They say the war is hell on earth which maybe is the reason why so many musicians have railed against it. And today we are counting down our picks for the top10 anti-war songs. For this list we’re picking songs that protest against war in general or those that call out particular or specific battles. We’re basing our choices on a mix of their massage, song quality and overall recognition as an anti-war rock song.
#10. Cranberries – zombie
The Irish band the Cranberries wrote zombie in response to the Irish republican Army’s 1993 bombing attacks which killed two small children. Including references to the 1916 Easter rising the song decried violence that had engulfed Ireland and England for too long and which had claimed far too many innocent lives. Featuring an angry grunge inspired sound the lyrics of zombie condemned the acts of war that tear through the brains of everyday people.
#9. System of a dawn – BYOB
The United states invasion of Iraq was a source of great controversy with many vocally deriding it including this song. In BYOB the band directly levels a familiar charge against the architects of war that those who initiate and maintain wars are never the ones who suffer or fight them. The song hammers the point about the disproportionate amount of poor people involved in fighting wars while presidents and other leaders sit back and watch.
#8. Metallica – one
Set to have been inspired by the tragic world war one film “Johnny got his gun” which is in turn based on the novel of the same name Metallica’s one is a gut wrenching plea from a wounded soldier. Having been horribly injured by a landmine, the soldier is kept alive by a feeding tube. He can no longer see or hear, smell or taste. All he can do is feel and all he can feel is pain. The soldier longs for release from the hell that his life has become but he’s unable to even convey this wish to those keeping him alive.
#7. Megadeth – the holy wars
Another song inspired by the Irish troubles, holy wars condemns the role that religion has often played in the cause of war. While the situation in northern Ireland was the impetus for the song, the lyrics are applicable to many conflicts in which religious differences play a large part. The second half of the song referred to as the “punishment due” makes reference to the Marvel Comics character The Punisher. Perhaps implying that the force of justice will someday destroy the forces of war.
#6. Bob Dylan – Masters of war
Bob Dylan’s melody for masters of war is based upon a traditional folk song but the lyrics are pure Dylan. A blunt condemnation of world leaders at the time and especially those with power in America, the song takes aim at both the military-industrial complex and the cold war mindset that it gained an unhealthy influence over the course of U.S affairs at the time. Dylan is giving no quarter here and allowing no excuses in this matter. It’s a harsh denunciation that still packs a tremendous punch.
#5. Plastic ono band – give peace a chance
John Lennon’s “Imagine” is a beautiful piece in praise of a Utopian world, his give peace a chance is more prosaic but it strikes an equally deep chord through its simple catchy chorus. The verses are simply a rhythmic list of labels applied to those who oppose war and support peace. And they drive the massage that don’t pay attention to who people say we are but listen to what we have to say. Eventually the song takes on the characteristics of a mantra, becoming a spiritual voice against war.
#4. Bruce Springsteen – born in the U.S.A
When born in the USA became a monster hit in 1984, many mistakenly took the title at face value and assumed it was a patriotic anthem. In fact Springsteen is critical of the country he loves for many reasons. One of them being its tendency to wage wars without regard to what it does to those who fight them. And veterans who are out of place when they return home as one of the silent tragedies of war.
#3. Scorpions – Wind of change
Wind of change is a song by German band Scorpions, with the goal of celebrating the end of cold war, returning hope to people and the fall of soviet union Republics. You can even find references like the name of a river in Moscow, Moskav, and a traditional Russian instrument called balalaika. Beautiful melody of this song with the soothing whistle and voice of Klaus Meine brings us a gospel of the impending victory of peace in the end of every war.
#2. Black Sabbath – War Pigs
The Vietnam war was raging in 1970 when Black Sabbath released “war pigs” and the anger behind the song is palpable. Comparing generals to evil witches and condemning all those that fought and design war, Black Sabbath makes if clear that a day of judgment will come when they will get their due. War pigs established Black Sabbath as one of the premier heavy metal bands. The searing lyrics and crashing music make a combination that even decades later tears at the listener.
#1. Creedence Clearwater Revival – Fortunate son
War has never been waged in an equitable manner but in the 1960s and 70s, more and more people spoke out against the unfairness war engenders. Fortunate son clearly and insistently hammers home the point that the poor and the powerless pay the price in war. Those with rich and influential daddies can escape service or at least avoid direct combat. John Fogety’s impassioned vocals make this two and a half minute rock song into a condemnation of the rule rich men play at war.