War is a much talked-about topic. As a result, it should come as no surprise to learn that there have been a lot of songs written about soldiers as well as other related subjects. Naturally, some of these are better than others.
10. Disposable Heroes
Metallica’s “Disposable Heroes” came out in the mid 1980s. As such, it isn’t rooted in a particular zeitgeist in the same way as a lot of other songs on this list. However, that doesn’t invalidate its core sentiment, which remains very much relevant.
9. The Unknown Soldier
The Vietnam War resulted in a lot of anti-war songs. One of the better examples would be The Doors’ “Unknown Soldier,” which was inspired by a visit to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Arlington National Cemetery. Despite its name, it isn’t focused on the countless soldiers who have fought in wars without being remembered. Instead, “Unknown Soldier” is much more concerned with the way that the news of the conflict was presented to people still at home rather than fighting in a far-off place.
8. Wake Me Up When September Ends
Green Day was one of the bands that popularized punk in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Its music was fun, but its music was no more than that. However, Green Day found a new surge of success with the rock opera American Idiot in 2004, which resonated with a generation that had grown more and more disillusioned with the 2000s. “Wake Me Up When September Ends” was unusual in that it had little connection to the storyline that ran throughout the rest of the album. Instead, it focused upon the more general theme of loss. For the singer-songwriter Billie Joe Armstrong, it was about the death of his father from esophageal cancer when he was still at the age of 10. However, the music video was about a couple separated by the Iraq War, which says much about its versatility.
7. Hero of War
Speaking of which, “Hero of War” is another song from the same period in war. Unlike “Wake Me Up When September Ends,” it is much more specific. After all, “Hero of War” is from the perspective of a young man who becomes disillusioned by how his experience as a soldier is nothing like what he was told it would be but remains dedicated to his country. Something that winds up shattering when he accidentally kills a woman who was carrying a white flag.
6. War Pigs
One can make the argument that “War Pigs” stumbled into becoming an anti-war classic. After all, it wasn’t always meant as such. Instead, “War Pigs” had to be renamed “Walpurgis” because its original name was considered to be too Satanic. Conveniently, its lyrics didn’t need to be changed at all, thus enabling it to very smoothly claim its position in the history books.
5. Mrs. McGrath
“Mrs. McGrath is a much older song that most of those mentioned here. Indeed, it references the Peninsular War, which saw Britain, Spain, and Portugal fighting it out with Napoleonic France for control of the Iberian Peninsula in the early 19th century. However, “Mrs. McGrath” isn’t from the perspective of the great and mighty. Instead, it is the story of an Irishwoman whose son has been gone for seven years before returning without his legs, which is a vivid reminder of the toll of empire. Many people have covered the song, but one of the most memorable would be that of Bruce Springsteen’s.
4. Machine Gun
Jimi Hendrix’s “Machine Gun” is another memorable song from the early 1970s. Primarily, it is a protest of the Vietnam War that was being fought at the time. However, the lyrics of “Machine Gun” are universal enough that it can be interpreted as a protest of other conflicts as well.
3. Fortunate Son
“Fortunate Son” came out in 1969, so it should come as no surprise to learn that it is another song focused on the Vietnam War. However, it stands out in that it isn’t quite focused on the conflict itself. Instead, “Fortunate Son” is more focused on pointing out the unfairness of class, which is why its name refers to the children of the elite who could avoid the consequences of the decisions made by their parents. Something that couldn’t be said for the other people of the same generation who weren’t born into the same kind of status.
2. Battle Hymn of the Republic
The classics are considered classics for a reason. To name an example, consider the “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” which has been popular ever since the American Civil War. Its lyrics were penned by the abolitionist Julia Ward Howe. However, the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” was inspired by “John Brown’s Body,” which in turn, can trace its roots to even earlier music. In any case, while the song has a much different sentiment from a lot of the other works mentioned here, its power means that it has more than earned its place.
This can sound rather strange. After all, the Iliad is a poem, which most people would consider something to be read rather than sung. However, the fact of the matter is that it was often sung while accompanied by musical instruments in ancient Greece, which explains why it is sometimes called the Song of Ilium. A lot of people confuse the Iliad for the Epic Cycle that covered the entirety of the Trojan War. However, that is a serious mistake because it is centered on a single episode late in the conflict. For those who are curious, Achilles withdraws from the Trojan War because he is dishonored by Agamemnon. As a result, the Greeks take serious losses, so much so that Achilles’s friend Patroclus pretends to be him for the purposing of heartening their comrades. He succeeds for a time, but his overconfidence causes him to be killed by the Trojan prince Hector. Achilles is furious and heartsick, with the result that he returns to the battlefield, kills Hector, and then desecrates Hector’s corpse by dragging it behind his chariot. That night, he is visited by Hector’s father Priam, who has come to beg for the return of the corpse. Initially, Achilles is reluctant. However, he soon relents in a moment of empathy, knowing that someday he will be in Hector’s position while his own father Peleus will be in Priam’s position. Simply put, the Iliad is one of the most famous works of the western canon. Furthermore, it is interesting in that it has a very ambiguous opinion of its subject matter, which might not be what interested individuals expected from something that was penned more than two-and-a-half millennia ago.