Remembrance and Veterans Day

Veterans Day and Remembrance Day

In Canada and the Commonwealth on Remembrance Day we observe the end of WWI to remember those who sacrificed their lives and those that gave service. Since that time it has come to mark military service throughout our history, giving us the peace and prosperity we now enjoy. In the United States it is called Veterans Day and similarly those who served and sacrificed in the military are remembered and honoured. We of course must not forget the others who suffered, sacrificed and supported the military in other ways, least of all the parents and families.

There are many songs written about the military, the wars, the battles and the lives that were affected in tragic and profound ways. Some of the songs are patriotic and celebratory and many are somber and reflective. Equally there are songs that protest wars and military conflicts, speaking of peace and resolving conflict in a non violent fashion, and I believe most of us wish it could be that way.

Mike Plume, a Canadian singer/songwriter released “On Remembrance Day” in November of 2017. A simple and lovely song.

A wonderful tribute from an All-Star group of Canadian Country music artists “Standing Strong & True (For Tomorrow)” (2010), Written by Ron Irving, Lynda McKillip and Tom McKillip.

It’s a Long Way to Tipperary” (first recording, by Ted Yorke in 1912) is one of the most well known wartime songs, at least in the Commonwealth countries. Written by Henry James ‘Harry’ Williams and Jack Judge. Composed and first performed in Stalybridge England in 1912, it became an anthem for WW1 soldiers and those at home as well. Jack Judge’s parents were Irish and his Grandparents were from Tipperary.

In the US there are thousands of songs from over the years to choose from, I’ve decided on a few that caught my attention. Sorry for all the Country song references but the genre seems well suited for this theme.

The Dixie Chicks, “Travelin’ Soldier” is song written by singer/songwriter Bruce Robison. Originally recorded in 1999 by Ty England. The song tells a story about a young soldier heading off to war and subsequent correspondence with “a pretty little girl with a bow in her hair”. The comments made by Natalie Maines during the intro to this song at a performance, coincidentally in London England set off a controversy that lend to the Dixie Chicks being banned from numerous Radio stations and being branded “un-American”, here’s to free speech!

For You” written by Keith Urban and Monty Powell, for the movie ‘Act of Valour’ about the sacrifice made by those serving in the military, all proceeds from this song were donated to the Navy Seals support fund.

The Ballad of the Green Berets” written by Robin Moore and Staff Sgt. Barry Sadler who also sang the song. A song that resonated with me though I was just 7 years old when it came out. I recall asking my father who was a WWII veteran what the song was about, “it’s about war” is all I can remember him saying. It would become a #1 hit song for five weeks in March of 1966, ending the year as the top hit song on Billboard and Cashbox charts. Recently featured in the movie ‘12 Strong‘ being sung by the cast during a helicopter take-off scene. Twenty eight versions are listed according to Secondhandsongs , including instrumentals, recordings in German, French, Finnish, Swedish, Spanish and Italian. There are dozens more english versions not yet ‘listed’ including Kate Smith and Duane Eddy, I found this one on Youtube, Dolly Parton.

Riding With Private Malone” written by Wood Newton and Thom Shepherd, recorded by David Ball released in 2001. Have a listen, just poignant story and a reminder of a soldiers sacrifice.

Somebody’s Daughter” was written by Doug Holmquist and beautifully sung by Pam Miller, it came out in 2016 I believe. A rare tribute in song to the women who serve in the military and a fitting way to end this first part of today’s post.

The war protest song has a long history and each country and or region has their own songs that tell the story of struggles many of us would not understand. Then there are the songs of ‘peace’ which are more passive  in their messaging of protesting war and conflict. Some songs seem to point quite directly at a specific event as there are many about the war in Vietnam as an example, yet many are perhaps more timeless or at least generic in their reference.

For many, myself included the quintessential protest song is Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” first release was on the album ‘The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan’ (May 27,1963). Ranked #14 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and the highest rated ‘protest’ song on the list that mentions ‘war’ specifically. John Lennon’s “Imagine” is a timeless piece ranked at #3 and I would say is in the ‘generic’ peace category.

As I perused the Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs list I find the next ‘war protest’ song might be Buffalo Springfield’s “For What it’s Worth” (1966) ranked at #63. However it was mistakenly interpreted as such when it was often adopted as a war protest song, this Stephen Stills written song is actually a Civil Rights protest song, specifically inspired by the “Sunset Strip curfew riots“. Regardless it was a huge song and was widely used during the Vietnam War (Nov. 1, 1955 – Apr. 30, 1975) protests.

Getting away from the Rolling Stone list as this next song is not on it but is likely one of the most poignant anti-war songs ever written. “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” was written by Pete Seeger and published in his Folk Music Magazine “Sing Out” in 1955. The song contains words taken directly from the Russian Cossacks battle marching song “Koloda Duda” which Seeger read in “And Quiet Flows the Don” a book by Mikhail Sholokhov. Seeger would first release this song in July of 1960 and it perhaps ironically would be turned from a war march into an anti-war song (with added lyrics by Joe Hickerson). As they did with “Blowin’ in the Wind“, Peter, Paul and Mary would be among the first to cover it and release a stirring version in 1962.

I am sure that there are many protest songs from prior conflicts though most I ran across were generally supportive of one side and the troops that were doing all the fighting. However Blues singer and harmonica player Buster Brown (covered by Fleetwood Mac on ‘Mr. Wonderful’) recorded “War Song” during WWII and it’s quite clearly in protest.

I have already blogged many songs in past issues which fit into this category and as mentioned, specifically the Vietnam War inspired many a timeless anti-war song. Here is one I haven’t talked about “What the World Needs Now Is Love” lyrics by Hal David and music by Burt Bacharach. while it seems a more generic song it was directly written in reference to the War in Vietnam. Covered over 250 times it was first released in 1965 by Jackie deShannon. Let’s get out of the 60’s with a cover from the stunning voice of Sara Bareilles from 2016.

In Canada there are a number of organizations assisting our war veterans; and Veterans Transition Network I believe are all legitimate but I have not vetted any of them. There are many others, including Veterans Hospitals. In the US I found this CNN article and in other Countries there are organizations as well. While many receive government funding, public donations are welcomed and necessary.

On November 11 let’s not only remember, but do something to recognize and thank a vet, in Canada and the UK we also have the Poppy pins

where the proceeds go to help vets through the Royal Canadian and British Legions.



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