Local musician creates ‘Letters to Baghdad’ album as a tribute to our troops

Cliff Knizley’s latest musical venture has nothing to do with his life, but everything to do with Mark Miner’s.
Musician Knizley was introduced to Boots in Baghdad, the blog maintained by soldier Miner in August 2005, by friend Don Dunaway. Dunaway and Knizley share a common interest in the war effort, which sparked Knizley’s first visit to Miner’s site – and affected him more than he had imagined.

“He’s (Miner) an amazing writer and I really had this empathy for him and I thought it was just really compelling stuff,” says Knizley.

With Miner’s permission, Knizley wrote “When I Get Home,” (which eventually would become the first installment on his EP Letters to Baghdad) based on a blog entry Miner wrote about his days left overseas and his expectations when he returned home.

“I went to the site a couple times over the course of that weekend (after the initial introduction to Miner’s blog) and he had written this post that was called 80 Days ’til Home. He was going to be coming back to the states and his deployment would be over,” recalls Knizley.

“There was something about it, something so human about it. It also reminded me of relatives I had that were in WWI and WWII and some of their letters, and I was really struck by the similarities, despite all the decades that had passed.”

Knizley sent the lyrics of “When I Get Home” to Miner, which he requested for use on his blog. The worldwide response was staggering. Less than 24 hours after Miner posted the lyrics, Knizley had received more than 300 e-mails from all over the world commenting on the song.

“I had one lady, whose husband had been deployed to Afghanistan, write me an e-mail saying ‘Can you write a song from the point of view of the people at home, the family members?’ So I did that.” says Knizley about his song “The Ones At Home.”

After such a strong reaction to “When I Get Home,” Knizley decided to make a commitment to recording a “tribute to our troops” album. Letters to Baghdad, a four-track EP, was released in December 2005, just two months after Miner’s return from duty.

“It’s been a really rewarding experience, because I’ve had so many military people or their families write and say ‘thanks for doing this,’ ” says Knizley.

The entire project, which was completed in less than five months, was fueled by Knizley’s true dedication to Miner and countless troops alike. A portion of the proceeds from the CD’s sales is being donated to three charities (which Miner recommended at Knizley’s request):

  1. 1. Lest They Be Forgotten: “Our mission is to create, establish, and help maintain hometown memorials in honor of the brave men and women who have lost their lives defending the United States of America in the war against terrorism.” (www.lesttheybeforgotten.com) .
  2.  Homes for our Troops: An organization that builds and remodels handicap accessible homes for severely wounded veterans. (www.homesforourtroops.org) .
  3.  Freedom Alliance: “The Mission of Freedom Alliance is to advance the American heritage of freedom by honoring and encouraging military service, defending the sovereignty of the United States and promoting a strong national defense.” (www.freedomalliance.org)
    With the assistance of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers legendary drummer Stan Lynch, engineer Jeff Sims and fellow musician Ronny Cates, Knizley produced what he calls a “meat and potatoes” recording, a musical mixture that would appeal to a mass audience and ensure a larger response from consumers — something that was particularly important on this album.

“It was actually writing the stuff for this EP that was the real incentive from me to write some music that was very meat and potatoes. Up until then I just kind of always did what I wanted to do and if you liked it great and if you didn’t, that’s great too,” says Knizley. “But when I did this I really wanted it to be as accessible to as many people as possible,” says Knizley.

Information: To learn more about Mark Miner and his blog, go to www.bootsinbaghdad.com
For more on Letters to Baghdad and Cliff Knizley, including upcoming gig dates, go to cliffknizley.com
Go to staugustine.com to listen to Knizley discuss his recent project, Letters to Baghdad.

St. Augustine Record ©2012. All Rights Reserved.
JULIA CALGIANO. February 03, 2006.

2016 Cliff Knizley © All rights reserved