There are many songs written about soldiers. Some of those songs are optimistic, perhaps naively so. Others are dark and foreboding. Either type of song can be powerful.
I’ve included some of my favorites of both types in this Memorial Day playlist. Though, for me, the darker songs in this playlist give a gloomier perspective to their rah-rah compatriots. “Soldier boy…I’ll be true to you” takes on a different perspective when put up against John Prine’s heartbreaking story about Sam Stone and the line “Sweet songs never last too long, on broken radios.”
The song on this list that I listened to the most times before realizing it was about war is Galveston. But Jimmy Webb has painted a powerful picture of longing in the song. It may be the most subtle on this playlist, but it’s also one of the most powerful.
To all the men and women who have served our country, thank you.
To those who are serving now, may the country and its leaders do right by you.
1. Soldier Boy – The Shirelles
2. Great Society Conflict Veteran’s Blues – John Prine
3. A Soldier’s Letter – Merle Haggard
4. Galveston – Glen Campbell
5. Bring Them Home (If You Love Your Uncle Sam) – Pete Seeger
6. Born in the U.S.A – Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires
7. Just Before the Battle, Mother – Steve Earle and Dirk Powell
8. Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy – The Andrews Sisters
9. When the Lights Go On Again (All Over the World) – Vaughn Monroe & His Orchestra
10. We’ll Meet Again – Johnny Cash