Skip to main content

Remembrance and Veterans Day

Veterans Day and Remembrance Day

In Canada and the Commonwealth on Remembrance Day we observe the end of WWI to remember those who sacrificed their lives and those that gave service. Since that time it has come to mark military service throughout our history, 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.

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.

In the US there are thousands of songs from over the years to choose from, I've decided on a few that caught my attention. Sorry for all the Country song references but the genre seems well suited for this theme.

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.

"The Ballad of the Green Berets" written by Robin Moore and Staff Sgt. Barry Sadler who also sang the song. A song that 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. Recently featured in the movie '12 Strong' being sung by the cast during a helicopter take-off scene. Twenty eight 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' including Kate Smith and Duane Eddy, I found this one on Youtube, Dolly Parton.

"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). Ranked #14 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and the highest rated 'protest' song on the list that mentions 'war' specifically. John Lennon's "Imagine" is a timeless piece ranked at #3 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 Buffalo Springfield's "For What it's Worth" (1966) 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 as 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 written 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. 

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 directly written 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.

In Canada there are a number of organizations assisting our war veterans; 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 pins 
where the proceeds go to help vets through the Royal Canadian and British Legions.  



If you like my blog, please consider filling in the follow by email link at the top right hand of the page. Remember to confirm the subscription when you get the first email. Confidentiality is assured unless you are a close friend or family member then all bets are off. While I (actually blogger does all the work) can compile data from my blog it's not tracking in terms of anyone's identity. For past blog posts click on the menu at the top right corner. Pass it along to a friend who might enjoy it as well or post it to your timeline on FB. And many thanks as always for reading my blog!


Popular posts from this blog

One Hit Wonders (not!)

One Hit Wonders (not!)

Yesterday (Sept. 26) was the 50th Anniversary of Abbey Road, the Beatles last recording session together and the second last album before Let it Be was issued May 8, 1970. And also Happy belated One Hit Wonder Day! (Sept. 25th) so I thought it would make a good blog topic.

The simplest definition I found is from music journalist Wayne Jancik "an act that has won a position on a national, pop, Top 40 record chart just once." This from the 'The Billboard Book of One-Hit Wonders' (1998). So we aren't talking one #1 hit. It's not a term I like as it implies (and some truth to that) these artists have had just a brief moment in the spotlight, perhaps undeservedly so and then fallen off the music map. I know other and deeper definitions are a bit more broad and go beyond the absolute single hit idea. They also consider many artists that have still maintained a quality career and just not reproduced another 'top 40 hit' song and or ma…

Old Country New Country

Old Country/New Country

What exactly I am about to attempt to demonstrate I confess I'm not 100% certain, but what I do know is that there has been a bit of a downward sliding scale regarding the enduring quality of mainstream Country Music songs. Apologies in advance for rambling and ranting at various points. This is not a history of Country Music but my opinion on the current state of things in general with the genre.

It's murky waters that I'm swimming in here as there is an evolution involved in any music genre so direct comparisons are perhaps inappropriate. I am somewhat aware of the influence the so called Country Music "establishment" has had on this evolution. One need only look at examples like Taylor Swift, Shania Twain and Garth Brooks and others who were criticized and in some cases "shunned" for their unconventional approaches who are now celebrated as part of that same 'establishment'. So there is some hypocrisy at play in my op…

Sweet Soul Music

Sweet Soul Music

Arthur Conley co-wrote this song with Otis Redding and it's a tribute to some of the early greats of Soul Music. The song's melody (and words for that matter) borrowed heavily from the Sam Cooke song "Yeah Man" and a subsequent lawsuit brought by A.W. Alexander who managed Cooke's songs after his untimely death added his name to the song credits. The resulting song however was a huge hit for Conley and it reached #2 on Billboard's Hot 100 and R&B Chart in 1967 and #7 in the UK where Soul Music was gaining popularity particularly amongst a subset of British youth. The lyrics reference the co-writer Otis Redding, James Brown and songs by The Miracles, Lou Rawls, Sam & Dave and Wilson Pickett, some of the key figures in early Soul Music. "Sweet Soul Music" covered 30 times, The Jam (1977).

Soul music is a fusion of R&B, Gospel and Jazz. Known generally for it's more upbeat tempo it's fun to listen to and great for …

Rock artists sing the Blues

Rock artists sing the Blues

I have talked about this frequently throughout my posts but more particularly in the series on the Delta Blues and the History of R&R parts 1-4. Truth be told, most of the greatests 'Rock' artists owe much of their inspiration to the Blues. Rock bands and solo artists have cut many sides early and throughout their careers of blues songs. Thanks to artists like Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley who were obviously very well known and successful, their covers of some of the great blues songs served as a conduit and exposed them to artists and listeners alike. Here are some 'Blues' that inspired Rock artists, a few of these songs are more well known than others.

