The Hill School will host a talk and book signing by the journalist and historian Marc Leepson on Thursday, May 25, at 7 p.m. in the Sheila C. Johnson Arts Center. Leepson, the author of nine books, will present a lively talk on his newly published Ballad of the Green Beret, a biography of Army Sgt. Barry Sadler, whose song “The Ballad of the Green Berets,” was the No. 1 hit of 1966. The event is free and open to the public.
“We are very excited to have Marc speak on Sgt. Sadler and his iconic song,” said Treavor Lord, Hill’s head of school. “And we’re happy to offer this event to the Middleburg community.”
In 1966, the top Billboard Hot 100 single wasn’t The Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black” or the Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine”—it was “The Ballad of the Green Berets,” a patriotic tribute to the Special Forces written and performed by Staff Sgt. Barry Sadler, a wounded Vietnam War veteran. Sadler soon became a national sensation, going viral a generation before anyone knew the word “internet.”
But his all-American image hid a darker side, a life of booze, women, and guns. Unable to score another hit, Barry Sadler wrote a string of popular pulp fiction books that, a friend said, made “Rambo look like a stroll through Disneyland.” Settling in Central America, Sadler wrote books, allegedly trained guerrillas, provided medical care to residents, and caroused at his villa. In 1988 he was shot in the head in Guatemala City and died a year later.
“Marc will give glimpses into the sensational details of Barry Sadler’s life during his meteoric rise and tragic fall,” Lord said, “along with the bigger picture of American society and culture during and after the Vietnam War.”
Middleburg’s Second Chapter Books will be on hand to offer signed copies of Ballad of the Green Beret, as well as several of Leepson’s other books, including Saving Monticello.