Remembrance and Veterans Day

Veterans Day and Remembrance Day November 11, 2022

In Canada, England and the Commonwealth, Remembrance Day was created to observe the end of WWI and remember those who sacrificed their lives and also to those that gave service. Since that time it has come to mark military service throughout our history, and those 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. However when the need arises we must be thankful to those who answer the call. I am the proud son of WWII Royal Canadian Navy Veteran, Petty Officer Ivan Grant Dafoe.

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.

There are of course so many songs from Britain, Ireland and the UK relating to war, some dating back centuries. In 1914 the popular recruiting songs included “Your King and Country Need You” as sung by Helen Clark. A popular song among the soldiers during WWI was “Mademoiselle from Armentières” and the line we all may recognize, “Inky Pinky Parlez Vous”.

I give you this story from the Canadian Legion website; Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae of Guelph, Ontario, a Canadian Medical Officer during the First World War. John McCrae penned the Poem “In Flanders Fields” on a scrap of paper in May 1915 on the day following the death of a fellow soldier. Little did he know then that those 13 lines would become enshrined in the hearts and minds of all who would wear them. McCrae’s poem was published in Punch Magazine in December of that same year.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

The significance of the Poppy dates back to the Napoleonic Wars were the red flowers grew on the graves of soldiers in Flanders, France.

War Protest songs of the United States

In the US there are thousands of songs from over the years to choose from, in no particular order, I’ve decided on several that caught my attention. Sorry for all the Country song references but the genre seems well suited for this theme.

One of the earliest songs is based on a poem written by Ethel Lynn Beers “The Picket Guard” from 1861. The music was composed by J.H. Hewitt and it was titled “All Quiet Along the Potomac Tonight” and published in 1863. It first appeared as a recording in a medley “Eating Goober Peas – Here’s Your Mule – All Quiet Along the Potomac Tonight” by Frank Luther & Zora Layman with The Century Quartet in 1939. Here is a 1989 version by The 97th Regimental String Band with lead vocals by Mark Luce.

John Bray wrote “Trench Blues” and later recorded it with the help of Musicologist, Folklorist  and Historian John Lomax in 1938. It was about his experiences in 1917 during WWI.

There is the very poignant song “The Hills of Shiloh” written by Shel Silverstein (A Boy Named Sue) and Jim Friedman. It is about a woman who can’t accept the death of her husband during the Civil War some 40 years later. First recorded by The New Christy Minstrels in 1962, but perhaps the most well known versions are from the legendary Judy Collins in 1964 and  Bobby Bare in 1973.

The Ballad of the Green Berets” written by Robin Moore and Staff Sgt. Barry Sadler who also sang the song. It 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. More recently it was featured in the movie ‘12 Strong‘ being sung by the cast during a helicopter take-off scene. Forty 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’ on the site including Kate Smith and Duane Eddy, I found this one on Youtube, Dolly Parton.

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.

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). Previously ranked #14 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time but dropped down to #100 on the 2021 edition and the highest rated ‘protest’ song on the list that mentions ‘war’ specifically. John Lennon’s “Imagine” is a timeless piece ranked at #19 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 “Fortunate Son” by CCR, written by John Fogerty and ranked at #227. It is more pointed at the elite who were able to help their sons avoid the Military draft in the US during the Vietnam War.  A song that is off the new list is Buffalo Springfield’s “For What it’s Worth” (1966) formerly 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, 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 penned 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. “Bring the Boys Home” recorded by Freda Payne (1971) written by Angelo Bond, General Johnson (Norman Earl Johnson and far as I know not an actual “General”) and Greg Perry. The Vietnam protest song was banned from American Forces Radio for fear it would “give aid and comfort to the enemy”. Covered very few times, here is one by Jann Arden (2007). The song “War” popularized by Edwin Starr in 1970 was directed solely at the Vietnam War but took on a more universal meaning. Written by Barrett Strong and Norman Whitfield it was first recorded by Motown legends The Temptations, just a few months earlier that same year.

Johnny Cash recorded “The Ballad of Ira Hayes” in 1961, a very moving story about the brutal realities  of living with PTSD and post war discrimination. This song was written and first recorded by Folk Singer John La Farge, it is based on true events and the tragic story of Ira Hamilton Hayes (January 12, 1923 – January 24, 1955). He was a Native American from Arizona and a United States Marine during WWII.

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 written quite directly 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.

Buffy Sainte-Marie wrote and recorded a brilliant commentary on war “Universal Soldier“, released in 1964. It was first recorded by the Folk group The Highwaymen in 1963. The most popular version is by Donovan from 1965.

The War in the Ukraine has brought out the amazing resilience and fortitude of the Ukrainian people. Most will have seen or heard spontaneous groups singing in the subway bomb shelters. Here is Ukrainian singer Eileen with a traditional folk song, 🇺🇦 Ой, у лузі червона калина, In the Meadow, the Red Guelder Rose Has Bent Down.  Red Cross support.

In Canada there are a number of organizations assisting our war veterans; https://woundedwarriors.ca/https://vetscanada.org/donate.php 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 pinswhere the proceeds go to help vets through the Royal Canadian and British Legions.

References; 9, 1, 2
3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8,

images; 1, 2,

7 thoughts on “Remembrance and Veterans Day

  1. Great coverage from all angles. I have always had a soft spot for “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary” … that goes back to remembering it on the last Mary Tyler Moore show.

    Liked by 1 person

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