Confessin' the Blues by The Rolling Stones was recorded  June 11, 1964 and released on a 7" record of five songs on August 14. Written by Walter Brown (vocals) and Jay McShann (piano and bandleader) originally released in June of 1941. Covered about 35 times including Chuck Berr…

25 of the Greatest Cover Songs #76-100

25 of the Greatest Cover Songs #76-100
Ok here is the last of my list, I could go on and as a matter of fact I will, just not with another set of 25 plus "to infinity and beyond!" I have to say it was easy to come up with more songs to complete the total of 100 as this final list started at 43. But it was very difficult to decide which ones would make the final cut, so these last 25 songs became a list with a number of great ones left for another day.

76. "Flip Flop and Fly" is a song by the same collection that brought us the classic "Shake Rattle and Roll" written by Jesse Stone (credited to his pseudonym Charles E. Calhoun) and Lou Willie Turner, sung by Big Joe Turner (1955). The first time I heard this was at a club in my hometown I'll say around 1979 or so, performed by the talented Canadian Blues band Downchild Blues Band, later known as just 'Downchild'. Still the best cover for me although I've heard many fine ones out of some over …

25 of the Greatest Cover Songs #51-75

25 of the Greatest Cover Songs #51-75
There has been a very positive response to the first two 'Greatest' posts. So the list continues and the songs become no less in their timeless quality compared to numbers one through fifty. I will post a #76-100 edition in the near future and that will be out of my system. But what if I do more lists by genre? Just thinking out loud, sorry but I will keep blogging on various topics as long as people continue to click.

51. "I Put a Spell on You" written and originally recorded by Screamin' Jay Hawkins in 1956. There have been many really good covers of this song but Nina Simone (1965) was just the second person to cover this song. I just can't get over how overlooked this artist was in her time, a high class version that turns the song on it's ear to give it an entirely different sound.

52. "Strange Fruit" was a courageous recording by the legendary Billie Holiday from 1939. A song written as a poem by anot…

Music Myths and other Silly Things

Music Myths and other Silly Things
Who doesn't like a good story? There are many great ones and some not so much about music. I try and put a little story into my blogs and during the course of my research I have run across some that are quite curious. Some of these myths about songs and artists have innocent enough beginnings and have been perpetuated or at least not denied by the artists themselves, others come from malcontents and the misinformed.

Here is one that falls in the category of a silly thing; Bob Dylan and the 'Stealers Wheel' song "Stuck in the Middle with You", released in April, 1973.

1. Bob Dylan did not write this nor did he sing this song, nor is this song about Bob Dylan.

2. If you do a search for 'Dylan and Stuck in the Middle" you will get results like the following:
Home » Artists » Bob Dylan » Stuck In The Middle With YouBob Dylan - "Stuck In The Middle With You" lyricsBob Dylan: CD's Sheet Music Tablature, Stuck in …

25 of the Greatest Cover Songs #1-25

25 of the Greatest Cover Songs

Nothing quite grabs the attention more than a list of the greatest this or that, so at 85 posts about cover songs I thought it about time to get to it. As I advised with my other 'Greatest' posts we all have our favorites so anytime there is a list, something or someone 'great' gets left off. And the debate ensues, why is this and that at #11 not #4 and vise versa. My list therefore, shall be no different for it is not scientific but subjective and it is biased by my own tastes and exposure to music. Having said that it's hard for me to have missed many of the truly great cover songs of all time, indeed I think I've talked about quite a few:

"Respect" from the writer and original recording Otis Redding and a cover she made her own, the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin. More about the song and Aretha in these posts. Before I get to some cover's I've not mentioned, here are more songs from my previous issues that are …

Linda Ronstadt

Linda Ronstadt

Just recently I watched "Linda Ronstadt, The Sound of My Voice" on CNN and I don't mind saying I was moved to tears more than once. Narrated by Linda herself and including rare footage and photo's in addition to some great interviews, it paints a wonderful picture of a remarkable career. If you get the chance you really should watch it, but for now a mini bio and then to some of her music from that amazing voice.

Linda was born on July 15, 1946 and grew up on a ranch in Tucson Arizona in a prosperous family. Music was a very important part of daily life so her exposure and interest came very naturally. She began her career in the mid sixties joining the growing country/folk rock scene. Ronstadt met Bobby Kimmel at the University of Arizona and later met Kenny Edwards and they formed the band the 'Stone Poneys'. She would release some solo material starting in 1969 and then tour with Jackson Brown, Neil Young and the Doors. She began having hug…



When talking about the band I have to confess I'm out of my depth so I will tread lightly. We should however get right to their beginnings and major influence, that being the 'Talking Heads' and their namesake song "Radio Head". The band had been called 'On a Friday' but their record label requested they change it before signing a contract (with EMI records) in 1991.
Radiohead are one of the most successful and influential Rock bands since their debut album "Pablo Honey' (Jerky Boys) in February of 1993. All their songs are credited to the entire band Colin Greenwood, Jonny Greenwood, Ed O'Brien, Phil Selway and Thom Yorke. And there's the 'sixth member' producer Nigel Godrich who's done all their albums since 1994. Their song "Creep" charted top 40 across the world and it's depressing tone eventually wore the band down to the point they stopped playing it live for a long period of time. The songs melo…