Unknown Soldier: A Memorial Day Playlist

Now that you've browsed the various rock, soul, country and rap musicians who have spent time serving their country, Rocks Off thought a playlist might be apropos, something to listen to while you barbecue, watch the parade or whatever it is you do to honor fallen soldiers. We've selected some choice tracks dealing with war, soldiers and the trials that plague them, both domestic and foreign.

Alice In Chains, "Rooster": Written about guitarist Jerry Cantrell's father, who served in Vietnam and was nicknamed "Rooster", this song is a vivid portrait of what goes through the mind of one soldier neck-deep in the shit.

Stiff Little Fingers, "Tin Soldiers": Irish punk band Stiff Little Fingers had many protest songs which addressed the fighting during "The Troubles," but this song actually addresses the fact that sometimes soldiers find out they've signed up for more than they bargained for.

The Mighty Mighty Bosstones also do a mean version.

Dispatch, "The General": According to the band, the specific war they had in mind when they wrote this song was the American Civil War, but this story of a general who has a change of heart could be set during any conflict.

The Shirelles, "Soldier Boy": Released in 1962, this song predated U.S. involvement in Vietnam by a couple of years. Since then, its title has been adopted as a moniker by Chicanos in the barrios of East L.A., as well as by a bunch of people dancing ridiculously on the internet.

The Doors, "Unknown Soldier:" Jim Morrison's father was an Admiral in the U.S. Navy, and served in the Pacific Theater during World War II. We have to wonder what he thought if he ever saw his son perform this song, and are particularly curious about his reaction to the mock firing-squad segment.

Jimi Hendrix, "Machine Gun": Another response to Vietnam, Hendrix wrote this song about the Vietnamese villagers, who "fought like a farmer" (often wielding crude farming implements as weapons) and were so badly outgunned yet were in the end impossible to defeat.

Guns 'N' Roses, "Civil War": "What's so civil about war, anyway?" asks Axl Rose at the end of this protest song, which blasts war for "feeding the rich while it buries the poor," a subject which would later be revisited in System of a Down's B.Y.O.B.

Bruce Robison, "Travelin' Soldier": It's tough to make it through this account of a soldier's promise to write from the front lines with dry eyes, and it becomes damn near impossible during the heart-wrenching harmonies of the Dixie Chicks' version. Here's to hoping that if you have a soldier in your family, he or she make it safely home.

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John Seaborn Gray