Goldfrapp, the electronic music group based in London, has just released their newest single, titled “Clay,” inspired by the words of Brian Keith, a Word War II veteran, to a soldier he met and fell in love with during the war.
First reprinted by ONE Magazine in 1961, the letter is addressed to “Dave,” a soldier Keith met while stationed in North Africa. The letter was written on the couples’ anniversary to commemorate their meeting, and its beautifully written prose captures a time when gay soldiers kept their longings and desires close to their hearts.
In 2010, the letter was sent to the President of the United States as part of the “Stories to the Frontlines: Letters to President Obama” campaign, in order to advocate for the repeal of the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Act,” having been found by an adjunct professor at American University in the Library of Congress.
A symbol of love found amidst secrecy and risk, the letter now lives in the newest single by Goldfrapp, which features the lyrics “We want only to live / Only to love and breathe again,” inspired by their love, and echoes the closing of the letter, “You are wonderful light / / My only love / Sleep well / Good night.”
The letter as published by ONE Magazine:
This is in memory of an anniversary – the anniversary of October 27th, 1943, when I first heard you singing in North Africa. That song brings memories of the happiest times I’ve ever known. Memories of a GI show troop – curtains made from barrage balloons – spotlights made from cocoa cans – rehearsals that ran late into the evenings – and a handsome boy with a wonderful tenor voice. Opening night at a theatre in Canastel – perhaps a bit too much muscatel, and someone who understood. Exciting days playing in the beautiful and stately Municipal Opera House in Oran – a misunderstanding – an understanding in the wings just before opening chorus.
Drinks at “Coq d’or” – dinner at the “Auberge” – a ring and promise given. The show 1st Armoured – muscatel, scotch, wine – someone who had to be carried from the truck and put to bed in his tent. A night of pouring rain and two very soaked GIs beneath a solitary tree on an African plain. A borrowed French convertible – a warm sulphur spring, the cool Mediterranean, and a picnic of “rations” and hot cokes. Two lieutenants who were smart enough to know the score, but not smart enough to realize that we wanted to be alone. A screwball piano player – competition – miserable days and lonely nights. The cold, windy night we crawled through the window of a GI theatre and fell asleep on a cot backstage, locked in each other’s arms – the shock when we awoke and realized that miraculously we hadn’t been discovered. A fast drive to a cliff above the sea – pictures taken, and a stop amid the purple grapes and cool leaves of a vineyard.
The happiness when told we were going home – and the misery when we learned that we would not be going together. Fond goodbyes on a secluded beach beneath the star-studded velvet of an African night, and the tears that would not be stopped as I stood atop the sea-wall and watched your convoy disappear over the horizon.
We vowed we’d be together again “back home,” but fate knew better – you never got there. And so, Dave, I hope that where ever you are these memories are as precious to you as they are to me.
Goodnight, sleep well my love.
Note: couple in image are not Keith and “Dave”