When the world is at peace, all seems well. When it’s not, soldiers are the men and women who are called in to restore it. They put their lives on the line just so that yours can be lived out as a person who can enjoy the rights, liberties, and freedoms so many of us take for granted. In a perfect world, there is no such thing as war. Unfortunately, our world is far from perfect, and that is why nations have soldiers assigned to protect and serve all that is considered holy.
To the men and women who have the courage to truly be all that you can be, whether it’s in the air force, army, marines, navy, or special reserves, you mean so much to those who appreciate what you do. The top ten soldier-related songs I’ve listed have been my personal favorites I wish to share as my expression of gratitude. It is my hope at least some of them will be favorites in your books, too.
Top 10 Soldier Songs
#10 – Thin Red Line
In 1986, Canada’s Glass Tiger brought forth the hit single, “Thin Red Line,” from the group’s debut album, which was titled The Thin Red Line. The opening of the song began with the sound of gunfire before the guitar riffs steered this heavy-hitter into a direction that made the listener feel like as if they were caught up in the heat of battle as the song played itself out. On the Canadian Hot 100, “Thin Red Line” was a number nineteen hit and made a moderate chart impression among the nations of Australia, Germany, and the Netherlands. What makes this song a favorite is how easy it can put a patriot’s imagination into battle mode. Among gamers into first-person shooters like Call of Duty, this song would make a good inspirational piece to jump in and enjoy.
On a more somber note, however, “Thin Red Line” was about the Crimean War and its 1854 Battle of Balaclava. In 1881, Robert Gibb painted a portrait, The Thin Red Line, which is still on display in the Scottish National War Museum in Edinburgh Castle. Over time, the title became a common catch-phrase each time someone ventured into a situation that probably should have been avoided. People are territorial by nature, which is laid out in Glass Tiger’s song version of a subject matter that’s still somewhat sensitive today. There are many thin red lines that should never be crossed but history still has it so many do it anyway.
#9 – Dear Old America
Heart’s Ann and Nancy Wilson were daughters to a Marine Corps officer, so it stands to reason they would bring forth a worthy patriotic song. “Dear Old America” is more than just worthy. It is a musical work of genius as the sisters once again demonstrated why they earned for themselves such a loyal fan following. This song came from the 2012 album, Fanatic, which justifiably earned critical acclaim. “Dear Old America” was released as a single in 2013 but failed to chart. However, among the fan base who has followed Heart since the band made its debut in 1975, this song serves as a testament how classy the extremely gifted Wilsons are as artists and as patriots of a nation they call home.
#8 – 1916
Motorhead’s album and title track, “1916” laid out the heavy-hitting tale of a young soldier who lied about his age just so he could fight against the Germans during the timeline of World War I. The inspiration behind the album and the song came after Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister relocated from the U.K. to the U.S. in 1990. The frontman of Motorhead was well known among his fans as a World War II buff so when “1916” came out as the band’s first recorded material in four years there was anticipation it would be awesome.
As an album, 1916 did not disappoint. It even earned a Grammy Award nomination for Best Metal Performance in 1992 but lost out to Metallica’s Metallica (The Black Album). “1916” as a single was among many that contributed to the much-needed success Motorhead needed to revive its career as world-class rock musician. Some fans and critics may even argue it has been their best work as Lemmy and his band were in top form.
#7 – Brothers in Arms
From Dire Straits, “Brothers in Arms” was the title song of their 1985 album, Brothers in Arms, which ended the flow of the record’s music on a serious note. The best part of the song was the dying soldier commending his fellow troops for their bravery on the battlefield against an enemy who was also doing the same thing for the same reasons from their perspective. The news can cover whatever story they want to tell the audience, but nobody tells it better than the men and women who are in the trenches while the rest of us try to fathom exactly what it is they’re going through.
#6 – Warrior
Kid Rock definitely know how to rock it as a patriot with “Warrior.” This 2008 musical recognition of the National Guard served as just a hint of how patriotic Robert Ritchie has been when it comes as a citizen of the United States of America. He has been one of the leading philanthropists when it comes to supporting American patriotism. This includes his involvement with Operation Finally Home as they build homes for returning disabled veterans. The sacrifices they make as soldiers is for God and country, a fact that made America one of the most desired nations to live in by a population that recognized it for its greatness.
Despite the divisions that take place due to political and social differences, America still holds promise. Kid Rock knows this and makes it clear with “Warrior” as it is the patriotic duty of each person who values their freedom to stand up and fight before all is lost. This includes even going up a government that threatens to take it all away.
#5 – Fool’s Overture
From the 1977 album, Even in the Quietest Moments, the lengthy “Fool’s Overture” starts off with a beautiful classical number featuring the blend of piano, cello, and flute. Cheers, speeches, bell tolls, and gunfire then take over as the musical build works its way through before taking full power of a song that shifts from an instrumental hitter into a ballad before picking up the pace to finish this iconic number off. By 1978, both the song and the album made such a huge impression among critics and fans that the musical influence continues to make its mark at a global level to this day.
At the time, “Fool’s Overture” was considered too long to be released as a single for the radio stations but it had been known to play from time to time. As musical standards have changed since then, the song has found more airplay, either as fan requests or to cover subject matter where playing it would be justified.
