Memorial Day, first known as Decoration Day, originated in the North after the Civil War to commemorate fallen Union soldiers. By the twentieth century the holiday had been extended to honor all Americans who have died in all wars. I’ve always thought that the best way to honor the fallen is to make every effort to prevent needless deaths in the future by avoiding unnecessary wars and 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 sub-genre 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. Please use the comments field below to tell me what else I’ve 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