictorial set to the music on their website. In addition to their original video for WWII and Korean War veterans, they’ve also created a pictorial for soldiers who’ve served in Vietnam as well.
We also took a moment to ask John if there were any stories that stood out in his mind. Although every story is meaningful to him, there are a few stories that still cause him to pause and reflect, no matter what he is doing at the time. One letter he received was from a set of twin brothers; one lives in Colorado and the other in Arizona. These brothers were only nine years old when they were rescued from Auschwitz, where they were lost their parents. When Auschwitz was liberated, they were taken by a company of American soldiers who kept them with them for two months until they returned to safety. Although they grew up as Americans and are prosperous and happy now, the twins expressed that they owed their lives to the American soldiers who went above and beyond the call of duty to protect them. John concluded his story by saying, “It’s enough to say ‘Thank You’ as many times as possible before the soldiers leave this earth. Whether we agree with our country’s policy or not, they sacrifice our lives to protect us.”
John and Dr. Sam are still performing together today, and the popularity of their song still amazes them. Musicnotes.com would like to express our deepest thanks to both John and Dr. Sam for allowing us to get the story behind this song and feature it for Memorial Day. We hope you have the chance to listen to or play sheet music for Before You Go to say “Thank You” to a veteran or a soldier today.