Memorial Day music: Dire Straits’ ‘Brothers in Arms’

Heard this on the radio this morning, and as usual it shifted me into a different state of consciousness.

It’s not the words or anything obvious like that. It’s just the otherworldly mood that the song creates.

Anyway, it occurred to me after I heard it that maybe it was being played in honor of Memorial Day.

In that spirit, I share it.

I find myself reminded of this other little-known James Taylor song — a song fragment, really — from his “Mud Slide Slim” album, which I’ve always thought had its own mildly hypnotic effect. I was always struck by the sudden shift in tone — from the battle-weary soldiers “with eleven sad stories to tell” to the narrator and his very different reality — after which the song abruptly ends. It was like suddenly awaking from a dream — or, to invoke an obscure reference, like the effect when Don Juan suddenly slapped Carlos Castaneda on the back, sending him into a state of heightened awareness.

It may seem an odd way to mark Memorial Day — these lyrical expressions from pop musicians who never heard a shot fired in anger. But that’s what I have for you today.

4 thoughts on “Memorial Day music: Dire Straits’ ‘Brothers in Arms’

  1. Tex

    I just noticed that Google, you know the search engine that has a special design on their home page for everything just decided to do a generic Google design for today. I guess their artists couldn’t come up with anything for Memorial Day… unlike the special design they came up with for the 888th birthday Muslim philosopher Averroes. After all, today is just the day where we remember those who served and died fighting for our country.

  2. Bryan Caskey

    Excellent call on Brothers In Arms. When I saw the post, I immediately thought to myself: “Why didn’t I think of that?” :)

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Well, to engage in becoming modesty, I didn’t think of it myself until my wife turned on the radio in the kitchen, and that’s what was playing…

  3. David Carlton

    Brad, thanks for this. Last year I offered my own choice in a Memorial Day video to my friends:

    . As it happened, this time last year I was gearing up to sing Benjamin Britten’s *War Requiem* with the Nashville Symphony (my swan song as a chorister, and one of the most deeply moving experiences of my life). As you may be aware, Britten wrote the *War Requiem* for the May 1962 reconsecration of Coventry Cathedral, which had been gutted by a Luftwaffe raid in 1940. A pacifist, he juxtaposed the Latin texts of the requiem mass with the poetry of Wilfred Owen, a British Army officer in World War I who penned some of the fiercest antiwar poetry ever written before himself getting killed a week prior to the Armistice. For the Agnus Dei, Britten chose one of Owen’s greatest poems, “At a Calvary Near the Ancre.” Starting with the image of a lone, blasted crucifix standing in a war zone, he contrasts the disciples’ hiding to the soldiers’ “bearing with him,” and contrasts the was propaganda of the religious folk back home to the self-sacrificial love of the men at the front. Britten’s setting is perfect; here it’s sung by his life partner Peter Pears, who sang in the premiere.


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