War music is stable history

Pamela Crimbchin

Credit: DKS Editors

Anti-war protesters, pro-war activists and pacifists have shared their views on war with music throughout history.

When recognizing days like yesterday’s Veterans Day, Christina Burkey, junior family and consumer science education major, said she thinks it is important to honor those who fought for the country through music.

“Musicians write music that speaks close to their heart,” she said. “If they write anti-war songs, it’s because they need to get the emotion out that they feel at that time.”

Classical music that is still performed today can be traced back to earlier wars in our country. The National Anthem is just one example.

“‘The Star Spangled Banner’ was written because of the events that happened in the War of 1812,” said Richard Devore, associate professor of music. “Francis Scott Key was watching the bombardment of Fort McKinney in Baltimore Harbor, and that’s (when) he wrote the words of ‘The Star Spangled Banner.'”

Many wartime songs, such as “When Johnny Comes Marching Home,” were written during the Civil War.

“There was songs about the North, songs about the South because there was such strong feelings and such strong division in the country,” he said.

More controversial wars tend to bring out more protest songs than wars when people are united against a common enemy, such as World War II, he added.

The Vietnam War, because of its controversy and the advances in music recording and distribution, has produced some of the most popular protest songs that remain so today.

Bob Dylan, Chicago and Peter, Paul and Mary all wrote anti-war protest songs during the Vietnam era.

The May 4 Kent State shootings acted as inspiration for many anti-war musicians, such as Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.

“We are sort of in a real important geographic place here because what happened in Kent really crystallized a lot of the responses and resistance to the war,” Devore said.

Devore said not all war or protest music popular styles, and that many classical-style artists were also inspired by war. George Crumb, for example, was also inspired by the May 4 shootings. He wrote “Black Angels” for string quartet in the 1970s in response to them.

Other wars and events have been used as inspiration for artists to promote peace and honor those who have passed.

The Irish natives of U2 actively promote many causes with music and fundraising. One of the band’s most popular songs, “Sunday Blood Sunday,” reflects a shooting on January 30, 1972, in Derry, Northern Ireland.

Burkey said she likes the protest songs from Rage Against the Machine’s album, “Battle of Los Angeles.”

“Zach De La Rocha pretty much protested against anything that he felt was an inequality,” Burkey said.

Popular protest and pro-peace songs at the moment include Green Day’s “21 Guns,” which can be referenced to the 21-gun salute that is given to fallen soldiers.

Many people may not know the history or hidden meanings behind songs, and even still, each song can speak to the listener individually.

“A lot of them are great music and great works of art you can take just on their own merits – you don’t necessarily have to know the history to them,” Devore said.

Contact features reporter Pamela Crimbchin at [email protected].