Best Anti-War Songs Ever?

Best Anti-War Songs Ever?

One of my favorite playlists on my iPod is a collection of anti-war songs from the Vietnam era.  Even though I was alive for only some of it, the mid-60s/early 70s produced my favorite music — much to the delight of my father, who was a hippie at the time and doesn’t understand why I relate so deeply to the music of his generation.  (The answer, I think, is that it was the last great era of mass protest against war in the U.S.)  In any case, here are my six favorite anti-war songs from that era, in chronological order:

And a bonus 70s lefty song: Paul Revere & The Raiders, Indian Reservation (1971)

Readers, what are your favorite anti-war songs — Vietnam era or otherwise?  I need to update my playlist.

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Mark Kersten

I absolutely love Eve of Destruction but will add two more recent anti-war songs by Michael Franti – Bomb the World (with the great line “we can bomb the world to pieces but we can’t bomb it into peace) and Light Up Your Lighter (with the great lines “In the Afghan hills, the rebels fighting / Opium fields keep on providing / The best heroin that money can buy an’ / Nobody know where Osama bin hidin'”)

Daragh Murray
Daragh Murray

Great list!A couple of others I like are ‘Handsome Johnny’ and ‘Freedom’ by Richie Havens, ‘Fortunate Son’ by Creedence, ‘War’ by Bob Marley & The Wailers, ‘Long Walk to DC’ by the Staple Singers.Slightly broadening the category, to protest, ‘Zombie’ by Fela Kuti (

) and ‘Indictment’ by Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra, are quality. And a post Katrina protest song, ‘We Made it through that water’ Free Agents Brass Band. 


“Let them Eat War” by Bad Religion and “Zombie” by the Cranberries, though granted, Zombie is not anti war but anti NIAC. Another great song is “El Niño Soldado” by Spanish Band Ska-p, but that is also, not really anti-war but anti-use-of-children-in-armed-conflict


Bring the Boys Home by Freda Payne. 


John Prine, You’re Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore (1971)
John Prine, Sam Stone (1971)
Slovo, 21 Today (2002)
Pharoahe Monch, Agent Orange (2003)

Eugene Kontorovich

Phil Ochs “Draft Dodger Rag.” Has the advantage of being funny, not sanctimonious. I bet there were some great ones about the Civil War, too. It is more interesting if the war that song is “anti” is a (now) popular one.

Kenneth Anderson

Eric Bogle’s 1971 “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda”?  My all time favorite cover is by Tom Waits, live in 1977. 

Kenneth Anderson

Re Waits – I think I’d prefer having the Baez version in a playlist; I love Waits too, but I think for repeated listening a less unique version … and now the dang thing is stuck in my head as an ear worm!

Greg Fox
Greg Fox

Can’t forget Graham Nash’s Military Madness, Bob Dylan’s Master’s of War and Where Have All the Flowers Gone, written by Peter Seeger and recorded by many artists.

Patrick S. O'Donnell

Not an anti-war song as such, but one that became popular among US soldiers in Vietnam: “We Gotta Get out of This Place” (‘written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil and recorded as a 1965 hit single by The Animals’).

“It was frequently requested of, and played by, American Forces Vietnam Network disc jockeys.During 2006 two University of Wisconsin–Madison employees, one a Vietnam veteran, began an in-depth survey of hundreds of Vietnam veterans, and found that ‘We Gotta Get out of This Place’ had resonated the strongest among all the music popular then…. This was the Vietnam anthem. Every bad band that ever played in an armed forces club had to play this song.'” (Wikipedia)

Patrick S. O'Donnell

Arguably an anti-war song: Randy Newman’s “Political Science”

No one likes us-I don’t know why
We may not be perfect, but heaven knows we try
But all around, even our old friends put us down
Let’s drop the big one and see what happens

We give them money-but are they grateful?
No, they’re spiteful and they’re hateful
They don’t respect us-so let’s surprise them
We’ll drop the big one and pulverize them

