It has never been a better time to post a list of Ten Classic Rock ANTI-WAR songs. Maybe I should send a playlist to Putin? Actually, since he’s taking the Russian people back to the 80’s, maybe I’ll burn them onto a CD. Wait – he’s taking those poor people back to the 70’s – I’ll send a cassette. The 60’s? I've got to find a reel to reel machine…
#10 Metallica - “One” (1988) Off the band’s 4th album AND JUSTICE FOR ALL, this song pursues a dark path, thematically. It’s about a soldier so badly wounded in combat that he’s begging the doctors to put him out of his misery. Written by James Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich, this song was the first from the band to get into the American Top 40. It got to #1 in Finland; they would know: the Russians invaded their country in the early days of World War 2.
#9 Bruce Springsteen - “War” (1986) Taken from Bruce’s LIVE/1975-1985 boxset, this is a visceral concert cover of Edwin Starr’s #1 Motown hit from 1970, when it was a best-selling message decrying the Vietnam War. But as we’ve seen, it is, unfortunately, a timely song no matter when released.
#8 The Doors - “The Unknown Soldier” (1968) A song from The Doors third album WAITING FOR THE SUN which just squeaked into the American top 40, reaching #39. Considering it controversial content, that was a pretty good showing for mainstream America. Although the Vietnam conflict was on Jim Morrison’s mind, this song about soldiers becoming cannon fodder is universal.
#7 Guns n’ Roses -“Civil War” (1991) From USE YOUR ILLUSION II, this was one of Guns most inspired tracks. Written by Slash, Duff, & Axl, it poses a final statement: “What’s so civil about war, anyway?”
#6 Pink Floyd - “Us and Them” (1973) From the iconic DARK SIDE OF THE MOON, this song written by band members Richard Wright and Roger Waters, pits a deceptively gentle cushion of guitars and keyboards under a biting commentary of warfare from a distance with generals in the rear sending the front ranks out to die and battle lines on a map moving from side to side.
#5 U2 - “New Years Day” (1983) The video of this song would focus the attention on Bono’s message of a more generalized divisiveness between all of us in all of life’s encounters, but the powerful video using images of Germany and Russia at war on the Eastern Front in World War II focuses the track on the violence of war. The saddest news is that with every New Year’s Day, nothing changes.
#4 Alice in Chains - “Rooster” (1993) Guitarist Jerry Cantrell wrote this song about his father, a veteran of the Vietnam War, in a visage of images from that conflict. Although the Viet Cong do their utmost to kill the American ‘machine-gun man,” they never do. But, carrying the demons and the PTSD home, his life is never peaceful again.
#3 Bob Dylan - "Masters of War" (1963) Some of Bob Dylan’s most biting and naked lyrics ever, this song was a shocker from THE FREEWHEELIN’ BOB DYLAN album. Whereas many of his lyrics are puzzles of imagery resistant to even careful scrutiny – there is no question who he is targeting here. Dylan said he never wrote songs that wished death on anybody, but “Masters of War” seems to defy that statement.
#2 John Lennon “Imagine” (1971) John and Yoko had the right idea when they began putting up billboards around the world saying that ‘War is Over, If You Want It.’ There was a popular 60’s phrase – ‘What if they gave a war and nobody came? – which is not a far-fetched concept. The power to end war is within us, if we could only achieve that consensus in practice. As Jimi Hendrix said: “When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.”
#1 Black Sabbath “War Pigs” (1970) This was from second album PARANOID, and for a young band still finding its way, it’s a remarkable statement. Bassist Geezer Butler, who wrote most of the lyrics mentioned it was about the real Satanists – the warmongers. A suitably macabre sound fueled by Tony Iommi’s heaviest of heavy licks, “War Pigs” doesn’t mince words of contempt for those responsible for centuries of spilling blood. The end of the song is...The End. The Hand of God strikes the hour and we’re history.