Songs about ‘War,’ what are they good for?

The sound of gunfire, off in the distance …

Civil War,” Guns N Roses
Echo Wars,” Peter Case
Emotional War Games,” Tonio K.

Everybody Loves a Holy War,” Mark Heard
Hate and War,” The Clash
He War,” Cat Power
Heartbreak Warfare,” John Mayer
Holy War,” Matthew Sweet
Indian Wars,” Bruce Cockburn
Life During Wartime,” Talking Heads
Post-War,” M. Ward
Rich Man’s War,” Steve Earle
War,” Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band
War Pigs,” Cake
When the War Came,” The Decemberists

I’m sticking here to songs with the actual word “war” in their titles. A list of songs about war would be too long — longer even than a list of songs about trains. It’d be a really good list, though, so maybe we’ll try that some future Friday.

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  • Billy Bragg “Between the Wars”

  • Carstonio

    No mention of the original versions of “War”? Edwin Starr had the first hit single. The song was first done by the Temptations as an album track, and there was a great demand for a single, but Motown didn’t want one of its top acts seeming radical. The same attitude that led the label to hem and haw before finally releasing “What’s Going On” a year or so later.

  • Launcifer

    Stop the War Now – The Temptations.
    War for Territory – Sepultura.
    War – Sepultura.
    War – Bob Marley (the original of the above, I think).
    War – Edwin Starr.
    War – The Temptations.
    War Pigs – Black Sabbath.
    War Within a Breath Rage Against the Machine.
    Happy Christmas (war is over) – John and Yoko.
    Masters of War Bob Dylan.

  • You don’t have “English Civil War” by the Clash? I am surprised.

  • LoneWolf343

    You pick the song “War Pigs,” but you don’t go with the original band?

  • rm

     Surprisingly few that actually have “War” in the title, and how do you search for that without getting every song that has “warm,” “Warren,” “Ward,” and so on in its metadata? And it’s hard to leave out results like “All You Fascists Bound To Lose” by Woody Guthrie or “Johnny Has Gone For a Soldier” or

    So, anyway. So long Mom/ I’m off to drop a bomb/ So don’t wait up for me/ But while you swelter/ Down there in your shelter/ You can see me/ On your TV/ . . . . So long, Mommy/ I’m off to get a Commie/ So send me a salami/ And try to smile somehow/I’ll look for you when the war is over/ An hour and a half from now

    Indian War Whoop — Bob Carlin & John Hartford; Erynn Marshall; Hiter Covin; Holy Modal Rounders; John Hartford; Lewis Thomasson; Mad Tea Party; The Old 78s; Gary Lucas; The Rhythm Rats; The Crooked Jades
    Life During Wartime — Talking Heads
    Love and War — Neil Young
    So Long Mom (A Song for World War III) — Tom Lehrer
    That Crazy War — Michael Cooney
    The War is a-Ragin’ for Johnny — Pete Steele
    War of Man — Neil Young
    War/No More Trouble — Playing for Change
    When the War is Over — Rev. J. M. Gates

  • Veteran of the Psychic Wars – Blue Oyster Cult
    The Fortunes of War – Dropkick Murphys
    The Dogs of War – Pink Floyd
    The Post War Dream – Pink Floyd
    War? – System of a Down
    Counting Bodies Like Sheep To The Rhythm Of The War Drums – A Perfect Circle
    Warbrian – Alkaline Trio

  • Theo Axner

    40 Krig – Strebers (“40 Wars”)
    Between the Wars – Billy Bragg
    Civil War – Motörhead
    Class War – the Dils
    Cold Wars – the Rezillos
    Dogs of War – the Exploited
    English  Civil War – the Clash
    Hate & War – the Clash
    Indian War Whoop – John Hartford
    Kriget med mig själv – Imperiet (“The war with myself”)
    Let Them Eat War – Bad Religion
    Let’s Have a War – Fear
    Let’s Start a War… – the Exploited
    Living With War – Neil Young
    Marching Off to War – Motörhead
    Masters of War – Bob Dylan (3 versions…)
    My War – Black Flag
    Ni som tjänar på krig – Totta & Wiehe (“Masters of War” cover in Swedish)
    Rich Man’s War – Steve Earle
    Rumours of War – Billy Bragg
    So Long, Mom (a Song for World War III) – Tom Lehrer
    Talkin’ World War III Blues – Bob Dylan
    Voices From the War – Motörhead
    War – Bob Marley & the Wailers
    War – the Exploited
    War Is Hell – the Humpers
    War Pigs – Black Sabbath
    War Pigs – Hayseed Dixie
    The Wars End – Rancid
    What If There’s a War in America – 7 Seconds
    World War III – the Anti-Nowhere League