What makes “Fool’s Overture” a favorite is Winston Churchill’s “never surrender” speech, as well as the irony behind the song’s title and its lyrics. This song is dramatic from start to finish and covers so much territory in a manner that is nothing short of genius.
#4 – Goodnight Saigon
1982’s “Goodnight Saigon” from Billy Joel is awesome. From the album, The Nylon Curtain, this song revolved around the Vietnam soldiers who trenched through the country’s jungle environment, each of them serving together since basic training. So far away from the luxuries of home, these soldiers have only each other so it’s inevitable they would form a bond. Imagine the horror of seeing someone you become close to losing their life when the people who are classified as your enemy open fire and everything in their path down. In the name of survival, you have no choice but to fight back.
In the US, “Goodnight Saigon” charted as high as number fifty-six on the US Billboard Hot 100. Overseas, this single was considerably more popular as it became a number one hit among the nations of Belgium and the Netherlands. In Ireland, “Goodnight Saigon” peaked at number nineteen and it was a number twenty-nine hit in the UK. True to Billy Joel’s form, his emotional approach as a soldier caught up in the violent drama called the Vietnam War was epic.
#3 – Remember the Heroes
Sammy Hagar is spot-on with “Remember the Heroes” as he lyrically acknowledged what the men and women who serve do as representatives of a country that may or may not be in agreement with the reasoning and methods used. This song was released in 1982, along with his album, Three Lock Box.
Soldiers have been a necessity since the dawn of time as there has always been divisions among the ranks for as long as human beings have walked the earth. This is a sad fact. Even the goal of world peace is unachievable without having to contend with issues revolving around political, religious, and social differences. Not everybody has been brought up the same way, which is evident as we see how so many cultures differ from each other in so many ways.
The only thing we do have in common is we share this world as human beings that share the same blood color, even if the pigments of our hair and skin don’t. Among the men and women who serve, they’re simply following orders as each of them signed up to serve their country. It’s not easy for a human being with a functional moral compass to simply kill another, even if they are ordered to do so. This is why so many returning war veterans deal with depression, along with so many other emotional and psychological issues.
“Remember the Heroes” was a song about such a veteran who has to find a way to move forward after experiencing a nightmare so many others were not able to survive from. In 1983, it became a number six hit on the US Billboard Mainstream Rock chart and remains as a solid favorite among patriotic men and women who pay more attention to the sacrifices made by a soldier than whatever story the media happens to be sharing with the audience.
#2 – Unknown Soldier
The Doors brought forth the remarkable “Unknown Soldier” from their 1968 album, Waiting for the Sun. Like so many other recording artists, Jim Morrison and his bandmates made it clear what they thought about the military involvement of a war that simply made no sense to a growing number of citizens who also voiced their concerns about the violent conflict taking place in Vietnam.
What makes this song a personal favorite is the horror of knowing there are men, women, and even children who are fighting and dying in a nightmare while the rest of us learn whatever we can from the media. History, as always, has shown the media doesn’t always show the full truth of what’s actually going on as there is also such a thing as propaganda wars that run just as rampant as the soldiers of warring factions face off against each other, all in the name of whatever it is they’re told to fight for.
There are many unknown soldiers with unmarked graves who were every bit as heroic as the big names we learn about and The Doors laid forth this musical work of genius in a manner that really hits home, as it should. On the US Billboard Hot 100, “Unknown Soldier” charted as high as number thirty-nine but has left such an impression, thanks to the opening of the organ performance, before going into a jazzy number that understandably made it a cult classic. This was one of The Moody Blues’ signature songs and rightfully so. It was, and still is, absolutely beautiful.
#1 – The Ballad of the Green Berets
To be honest, listening to “The Ballad of the Green Berets” from start to finish without fighting the urge to cry is very difficult to do, at least for me that is the case. Unlike most of the Vietnam-based songs that were released, this 1966 ballad focused on the positives instead of the negatives and that is why this is another personal favorite. Justifiably, it became a number one hit on the US Billboard Hot 100 and stayed there for five weeks. It was also a number one hit on the US Cashbox and on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary Songs chart. “The Ballad of the Green Berets” also made a crossover appearance on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, peaking as high as number two.
Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler is the man credited for “The Ballad of the Green Berets” while he was training to be a medic for the U.S. military’s Special Armed Forces. He received help from the author of The Green Berets book, Robin Moore, as the two collaborated together as the two wanted to pay homage to James Gabriel, Jr., who was a specialist for the army who was killed in Vietnam during a training session in 1962. The recorded version of the song did not mention his name but this was the soldier that was referenced as Sadler brought forth this patriotic song to an audience who seemed to be in agreement at the time focusing on something positive instead of negative was most welcome.
“The Ballad of the Green Berets” was so inspiring at the time that it even charted beyond American borders. In South Africa, it also became a number one hit and the Germans loved the song enough for it to peak as high as number four. In the UK, it charted as high as number twenty-four and the Netherlands peaked it at number thirty-one. Since its original release, there have been many versions that have covered this song and in a multitude of languages. As much as war sucks, the one thing that is for certain is the men and women who serve deserve our deepest gratitude no matter how we feel about the reasoning behind any kind of conflict as this is something they signed up for as the true patriots of a nation that needs it.
Top 10 Soldier Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022
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