Men In A War: 10 Songs for Memorial Day

Here’s a playlist on the costs of war as we take the day off to think about loss and sacrifice.

  • Men In A War, Suzanne Vega (Days of Open Hand, 1990, A&M) written by Suzanne Vega: An ode to phantom limbs also used as a metaphor for relationships. Good, haunting Vega fare.
  • It’s A Mistake, Men At Work (Cargo, 1983, Columbia) written by Colin Hay: Oops, there goes civilization in this great 80’s nugget about the Cold War.
  • The Deserter, Fairport Convention (Liege & Lief, 1969, A&M): A great traditional ballad about the the ironies of military conscription.
  • Company Policy, Martin Carthy (Right of Passage, 1988, Topic) written by Martin Carthy: Carthy’s poignant ballad about sailors in the Falkland War, waiting like sitting ducks in their boats until needed on shore.
  • The Band Played Waltzing Matilda, The Pogues (Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash, 1985, WEA) written by Eric Bogle: The tale of a maimed Australian soldier in World War I, highlighting the horrors of war.
  • Where the Rose Is Sown / Come Back to Me, Big Country (Steeltown, 1984, Mercury) written by Stuart Adamson, Mark Brzezicki, Tony Butler, and Bruce Watson: A pair of songs about misplaced patriotism and its costs on the field and at home.
  • Gulf War Song, Moxy Früvous (Bargainville, 1993, Atlantic) written by Mike Ford, Murray Foster, Jean Ghomeshi, and David Matheson: A great song about misplaced values leading to war. “Fighters for Texaco” indeed.
  • This World Over, XTC (The Big Express, 1984, Virgin) written by Andy Partridge: Powerful stuff; heavy-handed in that masterful Andy Partridge way. “The reason that we murdered everything upon the surface of the world was so we could stand right up and say we did it in His name.”
  • Workers’ Song, Dick Gaughan (Handful of Dust, 1981, Topic) written by Ed Pickford: A brilliant song interpreted as only Dick Gaughan could. When the rich want to fight a war, the poor are the first ones on the lines.
  • No Man’s Land, June Tabor (Ashes & Diamonds, 1977, Topic) written by Eric Bogle: Another brilliant song about the futility of war by Eric Bogle, devastatingly interpreted by June Tabor. “A whole generation that was butchered and damned…”

While I believe that it is sometimes necessary to take up arms to defend against an aggressor, far too often we suffer through wars based on greed, lies, or the pointless imposition of a particular set of values. I respect the sacrifices made by our veterans and wish the need for that sacrifice had been more often just.

[Repurposed from my Veterans’ Day post on The Solipsistic Me]

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About Robert Hulshof-Schmidt
Freelance writer, researcher, online comic vendor, and project manager. Fan of a wide range of music -- especially folk and 80s pop -- vintage comics, British TV, and LGBT fiction.

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