Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Armistice Week II: Tuneful Tuesday - Songs of the Great War

Continuing this week’s theme, here are some songs from and about World War I that I think everyone should hear.

It may seem odd that two of the greatest songs about this long-ago war were written many years after it ended. Australian singer-songwriter Eric Bogle’s songs, And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda and No Man’s Land (Green Fields of France) have been recorded by many other people. In the first video he sings And the Band…, which was written to commemorate the Australian troops who died at Gallipoli – NOT Winston Churchill’s finest hour. It’s often forgotten that the Ottoman Empire was allied with Germany and Austria-Hungary in WWI (hence Lawrence of Arabia). Note, however, that the number of Australians who died is vastly inflated in this video – it was more like 8,000, which was plenty.

This version of No Man’s Land is unusual in that it’s sung in both English and German by Bogle and another singer named Wachol, about whom I couldn’t find any information. No embedding, click the title for a link. You can try one of the other videos for the complete English song.

If you are not familiar with the tunes mentioned in this song, The Flowers of the Forest and Last Post, here they are. Don’t play the first one if you hate bagpipes, though.

And I guess if you don’t like bugle calls, don’t listen to this one.

Well. That was really sad. But, going off to war, marching, and so forth, people often sing much more cheerful songs. One of the favorites of British troops in WWI was It’s a Long Way to Tipperary. Here’s the famous Irish tenor John McCormack, singing a song written by a British music-hall entertainer, Jack Judge. (You’ll see though, his grandparents did come from Tipperary.)

It seems to me I spent many happy hours as a child watching the James Cagney film Yankee Doodle Dandy, the biopic of George M. Cohan. One of Cohan’s most famous songs was Over There, celebrating America’s entrance into the war in April 1917. “Lafayette, nous sommes arrivé!”

And now, strictly for fun, one of the songs the soldiers really sang. As the singer notes, the many verses have “various degrees of suitability for family listening.” In other words, there’s something here to offend almost everybody. I love this Australian guy who has a lot of songs on YouTube.

I hope you have enjoyed these songs. Comments welcome, and do you have any favorite songs from or about the Great War?

1 comment:

Mompriest said...

my husband is fan of many of these movies, comes from his folks who grew up with them....I'm ashamed to say that I always forget about armistice day...