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]


Song of the Day, May 17: A Different Kind of Love Song by Dick Gaughan

Today’s song is A Different Kind of Love Song by Dick Gaughan. This is one of those songs that grabbed me hard the first time I heard it and never let go. Taken from his 1983 album of the same title, it is a powerful statement about being involved with your fellow man. The entire album is polititical folk at its finest, but turns didactic, beautiful, illustrative, questioning, and throughout both musically and lyrically compelling.

So I’ll keep trying to make people happy
I’ll keep trying in the best way I know how
And for me to help make the most people happy
I must make you even more sad and angry now

The song compelled me to write a post about civic and political engagement on my husband’s blog, Social Justice For All. Please enjoy this powerful song and wish Dick Gaughan a happy 63rd birthday today.

Freddie Mercury’s Ghost Haunts Palin’s Home Town

This song will corrupt your children!

There must be something in the water in Wasilla, Alaska. As if their former mayor weren’t wacky enough, now we learn that the principal of Wasilla High School tried to practice a particularly nasty bit of censorship.

The school’s symphonic jazz choir was preparing to perform Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. After a parental complaint, Principal Dwight Probasco told the choir they could not perform the song because of the late Freddie Mercury’s sexual orientation. What?!?

That’s right, Freddie was gay, so the song must carry secret gay messages! I guess the drama club won’t be able to perform West Side Story; who knows what secret bisexual messages Leonard Bernstein hid in that one?

Fortunately, the students were not willing to take this censorship without a fight. Junior Casey Hight contacted the ACLU. Said Hight,

I felt like the school was discriminating for sexual orientation and I felt it was wrong. It’s so stupid because there’s nothing sexual in the song. There aren’t even any cuss words.

The mere threat of the ACLU caused Principal Probasco to back down, as most bullies will do if one stands up to them. Bravo to the students for standing up for their rights and opposing blatant discrimination and censorship. Somewhere out there, Freddie is smiling.

(h/t – Just Out)
(cross-posted from my husband’s blog, The Solipsistic Me)


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