"WAR, WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! – MAYBE, BUT WAR SONGS ARE INVALUABLE TO OUR PSYCHE"

War is a sensitive subject but war songs evoke feelings of inspiration, pride, fear, remembrance, confusion and hope.

The headline echoes Edwin Starr’s 1970 anti-Vietnam hit War and most people’s feelings towards conflict.  Culture Club released The War Song in 1984, although not their greatest song it stated, “War is stupid and people are stupid”.  Maybe childish but a true statement?

People are definitely not stupid and music is a very emotive media.
A war song relates to war or a people’s thoughts of conflict, they could be anti-war, pro-war or just statements of warring life.  There are many songs we know and remember today passed through generations of loved ones lost in battle or proud patriotic moments in history.
Historically, there has always been a “war” song.  As early as the 16th century, ballad writers wrote songs encouraging bravery and honour in war.  The earliest British war song was The Ballad of Chevy Chase which was written about the Scottish victory at the Battle of Otterburn in 1388 so may have been written in the 14thCentury.

Later there were “cavalier” ballads about the Spanish Armada, English Civil War and American Civil War. Songs were commonplace during both World War I and II.

Throughout the First World War there were patriotic songs and songs like “Pack Up Your Troubles” which reminded the soldiers of home.  Humorous songs lifted spirits including “Oh It’s A Lovely War”, comically singing of mud and soldier’s food rations. This inspired the film “Oh What A Lovely War”.

Music engulfed the Second World War.  Songs were readily available in the USA and Britain and every country used this powerful media to rally people and troops.  Germany censored some radio, but music played a major part in the war.  Political propaganda used in some compositions gained mental points over the opposition.
Vera Lynn sang the popular war song, “(There’ll Be Bluebirds Over) The White Cliffs of Dover”.  It was written before America had joined the war, and Germany had conquered most of Europe and were bombing Britain.  Both countries’ aircraft fought over the hills of Dover and the song looked forward to hopeful and peaceful times.

Other songs included Vera Lynn’s “We’ll Meet Again” and the theme to TV’s “Dad’s Army”, “Run Rabbit Run” by Flanagan and Allen.

Today, we know “19” by Paul Hardcastle was about the Vietnam War, the soldiers drafting age.  We remember Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s controversial video to “Two Tribes” showing a hand to hand fight between Reagan and Chernenko.  Both were anti-war.  Did you know that some war songs were loved for very different reasons?  Here’s a couple to make you re-think.

“1999” by Prince – Classic dance song? During the Reagan administration when nuclear war was a huge reality, everybody assumed the world would end in 2000.  It states everybody has a bomb so we can dance until the end comes.

“Born In The USA” by Bruce Springsteen – Patriotic anthem? Ronald Reagan misunderstood the negative lyrics about the Vietnam War effects as national pride.  It actually laments loss of national pride and ignorance of the public voice.

Music gives happiness, sadness, love and pain.  It inspires movements, generations and sometimes hope for a better future.

Are there war songs that you have taken to your heart for any reason, inspiring, protesting, hopeful or reflective?

So war is good for nothing, but songs about war are essential to our minds, hearts and souls in this climate of destructive leaders.

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