Following the cessation of both the First and Second World Wars, the general attitude was that this level of conflict should be prevented from happening again. That may have been the mode of thought, and a rather commendable one at that. However, the sad fact is that humankind has pretty much been imploding into deadly conflict almost non-stop for well over a century, and, sadly, it doesn't seem like it's going to end anytime soon. There will always be protest, in various forms, against war—and one of the most powerful types of protest is music itself.
Black Sabbath - 'War Pigs'
From their debut album, ominously released on Friday the 13th of February 1970, this is a powerful invective about the darkness of war, with allusions to satanic darkness, destruction and the pawn-like nature of soldiers, usually the poor being used as cannon-fodder, by politicians who will never have to see the battlefield. It is very stark listening.
John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band - 'Give Peace a Chance'
Written and recorded by John Lennon and Yoko Ono during their Bed-In for Peace at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal during their honeymoon in 1969, the song quickly became the anthem of the peace movement during the 1970s. One way of looking at the lyrics is the way they catch all the rhetoric around anti-war debate, rather than just getting to the point—"All we are saying is give peace a chance"—a line John found himself repeating often to journalists asking the same question of why the Bed-In was being held in the first place.
Buffy Sainte-Marie - 'Universal Soldier'
Donovan - 'War Drags On'
Bob Dylan - 'John Brown'
The crown prince of 60s folk rock, this anti-war song, written in 1962, pretty much speaks for itself, telling the story of a young solder proudly seen off in his uniform by his mother at the train station, only to come back savaged by war to face the questions of his incredulous mother.
Edwin Starr - 'War'
Originally released by The Temptations in 1969, this Motown classic was written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong. Such was the demand for it to be released as a single, it was decided to re-record the song with Edwin Starr, instead of The Temptations, so it didn't upset the rather conservative fanbase of The Temptations. It went on to be a smash, and pacifist anthem, hitting the top of the charts on its release in America. Post 9/11, it found itself on a "no play" list at Clear Channel Communications, now re-named iHeartMedia, the biggest owner of radio stations in the States, which is all the more encouragement to play it loud.
Pete Seeger - 'What Did You Learn In School Today?'
Nerina Pallot - 'Everybody's Gone To War'
Nena - '99 Red Balloons'
A disarmingly cheerful 1984 UK number one by the German singer-songwriter Nena, about an innocent trip to the toy shop for a large quantity of balloons inadvertently leading to the nuclear holocaust due to wonky bomb-tracking computers. It was originally recorded in German in 1983 as "99 Lufballlons", and a classic of the highly terrifying time of the Cold War, when being nuked seemed to be a mere second away.