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John Schumann Records 'I Was Only 19' With The Waifs

7 September 2023 | 9:31 am | Mary Varvaris

The new version of 'I Was Only 19' offers a whole new perspective on the experience of war, inputting a different emotional vantage point to a timeless song.

John Schumann & The Waifs

John Schumann & The Waifs (Source: Supplied)

John Schumann and The Waifs have joined forces for a new version of the Redgum classic, I Was Only 19, to commemorate the iconic Aussie song’s 40th anniversary.

Described as a “new voices in a song for the ages”, Donna Simpson singing the opening verse to I Was Only 19 offers a whole new perspective on the experience of war, inputting a different emotional vantage point to a timeless song.

After Schumann takes the second verse, he and The Waifs share harmonies in the chorus and keep the song acoustic and impactful. The new version was produced by Shane Nicholson, with the track hitting streaming services tomorrow. You can watch the music video – which features archival footage as well as The Waifs and Schumann in the studio – below.

“We have enjoyed a lot of highlights in a career spanning more than thirty years, but being invited to be a part of the reimagining of such an iconic Australian work ranks right up near the top,” The Waifs commented in a press release. “It’s a song as important today as it’s ever been, and we‘re humbled and honoured to make our contribution to the next chapter in the extraordinary life of I Was Only 19.”

Schumann added, noting the reworked version’s artist royalties going to the Commando Welfare Trust, “It’s worth recalling that of the 41 Australians who were killed in Afghanistan, 16 were Commandos. At this time, when there’s a bit of negative media coverage around - particularly about the Australian Special Forces - we understand that right now, many veterans are feeling diminished.

“This small gesture is us wanting to stand beside them and remind Australians that the vast majority of Afghanistan veterans served bravely and honourably.”

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Also commemorating the 40th anniversary of I Was Only 19 is Schumann’s longtime friend, poet and journalist, Warwick McFadyen. He wrote in the opening visual of the clip: “Our soldiers do not die in conflict upon our shores. They are not wounded on our streets. The thread of war is spun in foreign lands.

“When the veterans of the Vietnam war came home, they were not greeted with cheers, rather a great silence which seeped into their bones. It turned duty into a shroud.”

Earlier this year, Schumann opened up to The Music’s Jeff Jenkins about why Redgum’s music is still vital to this day. Meanwhile, The Waifs continue their expansive tour celebrating the 20th anniversary of their debut album, Up All Night.

Pre-save Schumann and The Waifs’ version of I Was Only 19 here.