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Bookmarks, the new album by Five for Fighting, is out today. If you want to influence the direction of pop culture, John Ondrasik — the man behind Five for Fighting — is the sort of musician you should support. For one thing, he’s the only rock star ever to write a song inspired by Victor Davis Hanson. Here’s the back story, from a piece I wrote for NRO many moons ago:

“A friend of mine was working with Victor and asked if I wanted to meet him,” says Ondrasik, aboard his tour bus before a show in Washington, D.C., last Friday. “I’d read a lot of his work and said I’d love to.” They met at a coffeehouse in Palo Alto and hit it off. Hanson invited Ondrasik to join him for lunch with one of Hanson’s former students, a Marine who was about to deploy to Iraq, and the young soldier’s father, a Vietnam veteran.

At lunch, Ondrasik sat by the dad. “I asked him how he was doing,” says Ondrasik. “He sat back, closed his eyes, and said, ‘It’s really hard on his mom.’ It was obviously hard on him, too. I saw the natural fear of a parent as well as pride in a son who is carrying on a tradition.”

From this encounter came the song “Two Lights.” It’s about a father whose son goes off to war:

One day he came to me, said

Freedom’s nothing to look over

Till each man can stand upon its shoulder

When the father hears that a member of his son’s unit has been killed, he goes for a nighttime drive and hopes that his boy isn’t dead. He asks his wife for a favor: If she hears that their son is alive, leave on two lights. Just before sunrise, as the man arrives home, he looks up at his house and says “my eyes burn.” What does it mean?

“I had to leave it open-ended, because sometimes the news is good and sometimes it’s bad,” says Ondrasik. “The song symbolizes the no-man’s-land that these families live in every day.”

John J. Miller — John J. Miller is the national correspondent for National Review and the director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College. His new book is Reading Around: Journalism on Authors, Artists, and Ideas.

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