  • Andrea

    He picks what’s in HIS iTunes library, not just whatever he can think of. In that regard his library is the same as mine – the Cake version, but not the Black Sabbath version.

  • LoneWolf343

    While I’m here, I’ll note that it is funny that the symphonic metal band Sabaton, whose favorite topic is war, has only a few songs with the word “War” in the title, but the ones that do seem to fit with this theme.

    “The Art of War”
    “A Lifetime of War”

  • Masters of War by Bob Dylan

  • Carstonio

    Whenever a song that I like is remade well, I usually add the remake to my library while holding onto the original. Besides the O Brother versions of Man of Constant Sorrow, I have the original Stanley Brothers version, a live version by Alison Kraus and Union Station (with Tyminski again on vocals), and another live performance by a much older Ralph Stanley. I do the same if I like a song and find out that it’s a remake.

  • Magic_Cracker

    “Child of War,” Crazyhorse
    “Different Trains I – America Before the War,” Steve Reich
    “Different Trains II – Europe During the War,” Steve Reich
    “Different Trains III – After the War,” Steve Reich
    Hum Bomb,” Allen Ginsberg

  • ReBar

    “War” by Zounds and pretty much everything else off the Anti-War Anarcho-Punk compilation:

  • redsixwing

    Hm. No “War” in titles here, but I’ve got some on topic anyway.

    “Brothers in Arms” – The Dire Straits
    “Tenth Man Down” – Nightwish

  • Vermic

    It ain’t nothing but a heartbreaker!  Its favorite wrestler is the Undertaker!

    “Civil War”, Guns N’ Roses
    “The Wars End”, Rancid

  • Lori


    You pick the song “War Pigs,” but you don’t go with the original band?

    He goes with what he personally owns. I assume that Fred, like most people, is not an originalist when it comes to his music collection.

  • That Other Jean

    Songs about war, but only one with War in the title, and no record of the artists’ names:

    When This Cruel War is Over

    from a group of Civil War songs.

  • Launcifer

    Just thought of two more:

    When this Lousy War is Over – absolutely no flippin’ idea, though I think it’s from Attenborough’s film version of Oh, What a Lovely War!

    Oh, it’s a Lovely War! – Ditto the above.

  • Baby_Raptor

    “This is War” and “Vox Populi” by 30 Seconds to Mars. 

  • urbicande

    Hawkwind, “Who’s Gonna Win the War?”
    Hawklords (more or less the same as Hawkwind), “Only the Dead Dreams of the Cold War Kid

  • Jenora Feuer
  • tom

    Making Pies – Patty Griffin

  • EllieMurasaki

    Gonna lay down my burden down by the riverside, ain’t gonna study war no more.

  • Matthew Sweet – Holy War

  • Paul W

    War For Sale – Shadow Gallery

  • Enoch Root

    Living With War – Neil Young

  • interleaper

    Between The Wars – Oysterband
    Boney Was A Warrior – Jack Shit
    Cold War – The Charms
    Drink Before The War – Sinead O’Connor
    Gods of War – Def Leppard
    Love In The Time Of War – Outgrabe
    Mars: The Bringer of War – Holst/Tomita
    Popular War – Sue Fink
    Rabbit War – ALI Project
    Radio War – Iron & Wine
    Sensou to Heiwa (War and Peace) – ALI Project
    The Four Warriors Of Dawn – Nobuo Uematsu
    This War Is Over – Melissa Etheridge
    War Dance – XTC
    War Pigs – Faith No More
    Warship – The Willowz

  • “War” by Laibach, which is a totally different song from the Edmund Starr one: this time, the question “What is it good for” is answered:
    ….mobilization, science, religion….GM…IBM…UC….CNN…Universal…Sony…

  • Magic_Cracker

    Come Out Ye Black and Tans,” The Wolfe Tones

    The Men Behind the Wire, The Wolfe Tones
    The Patriot Game,” Dominic Behen

  • Launcifer

    So they managed to riff on two decent Temptations songs at once? That’s… kind of amusing, actually.

