5 Poignant Songs About Soldiers and War for Memorial Day, Including Tunes by Elton John, Billy Joel, & Bruce Springsteen

The United States celebrates Memorial Day on Monday 27. The holiday commemorates and mourns all of the brave men and women who lost their lives while serving in the country’s armed forces.

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Many well-known artists have written poignant songs inspired by the sacrifices so many have made defending our freedom and the toll war takes on those who have been involved in military conflicts. In honor of Memorial Day, here are five poignant tunes about soldiers and war:

[RELATED: 3 of the Most Moving National Memorial Day Concert Performances]

“Daniel” – Elton John (1973)

Elton John’s 1973 hit “Daniel” featured somewhat enigmatic lyrics written by John’s songwriting partner Bernie Taupin about a man whose brother, who had somehow been blinded, is leaving his home to move to Spain.

Taupin revealed that the song was inspired by a Newsweek article he’d read about Vietnam veterans who struggled to have normal lives after returning home from the war.

“It was about this guy who’d been wounded in the Vietnam War and had gone back to his hometown, just wanting to forget it all and get on with his life,” Taupin explained (according to NightsWithAliceCooper.com). “But the people there wanted him to be a hero, and wouldn’t leave him alone. In the end, this guy had become so disillusioned, he’d decided the only way out was to leave America altogether.”

“Daniel” became a big hit for John, peaking at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100.

“Goodnight Saigon” – Billy Joel (1982)

“Goodnight Saigon” was a song on Billy Joel’s 1982 album The Nylon Curtain that saluted those who served and died in Vietnam. The Piano Man sings the anthemic tune from the perspective of a Marine, who shares the various hardships soldiers experienced, as well as the camaraderie they shared with each other.

Joel said he wrote the song at the request of a number of his peers who served in Vietnam. Since Joel did not serve himself, he asked for input from people he knew who did.

At some of his concerts, Joel invited veterans in attendance to join him onstage to sing “Goodnight Saigon” with him.

The song was released as a single, but only reached No. 56 on the Hot 100.

“Still in Saigon” – Charlie Daniels Band (1982)

Charlie Daniels Band released the song “Still in Saigon” on their 1982 album Windows. The tune was written by journalist and author Dan Daley, and tells the story of a Vietnam veteran 10 years after he was drafted into the military and served more than a year overseas.

The character is experiencing PTSD because of the trauma he endured, and he’s labeled a killer by his war-protesting younger brother.

In a 2007 interview with Songfacts, Charlie Daniels explained that he recorded the tune after it was presented to him by his producer, John Bowman, and by the Vietnam Veterans of America advocacy group.

“[I]t was very much in with the way that I felt about the Vietnam veterans,” Daniels noted. “[I]t was so totally unfair how these people were treated when they came back from a war that they had nothing to do with starting.”

“Still in Saigon” became a hit for the Daniels Band, reached No. 22 on the Hot 100.

“Brothers in Arms” – Dire Straits (1985)

“Brothers in Arms” was the title and closing track of Dire Straits’ chart-topping fifth studio album. Frontman Mark Knopfler was inspired to write the tune by the 1982 Falklands War.

The conflict, which lasted 74 days, saw the U.K. and Argentina involved in military battles over two U.K. island territories located off the southern coast of Argentina. More than 900 people were killed during the conflict, including more than 250 British military personnel.

Knopfler wrote the song about a dying British soldier who is accompanied by his fellow comrades as he passes away.

“Brothers in Arms” reached No. 16 on the U,K, singles chart.

“The Wall” – Bruce Springsteen (2014)

“The Wall” is featured on Bruce Springsteen’s 2014 studio album High Hopes. Springsteen wrote the song about Walter Cichon, the lead singer of a Jersey Shore band called The Motifs who went missing in action while serving in Vietnam in 1968.

The Boss said he was inspired to compose the tune after he and his wife, Patti Scialfa, visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. In the song, Springsteen laments the lost potential of the many whose names are inscribed the memorial’s wall.

Springsteen said of Cichon, “He was the first person I ever stood in the presence of who was filled with the mystique of the true rock star.”

He added, “He still performs somewhat regularly in my mind, the way he stood, dressed, held the tambourine, the casual cool, the freeness. … His was a terrible loss to us, his loved ones and the local music scene. I still miss him.”

Springsteen began recording the tune in the late 1990s, and the track was finally completed for the 2014 album.

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