John Wayne passed away more than 30 years ago, and his spoken word recording was last available at that time. Even though America, Why I Love Her is long gone, the patriotic album with a title track paying homage to the matchless beauty and bounty of the U.S. was remembered by many of the nation's citizens, especially in the wake of the tragic terrorist attacks against the U.S. that took place on September 11, 2001. Radio stations dug out their copies and proudly aired the Duke's voice as he recited the poetry of fellow actor John Mitchum: "From Alaska's cold to the Everglades/From the Rio Grande to Maine/My heart cries out, my pulse runs fast/At the might of her domain." In the days and weeks following the attacks, it was easy to comprehend the appeal of a recording that hailed a Kansas sunset or an Arizona rain and other details unique to each state in the union. It would be just as easy to assume that in 1973, when the album was first released, and again six years later when Wayne died and it was reissued, that the recording held appeal only to die-hard patriots and fans of the actor -- not so. The poetry that was the foundation of America, Why I Love Her stood on its own merits and earned a Grammy nomination. In two weeks, the total number of copies sold topped 100,000, and Simon and Schuster published a companion book in 1977.
According to one story about how the macho Wayne came to record poetry, the patriotic words made his eyes well with tears the first time he heard them, and he vowed on the spot to record them. Unfortunately, the declining state of Wayne's health resulted in some delays, and three years passed before the album was finished. Today the recording is once again available, this time in CD form, thanks to Mitchum's daughter, Cindy Mitchum Azbill. The Duke and poetry -- an odd pairing at first glance. But this particular match of man and words ultimately turned out to be perfect. Wayne was, after all, one of the nation's mighty symbols as he portrayed tough American men with grit in role after role. He appeared in numerous movies, from films set in the Old West like Red River, Stagecoach, The Searchers, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, The Shootist, True Grit, and Rio Grande, to World War II epics like Sands of Iwo Jima, Back to Bataan, Flying Tigers, The Green Berets, and Fighting Seabees.
Wayne's real name was Marion Morrison. Sources differ concerning his middle name, with some saying it was Michael or Mitchell, while others claim it was Robert. The son of a pharmacist, he relied on a football scholarship in 1925 to enroll at the University of Southern California, although he almost made it into Annapolis. The actor wed three times, the first in 1933 to Josephine Saenz. They divorced in 1945, and the actor married Esperanza Bauer the following year, but after eight years, the marriage ended in divorce. In 1954, Wayne took his third bride, Pilar Palette, and their union lasted until his death from cancer in 1979. The actor raised four daughters and three sons.