Washington area radio stations of every musical persuasion are keeping their listeners mindful of the Persian Gulf war. "Last week, we started playing the national anthem at 12 noon every day," says Lorrin Palagi, operations manager of WRQX-FM, an adult contemporary station. WRQX also plays Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the U.S.A" periodically. "The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive," Palagi says, though "we've had some people who feel that by asking people to pray for and support our troops, we're advocating war."
Country station WMZQ-FM is playing "one patriotic song an hour," says program director Gary McCartie. "Everything from Lee Greenwood's 'God Bless the U.S.A.' to a new song by Waylon Jennings called 'The Eagle' to a song by the U.S. Navy Band called 'We Are With You.' " That Navy song, recorded within the past few weeks specifically for the gulf troops, is getting the most reaction. And McCartie reports no peacenik backlash. "For the most part, people who like country music are very patriotic and very conservative politically."
On the other side of the fence, the Annapolis-based progressive rock station WHFS-FM has been playing the new all-star version of John Lennon's "Give Peace a Chance," as well as topically appropriate tracks by the likes of U2, XTC and the Police. But WHFS announcer Howie Green says the station is being careful not to overdo it, despite a flood of phone requests from anti-war listeners. "If we play everything people are requesting," Green says, "we'd be doing that all day long."
Even WPGC-FM, the dance-pop station that recently topped the local Arbitron ratings, is rotating Ray Charles's "America," Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World" and a "custom mix" of Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On," including snippets of phone conversations with family members of service people. "It's gripping," says General Manager Ben Hill.
WHUR-FM hasn't added any songs because of the gulf crisis, but it has been playing "We Are the World" and other "unity" songs in honor of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday. Asked why his urban contemporary station doesn't fire up, oh, Edwin Starr's "War" every hour on the hour, music director Mike Archie says, "We don't want to make it so much of a novelty item. Our listeners might consider that in bad taste."