War is two groups of people fighting and killing each other, usually because of resources and/or ideology. What even gives a government the right to declare war against a foreign nation, and send people there to kill or be killed? If everyone refused to fight, there would be no war.
Losing someone you love for any reason is difficult, and everyone who is killed in war is likely missed by someone. It is estimated that more than 920,000 people died in the recent Iraq and Afghanistan wars. It seems like most people don’t really question whether war is necessary, and just accept it, even though war is one of the most terrible things imaginable. I am shocked that these wars happened in my lifetime, that the United States went to war against Iraq, and Afghanistan. Tell people you know, politicians, and everyone to stop the war, bring our friends and family members home.
Here are some pro-peace anti-war music videos. I didn’t include songs by Pete Seeger, or Woody Guthrie, I am going to make a separate post about them later. Most of these songs are Vietnam protest songs, some are folk protest songs, and there are a couple more recent songs by U2 and Michael Franti. The songs Imagine and Give Peace a Chance by John Lennon should be in the list, but are in the John Lennon Music Videos post instead if you want to watch them. Enjoy the music!
Barry McGuire – Eve of Destruction A protest song written by P.F Sloan, and recorded by Barry McGuire in 1965. “You’re old enough to kill, but not for voting”, refers to the fact that in the United States, men were subject to being drafted to war at age 18, but could not vote until 21 in all but four states.
Buffalo Springfield – For what it is Worth Released in 1967, the song is a political anthem written by Stephan Stills about a LAPD police assault incident against hippies.
Joan Baez – With God on Our Side Here is what she says before singing: “Perhaps one of the problems in the world today is that every country thinks it has god on its side. As long as everyone struts about with that attitude, it isn’t going to work. I don’t think god could be on the side of anybody who is dropping bombs.”
Country Joe McDonald – What are we Fighting for? Live recording from Woodstock. Here is the first part of the lyrics: “Well, come on all of you, big strong men, Uncle Sam needs your help again. He’s got himself in a terrible jam way down yonder in Vietnam. So put down your books and pick up a gun, we’re gonna have a whole lotta fun. And it’s one, two, three, what are we fighting for? Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn, next stop is Vietnam; and it’s five, six, seven, open up the pearly gates, well there ain’t no time to wonder why, whoopee! we’re all gonna die.”
The Doors – Unknown Soldier This song was on the 1968 Waiting for the Sun album. It was written by Jim Morrison and is about his reaction to the Vietnam War and the way the war was portrayed in the American media.
Bob Dylan – Blowing in the Wind The song was first released on the 1962 album Sing Out. Bob Dylan said in an interview that he probably wrote the song in about 10 minutes. Here are some comments from him about the song, that were published with Sing Out album: “There ain’t too much I can say about this song except that the answer is blowing in the wind. It ain’t in no book or movie or TV show or discussion group. Man, it’s in the wind—and it’s blowing in the wind. Too many of these hip people are telling me where the answer is but oh I won’t believe that. I still say it’s in the wind and just like a restless piece of paper it’s got to come down… no one picks up the answer when it comes down so not too many people get to see and know…”
The Animal – Sky Pilot The song was released in 1968 on the album The Twain Shall Meet. The song is universally interpreted as an anti-war protest song. There are no overt anti-war statements, but no glorification of war either. The anti-war message is conveyed simply by lines such as the final verse: “In the morning they return with tears in their eyes. The stench of death drifts up to the skies. A young soldier so ill looks at the sky pilot, remembers the words ‘Thou Shall Not Kill’.”
Creedence Clearwater Revival – Fortunate Son Released in 1969, it is from the perspective of a man who is being drafted and is not “fortunate” enough to be the son of a senator or millionaire to avoid draft. This song was popular during the Vietnam War and is included in several Vietnam films and video games.
U2 – Bloody Sunday Released in 1983 on the album War. The lyrics describe the horror felt by an observer of the Northern Ireland conflicts, mainly focusing on the Bloody Sunday incident in Derry where British troops shot and killed unarmed civil rights protesters and bystanders. The song is noted for its militaristic drumbeat, harsh guitar, and melodic harmonies.
Donovan – The Universal Soldier Donovan’s version of the song was a hit in 1965. Written by Buffy Sainte-Marie in 1964, she said: “I wrote ‘Universal Soldier’ in the basement of The Purple Onion coffee house in Toronto in the early sixties. It’s about individual responsibility for war and how the old feudal thinking kills us all.”
Cat Stevens – Peace Train Written by Cat Stevens and first released in 1971. Stevens said “Peace Train is a song I wrote, the message of which continues to breeze thunderously through the hearts of millions. There is a powerful need for people to feel that gust of hope rise up again. As a member of humanity and as a Muslim, this is my contribution to the call for a peaceful solution.”
Edwin Starr – War A soul song written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong for the Motown label in 1969. The song was originally recorded by the temptations, but re-recorded with Starr’s James Brown-influenced soul shout: the single version of “War” was dramatic and intense, depicting the general anger and distaste the antiwar movement felt towards the war in Vietnam, unlike the Temptations original version.
Phil Ochs – What are You Fighting For? A song to someone who is thinking about going off to war. Lyrics: “Just think about the millions who have no job at all, and the men who wait for handouts with their eyes upon the floor. Oh I know you’re set for fighting, but what are you fighting for?”
Phil Ochs – I ain’t Marching Anymore The song criticizes all of American military history from the perspective of a weary soldier who has been present at every single war since the War of 1812. The chorus notes that “it’s always the old who lead us to the war, always the young to fall”, and asks whether the price of military victory has been too high.
Michael Franti – Time to Go Home Released on the 2006 album Yell Fire! The album was inspired by Michael Franti’s trip to the Middle East, visiting Iraq, Israel, and the Palestinian territories. It is a politically charged album, with each track focusing on a controversial issue.