Wargaming’s Greatest Hits: A List of War and Anti-War Songs

Posted by billk on April 18, 2024 4:07 pm

A couple of days ago, Ardwulf’s Lair had a stream where the topic was music for wargaming. A great topic, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it so I’ve put together my list of favorites just to get them in one place. Unsurprisingly they’re mostly Cold War and some anti-war protest tunes. In no particular order, they are:

“All Along the Watchtower” – Jimi Hendrix

Almost impossible to think about the Vietnam War without this song playing in your head.

BONUS SONG: “All Along the Watchtower” – Dave Matthews Band

There are several versions of this great song, including Bob Dylan’s original and U2’s version on Rattle and Hum, but although I consider Jimi’s to be the best, my second favorite comes from Dave Matthews who’s been performing this live since the 90s and truly makes it his own.

“New Year’s Day” – U2

From the album War, this track was about Solidarity, the Polish trade union that was the first independent trade union in a Warsaw Pact country to be recognized by the state. Solidarity was a key reason for the end of communist rule in Poland.

“Sunday Bloody Sunday” – U2

Also from War, this opening track is about the Bloody Sunday incident from 1972 where British soldiers shot and killed unarmed civil rights protestors in Derry.

“Immigrant Song” – Led Zeppelin

Vikings, baby!

“99 Luftballons” / “99 Red Balloons” – Nena

That time the military mistook a bunch of balloons for missiles and “fired back.”

BONUS SONG: “99 Red Balloons” – Goldfinger

Just a kickass cover with an explosive (ha!) ending.

“Der Kommissar” – Falco

You might know Falco from his other hit, “Rock Me, Amadeus,” but in this one he’s rap-singing about crime in a Cold War police state. In this U.S. version of the video he’s “green screen”-ed running from the police. Ah, those 80s special effects.

“Burning Heart” – Survivor

From the movie that single-handedly ended the Cold War: Rocky 4. “If I can change, and you can change, EVERYBODY CAN CHANGE!”

“Everybody Wants to Rule the World” – Tears for Fears

“I feel seen.” – Napoleon

“It’s a Mistake” – Men at Work

“Jump down the shelters to get away / The boys are cockin’ up their guns / Tell us general, is it party time? / If it is, can we all come?” …sums up the 80s Cold War sentiment so perfectly.

“War Pigs” – Black Sabbath

“Born in the USA” – Bruce Springsteen

Somehow people still think this is a super-patriotic, chest-thumping “my country’s the best” kinda song. Hint: Nope.

“Fortunate Son” – Creedence Clearwater Revival

“Eve of Destruction” – Barry MacGuire

“Enola Gay” – Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark

Despite its bouncy sound, “Enola Gay” is about the atomic bomb drop on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 by the aircraft of the same name.

“Red Skies” – The Fixx

A classic new wave warning about nuclear war. There are a few versions, but despite the low quality of this vid, I think this is the best one.

“Russians” – Sting

“How can I save my little boy / from Oppenheimer’s deadly toy?”

“Wind of Change” – Scorpions

The day The Wall came down…

“Cult of Personality” – Living Colour

“Land of Confusion” – Genesis

“Symphony of Destruction” – Megadeth

“War” – Edwin Starr

“One” – Metallica

I always thought this song was about Vietnam, but Wikipedia tells me it’s about a soldier in World War I.

“Child in Time” – Deep Purple

“Goodnight Saigon” – Billy Joel

“Bulls on Parade” – Rage Against the Machine

“This Is War” – 30 Seconds to Mars

From the album of the same name, the award-winning video shows band members as US Marines deployed in Afghanistan and scenes of modern warfare interspersed with historic clips from the 20th century. It opens with the message, “If we don’t end war, war will end us.”

“The Unknown Soldier” – The Doors

“The End” – The Doors

Made even more famous by Apocalypse Now.

“Zombie” – The Cranberries

Like the U2 songs on this list, the Cranberries are from Ireland and “Zombie” is a protest song talking about the bombings in Warrington, England during The Troubles.

“Games Without Frontiers” – Peter Gabriel

“Orange Crush” – R.E.M.

For a while people thought this song was about the orange soda, but it’s actually about Agent Orange that was used in the Vietnam War.

“Civil War” – Guns n’ Roses

“For What It’s Worth” – Buffalo Springfield

“19” – Paul Hardcastle

An 80s electro-pop song about the Vietnam War that came out of nowhere, but got people talking and raised awareness Vietnam veterans.

“American Idiot” – Green Day

“Rock the Casbah” – The Clash

“What a Wonderful World” – Louis Armstrong

Included here because of the movie, “Good Morning, Vietnam” and because it’s such a good reminder that the reality of war sucks and we could be better.

2 responses to “Wargaming’s Greatest Hits: A List of War and Anti-War Songs”

  1. Brian Train says:

    The Metallica song video is from the film Johnny Got His Gun, which was made of a 1938 book about a World War One veteran who wakes up in a hospital minus any way to communicate or get sensory input from the world, in a living death that will not end.

    • billk says:

      Looking into this movie now and what an interesting, but thoroughly disturbing, premise. I’ve seen this idea used in science fiction movies, but this makes it feel more real and consequently more terrifying. Thanks for the heads up, Brian.

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