War and Music : 10 Of The Best

War and Music : 10 Of The Best

Mix Anzac Day with music and plenty of tunes, songs and singers spring to mind.

Synonymous with Anzac Day is The Last Post, the most moving and emotional sound of all – that never fails to firmly place us into a state of reflection – from the first sound of the bugle, through the one minute of silence that follows it.


The Vietnam War that was a dominant subject of the rock and folk scene of that era. But there have been many songwriters and singers who have taken a longer view back to World Wars I and II and some who have written about more recent wars.


In honour of all who have served and continue to serve, here is a list of 10 popular songs about war, its consequences and the imagery and emotion it evokes within us.


1. No Man’s Land (The Green Fields of France)

Written By Eric Bogle

Sung by The Fureys

Written by Eric Bogle (born in Scotland but emigrated to Australia in 1969 at the age of 25). He says of his two famous war songs (above and below) that they were written in sympathy to all those who were sent to fight in WWI, but does not call himself an authentic voice because he has never fought in a war! The imagery of his words is stunning in both these songs and to not shed tears listening to these would be incredible. ‘And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda’ was named in the top 30 Australian songs of 1970 by APRA .


2. And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda

Written by Eric Bogle

Sung By John Williamson


3. I was Only Nineteen – Redgum


The song is a first-person account of a typical Australian infantry regular soldiers experience in the Vietnam War, from training in Australia to first-hand exposure to military operations and combat, and ultimately his return home disillusioned, psychologically scarred and possibly suffering from the effects of the chemical defoliant Agent Orange.


4. Eve of Destruction –Barry McGuire


Written by P F Sloan in 1964.

Best known recording was by Barry McGuire, released 1965


5. Devils and Dust – Bruce Springsteen


Bruce Springsteen – 2005

Bruce Springsteen has written about the men and women in the armed services a fair amount, especially those who served in Vietnam (“Born in the U.S.A.,” “Shut Out the Light”) and Iraq (“Gypsy Biker,” “Last to Die”). More often than not, these songs are focused on the aftermath, but in “Devils & Dust,” he puts us right there on the Middle Eastern battlefield. Springsteen views war not as a battle between armies, but a battle within oneself between fear and faith. “What if what you do to survive kills the things you love?” he asks.


6. When The Tigers Broke Free

Written by Roger Waters of Pink Floyd, performed by Pink Floyd


Even casual Pink Floyd fans know that Roger Waters has an obsession with World War II, due to the fact that his father died at the hands of the Nazis. Eric Fletcher Waters was part of Operation Shingle in Italy, where British forces were overrun by an attack by German tiger tanks – hence “When the Tigers Broke Free.” In the song, Roger blames the British high command for being callous with human lives. It was featured in ‘The Wall’ movie and soundtrack.


7. Spirit of the Anzacs

Written By Lee Kernaghan


Lee Kernaghan – 2015.  “Spirit of the Anzacs” is based on Paul Keating’s 1993 eulogy at the interment of the Unknown Soldier, one of Australia’s most iconic speeches. Kernaghan said the song was inspired by Keating’s immortal words, “He is all of them. And he is one of us.” The song features Guy Sebastian, Sheppard, Jon Stevens, Jessica Mauboy, Shannon Noll and Megan Washington. It was released on 22 January 2015


8. Lili Marlene

Written By Hans Leip (1915)

Music by Norbert Schultze (1938)

Sung by Vera Lynn


Leip was a 22-year-old soldier fighting in the First World War. He wrote his poem to express the anguish of separation from his sweetheart, a grocer’s daughter named Lili. On sentry duty at night, he would receive a friendly wave from a nurse going off duty; her name was Marleen.

In 1937, feeling that the darkness of another war was looming, Leip released his collection of poems, including The Song of a Young Sentry. It was his hope that those who had not lived through the First World War might be alerted to the pain and horror of wars fought in the name of ‘national pride’.


9. Give Peace a Chance

Written by John Lennon 1969

Performed by The Plastic Ono Band

Written during his bed-in with Yoko, this song became an anthem of the American anti-war movement during the 1970s.


10. The Last Post

The Last Post marks the end of a soldier’s day.



Elizabeth Briggs
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