  • Between the Wars Billy Bragg

  • rm

    From “Machine” by Regina Spektor: “Living in your pre-war apartment/ Soon to be a post-war apartment”

  • stardreamer42

    I remember that Edwin Starr version, but I could have sworn it had a different artist name on it at the time of release, which my memory is stubbornly refusing to provide. Am I nuts?

    I submit that the Beatles’ “Revolution” is close enough for jazz. 

    I have one song titled “War” in my collection, but it’s a track from the BBC Sherlock soundtrack. Not what you’re looking for at all. Everything else with the word “War” has either been mentioned already, or is Star Wars.

  • Magic_Cracker

    Fred’s post this video before, but why not again? “War,” by Sinead O’Connor

  • Sam Kabo Ashwell

    Bonny Bunch of Roses, June Tabor & Oysterband (Britain is awesome because Napoleon got his arse kicked in Russia, so there)
    Boost No War, Capleton (a good angry-pacifist song)
    I Fought in a War, Belle and Sebastian (a will-she-wait-for-me song)
    Pure War, Culture
    War, CunninLynguists (= any life struggle)
    Uncommon Valor, R.A. The Rugged Man
    Dixieland, Steve Earle & The Del McCoury Band
    Bombs over Baghdad, Outkast
    Rainin in Paradize, Manu Chao
    A Mountain Apart, The Biscuit Burners
    Strange Ways, Madvillain
    Prince Harry Is Our Hero, Joel Veitch
    Vera/Bring The Boys Back Home, Pink Floyd (also Luther Wright and the Wrongs)

    also obligatory conscription songs, Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier (trad., here James Taylor et al.), Alice’s Restaurant, Arlo Guthrie, and Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos, Public Enemy.

  • mud man

    War on War – Wilco

  • I’ll take the Bonerama version.

  • Culture Club – “The War Song”, stuck in my head since reading the title of the post.

  • Dafydd Dick

    The Clash – English Civil War
    The Clash – Hate & War
    Billy Bragg- Between the Wars
    Billy Bragg – Like Soldiers Do
    Bad Religion – World War III
    Minutemen – Paranoid Chant
    Talking Heads – Life During Wartime
    Dead Kennedys – Chemical Warfare
    DEVO – Cold War
    Death From Above 1979 – Cold War
    Husker Du – Terms of Physic Warfare
    The Jam – War
    The Jam – Little Boy Soldiers
    Public Image Ltd. – Chant
    Red Krayola – Soldier Talk
    Stiff Little Fingers – Suspect Device
    Stiff Little Fingers – Alternative Ulster
    Stiff Little Fingers – Tin Soldiers
    Tom Waits – Soldier’s Things
    The Pogues – Young Ned of the Hill

  • Dafydd Dick

    The Men They Couldn’t Hang – Green Fields of France

  • Prof.Wombat

    Eric Bogle:  ‘No Man’s Land’, a.k.a. ‘The Green Fields of France’
    The best and most heartbreaking song about war I’ve ever heard.

  • Territories, by Rush The Manhattan Project, by Rush BYOB, by System of a Down I really thought BYOB was the best anti-war song about the Iraq war of 2003-2012. I thought it was gonna make us rise up agains

  • I’m joining reeeealy late, but I’m amazed “What are we fighting for” by Live isn’t mentioned, since it seems like the perfect theme song for Fred’s whole blog.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    When the War is Over, by Cold Chisel

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    And of course, Happy Christmas (War Is Over)–John Lennon

  • dr ngo

    Maybe I’ve missed them, but if so:
    [I Declare] The War Is Over – Phil Ochs (1965 – when there was a real war going)
    War Requiem – Benjamin Britten.  Stunning oratorio

  • One I thought was worth adding:

    How You Survived the War” – The Weepies


  • Hero of War, by Rise Against.  (I just heard it a couple weeks ago for the first time and immediately added it to my collection).