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Top Ten Memorial Day Songs | The Nation

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Peter Rothberg

Peter Rothberg

Opposing war, racism, sexism, climate change, economic injustice and high-stakes testing.

Top Ten Memorial Day Songs

Arlington

Army 1st Sargeant Shelly Jenkins places flags on graves at Arlington National Cemetery ahead of Memorial Day. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Memorial Day, first known as Decoration Day, originated in the North after the Civil War to commemorate fallen Union soldiers. By the 20h century the holiday had been extended to honor American casualties of all wars. I’ve always thought that the best way to honor the fallen is to prevent needless deaths in the future by engaging in combat only as a true last resort.

In this vein, here are my Top Ten Memorial Day Songs. The list is highly debatable; songs about war and attendant suffering cut across musical genres. Though I proudly claim some hippie roots I’ve omitted played-out classics like “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?,“ “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “Imagine” and “Give Peace A Chance.” I’ve also given short shrift to an important subgenre of heavy metal antiwar anthems like Motorhead’s “1916” and Metallica’s 1989 classic, “One,” and ignored the rich history of punk rock odes to the insanity of war. Use the comments field to tell me what I missed.

1. Loretta Lynn, Dear Uncle Sam

2. Bill Withers, I Can’t Write Left-Handed

3. Bob Dylan, Masters of War

4. Curtis Mayfield, We Gotta Have Peace

5. Joni Mitchell, The Fiddle and the Drum

6. The Jam, Little Boy Soldiers

7. Freda Payne, Bring the Boys Home

8. Bob Marley, War/No More Trouble

9. Eric Bogle, The Green Fields of France

10. Paper Lace, Billy Don’t Be a Hero

Bonus Track: Nick Lowe, What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love and Understanding

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