Ashes of the Wake: A Playlist for Baghdad

On this day in 762 A.D., caliph Al-Mansur founded the city of Baghdad in what is modern-day Iraq. The area was and remains one of the commercial and intellectual centers of the Arab world, though it's obviously had a few problems since the U.S. invaded in 2003 and toppled Saddam Hussein's regime. Nonetheless, the city will rise again, and we thought we'd help it celebrate its birthday with a few Baghdad-centric tunes.

Kate Bush, "Kashka From Baghdad": There's a lot of conjecture on just what this track from 1978's Lionheart is about. The general consensus is that it has to do with a nosy neighbor spying on a gay couple who keep their relationship hidden, and secretly envying them their affection. Bush's brother Paddy has said before that Kashka was meant as a male character.

Though not out and out criminalized, even under the Hussein regime, homosexuality was and still is heavily stigmatized in Baghdad. Acceptance is minimal, and honor killings of gay family members still occur.

Eminem, "Bagpipes From Baghdad": This is actually one of my favorite Eminem hooks of all time, but I really wish he'd done something more with the verses than attack Nick Cannon, of all people. This somehow came out in 2009, in a country still very much conflicted over what we had thus far accomplished in Iraq. It looks like Mathers just tied a Hollywood couple and a regular headline keyword to spark some album sales. Too bad, this could have been one of his best if he'd tried.

One Life as a Lion, "One Life as a Lion": For instance wouldn't it have been awesome to have Eminem team up with Zack de la Rocha? The former Rage Against the Machine frontman formed One Life as a Lion in 2008, one year before that unfortunate Eminem track. If only some producer had suggested wedding that killer hook from "Bagpipes From Baghdad" with de la Rocha's cutting verses that include lines like "if L.A. were Baghdad we'd be Iraqi." Alas...

Flaming Lips, "UFOs Over Baghdad": Anyone with even a causal knowledge of the Flaming Lips knows that Wayne Coyne is big on the idea of benevolent aliens bringing peace and joy to all mankind. It's basically Christianity for people who grew up watching The Day the Earth Stood Still. The Lips included this as a bonus track on Embryonic... another album that came out in 08-09. What's the deal about the end of the first decade of the millennium and the ancient city?

Interestingly enough, there are UFO sightings associated with Baghdad. The reports begin around spring of 2003 when there was, you know, a lot of stuff going on the skies above Baghdad, but UFOlogists point to at least three unidentified encounters. They even believe Saddam Hussein may have had his own Area 51.

Lamb of God, "Ashes of the Wake": Well, it looks like we're not going to get to see Lamb of God for a while with Randy Blythe stuck in Czech Republic on manslaughter charges, so here's at least a little tune to tide you over till his release. The title track off their 2004 album was specifically aimed as a condemnation of the Iraq War, and Blythe and company don't pull any punches.

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