Asia’s crowded and Europe’s too old
Africa is far too hot
And Canada’s too cold
And South America stole our name
Let’s drop the big one
There’ll be no one left to blame us

We’ll save Australia
Don’t wanna hurt no kangaroo
We’ll build an All American amusement park there
They got surfin’, too

Boom goes London and boom Paree
More room for you and more room for me
And every city the whole world round
Will just be another American town
Oh, how peaceful it will be
We’ll set everybody free
You’ll wear a Japanese kimono
And there’ll be Italian shoes for me

They all hate us anyhow
So let’s drop the big one now
Let’s drop the big one now

Benjamin Davis
Benjamin Davis

Jimi Hendrix, Star Spangled Banner at Woodstock 1969 ,

In my efforts to create a panel for ASIL on The Music of Internatonal Law, my attention was drawn to Buffy Sainte Marie’s Universal Soldier

Marvin Gaye, What’s Going On –

For What It’s Worth should be our anthem these days.

What a field-day for the heat
A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly say, hooray for our side

It’s time we stop, hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down

Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you’re always afraid
You step out of line, the man come and take you away



Stuart Ford

Black Sabbath – War Pigs
Iron Maiden – Two Minutes to Midnight

André Tschumi
André Tschumi

My favourite anti-war song is “Sunday bloody Sunday”, from U2. That is a song with a lot of history behind:

Paul Foord
Paul Foord

Australian songs include Cold Chisel ‘Khe Sahn’ (initially banned from airplay in Australia), Redgum ‘I Was Only Nineteen’ along with Eric Bogle ‘And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda’ mentioned above.
Also System Of A Down ‘Boom!’

Matt Burton
Matt Burton

On the point of ‘Waltzing Matilda’, has anyone heard The Pogues version? In the context o the Irish troubles, that version of the song really sends shivers down my spine. Plus, the nasally gravelly voice really gives depth to the longing in the song.

In modern times, I find System of a Down to have the best anti-War songs. In a more folksy direction, you can’t look further than Billy Bragg or The Nightwatchman (Tom Morello).

Best anti-war song ever though has to go The Clash & ‘London Calling’. Joe Strummer just had this way of viewing the world with a squint in his eye, as if always sceptical of everything.


Redgum: I was only 19…

The Clash: London Calling is one of my all time favs. Joe Strummer was a brilliant man!
The Stray Cats: Storm the Embassy (written by Joe Strummer & Brian Setzer)

Frank Turner: Sons of Liberty

Iron Maiden: Run to the Hills!
Dixie Chicks: Travelin’ Soldier (because its an utterly beaut5iful song!)


Silent Night on Christmas eve — sung during WWI first, by the Germans across the trenches, then by the allies — but the next day or so they fought again. 


Dropkick Murphys: Johnny We Hardly Knew Ye
Pink Floyd: When the Tigers Broke Free.
Virtually anything by Rise Against, but Survivor guilt is one of my particular favorites:
Guns and Roses: Civil War 

anvil vapre
anvil vapre

Primal Scream – Swastika Eyes
DJ Shadow – War is Hell
As for the album cover on the topic, the shattered UN building: Megadeth – Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying?


Roads To Moscow by Al Stewart

Larry Heller

Response…One of the great all time anti-war songs is the Irish “Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye”.  Judy Collins has one great version of it.


As a colollary, any thoughts on the most infamous pro-war songs? La Marseillaise comes to mind. The case against Simon Bikindi at the ICTR.

International Lawyer
International Lawyer

For What It’s Worth is not an antiwar song. If anything, it’s an anti-hooray-for-our-side song.

Political Science is pure genius. I sang it in a bar full of lawyers from all over the world, to rave reviews (especially from the Aussies). It didn’t seem as funny when the Tube was bombed the next day.

Eve of Destruction is rightfully at the top of the list. 

International Lawyer
International Lawyer

Ah — forgot the best of them all:

Brothers in Arms, Dire Straits