The Doobie Brothers' Patrick Simmons, left, and Tom Johnston. (Photo credit: Joe Lee/USO)
Today, the USO will broadcast the world premiere music video of The Doobie Brothers’ hit song, “Far From Home,”written to describe, from a parent’s perspective, the bittersweet moment when a son or daughter leaves home for the first time to make their own way in the world.
“We held a contest where we invited people to send in their home videos that portrayed the tune and the winners had their clips and photos featured in our video,” said The Doobie Brothers founder and vocalist Pat Simmons.
“Some of the most effective videos were those of military families,” he added. “Their separation being a very contemporary subject, we realized then that the song addressed a broader audience. It wasn’t just about our kids going away to school or leaving home. It was as much about other families’ experiences, particularly the military.”
The selection of home video clips of graduations, reunions and goodbyes were married to Simmons’ trademark finger-picking of his acoustic guitar and the heart-tugging violin of 30-year Doobies veteran John McFee. The combination creates a warm reminder of just how painful it can be for families to be far from home.
According to Simmons, the video was created as a collaboration with fans because they had everything to do with the creation of the song in the first place.
“A long-time friend of mine used to bring me bits and pieces of music he was working on and he would ask me to listen to it and tell him what I think,” he added. “I really thought he had some talent and I like to encourage talent when I see it.
“About two years ago he came to the gig and handed me another CD. This time he handed me a track with some guitar changes I really liked. I took it home, kept listening to it and finally called him. I asked if he minded me taking these changes to see if I could come up with a song. He said, ‘Of course. I’ve been hoping all these years you’d say that!’”
That song became “Far From Home.”
The Doobie Brothers are no strangers to being far from home. In addition to their multiple tours over the past 40 years as a band, they are also long-time USO tour veterans after participating in the 1st Airborne Rock and Roll Division USO tour across East Asia and the Pacific during the mid-1980s.
Back in 1983, Phil Ehart, the drummer for Kansas and an Air Force brat, came to the USO with the idea of putting together an all-star rock band made of his friends to tour bases overseas as a morale-booster for the troops. Ehart assembled his first incarnation of the USO band, consisting of: Rick Nielsen, Robin Zander and Bun E. Carlos of Cheap Trick; Phil Ehart, John Elefante and Rich Williams of Kansas; David Jenkins and Cory Lerios of Pablo Cruise; Leon Medica of Louisiana’s LeRoux and Simmons of The Doobie Brothers.
“It was absolutely one of the coolest experiences of my life,” Simmons said. “I went on the first tour with the USO and the following year I couldn’t go for some reason — I must have been working — so I asked Tom [Johnston] if he would go.”
“We both loved it,” Johnston said. “We’ve talked about it for years and we say all the time how much we want to do it again.”
Until then, Simmons and the rest of The Doobie Brothers hope that this song and the accompanying music video inspires you to say to your family as he does to his kids: “Just remember that you’ll never be that far from home.” — Joe Lee, Staff Writer
Click here to watch the “Far From Home” video.