Tuesday, February 5, 2013

What Happened to the Anti-War Songs

The late 60's and early 70's were the heyday of anti-war songs and the peace movement.  It was a tremendous social movement in this country that had a number of positive effects.  In fact, as long as I can remember a lot of songs played on the radio, both old and current, were anti-war or pro-peace.  I don't notice that as much lately.  Is that a reflection on society as a whole?  The type of music I listen to?  An indication of what the (billion dollar) record labels are willing to promote?  A generation of musicians who have always known us to be at war?  Perhaps something else entirely?  I'm not sure, myself.  I will say among my peers and many of my friends there seems to be a general acceptance of war.

Now, there are some standouts of course.  System of a Down has a few anti-war songs, "BYOB", "Soldier Side" and "Boom!", but they all came out in the mid 2000's.  Muse put out some pretty good anti-establishment work in the 2000's as well, but their most recent album is quite different.  Well, the message is still there, but the music is certainly not hit-worthy.  One could argue that the hit "Handlebars" by Flobots is anti-war, but I'm not coming up with much else that's been popular and anti-war since 2008 or so.  That's a long time in the music industry.

Contrast that against the 60's and 70's, or even the 80's.  What brought this thought to the forefront is a recent listening of an album from 1985, Ozzy Osbourne's The Ultimate Sin.  It's an album that came out in my youth and I listened to it repeatedly back in the day.  I used to listen mostly to metal, so that's the genre I'm most familiar with from that time.  I'm more of a generalist now, I like a lot of different music.  But back in the 80's I was a metal guy.  And even on Ozzy's headbanging album, there were two very obvious anti-war songs, "Killer of Giants" and "Thank God For The Bomb".

I then started listening more closely to other popular songs from the 80's.  Metallica has a bunch of anti-war songs, "Disposable Heroes", "For Whom The Bell Tolls", "One", "Seek and Destroy" to name a few.  Megadeth gives us "Peace Sells (but no one's buying)", Guns n Roses with their hit "Civil War" and Iron Maiden wrote their smash hit "Run to the Hills".   The list goes on and on, "Red Sector A" by Rush, "99 Red Balloons" by Nena, "Black Steel" by Public Enemy- these were all hits that had a strong anti-war message.   Add to that a ton of Pink Floyd songs- "Us and Them", "Get Your Filthy Hands Off My Desert" (ok, maybe not a hit) and pretty much the entire album The Wall.  All strong anti-war messages.  Stretch it to the early 90's and the list just keeps going with bands like Rage Against the Machine with their hit "Killing in the Name Of".  It was a strong decade for anti war sentiment, following up on two strong decades of anti-war hits.

What happened?  Where is the "War Pigs", "Fortunate Son", "Gimme Shelter" and "Alice's Restaurant" of today?  Where are the Bob Dylans and Buffalo Springfields?  Hell, where are the Metallicas and Ozzy Osbourne?  I really hope that the peace sentiment makes a comeback, both in my peers, in the youth and the music we listen to.

1 comment:

  1. IMO, music is different now than it was back them and the listener is more discerning than a music listener in the late 60s and early 70s. Plus, what got said then in anti war songs is still viable in anti war songs now so anything else heaped up on the pile of anti-war song is redundant and weak. I've heard current anti-war songs and they sound pandering and unintelligetn to me. I just go back to some old Woody G stuff or Bob Dylan.

    Also, the genre of music has a lot to do with it. I've heard many hiphop and metal anti-war songs and those genres just don't lend itself to something billed as anti-war.

    Come to thnk of it, there is a lot of anti-war songs out there but you need to get beyond the popular/indy wall. Some are corny while others are quite intelligent and subconcious.