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Barry Sadler, 'Green Berets' Balladeer, Dies

November 06, 1989|HECTOR TOBAR | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Singer-songwriter Barry Sadler, who recorded the hit "Ballad of the Green Berets," died Sunday in a Tennessee hospital.

Sadler, 49, had been hospitalized in various facilities since he was critically wounded by gunfire last year while training Contra rebels in Guatemala.

Sadler, who suffered brain damage in the shooting, died at the Alvin C. York Medical Center in Murfreesboro, hospital spokesman Albert Archie said. Cause of death was not disclosed and an autopsy will be performed, he said.

Army Staff Sgt. Sadler recorded "Ballad of the Green Berets," which was the No. 1 song in the country for five weeks in 1966. The song, a narrative tribute to the Special Forces which he claimed to have written in a Mexican brothel, sold 9 million singles and albums. Sadler had not been singing for at least 10 years.

Sadler left the Army in 1967 and began largely unsuccessful efforts to parlay the hit song into an entertainment career. He appeared in a film and a handful of television shows, including "Death Valley Days." But as one business partner said, "He just didn't take off like (World War II hero) Audie Murphy."

In 1978, Sadler shot and killed the estranged boyfriend of a woman he was seeing. Sadler pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to up to five years in the Tennessee State Penitentiary. The judge later reduced the sentence to 30 days with two years' probation.

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