5 War-Themed Tracks That Inspire Hope and Courage

Music has long been the soundtrack of our lives, even during times of strife. In times of war, music has often served as a source of comfort and an outlet for opinion, with everyone from Woody Guthrie to Bob Dylan and many artists in between sharing their thoughts through song. Though war songs often reflect feelings of sadness or anger, there are plenty that offer a sense of hope and courage. Check some of them out below.

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5. “The Ballad of Ira Hayes” by Johnny Cash

“The Ballad of Ira Hayes” is equal parts sad and courageous. Johnny Cash covered the song written by folk singer Peter La Farge in 1964. It’s based on the tragic story of Ira Hayes, a Native American of the Pima tribe who was one of the six marines who raised the flag during the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II. The song tells the story of Hayes’ upbringing in the Arizona desert before he volunteered to fight in the war. But upon returning home, Hayes’ valiant efforts aren’t celebrated, leading him to numb himself with alcohol before dying alone in a ditch.

While the song’s ending is depressing, Hayes’ courage can be felt throughout, painting a picture of how he overcame suppression to fight for a country that ultimately neglected him. It captures the horrors of war while also honoring Hayes’ noble efforts in the way he deserves.

4. “A Star-Spangled Banner is Waving Somewhere” by Elton Britt

There’s a patriotic spirit that takes over “There’s a Star-Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere.” As far as war songs go, this one is pretty light-hearted with its nostalgic melody and Britt’s beautiful voice. The song tells the story of a wounded soldier who has courage in spades and fights faithfully for his home country. If I do some great deed, I will be a hero / and a hero brave is what I want to be / There’s a star spangled banner waving somewhere / In that heaven there should be a place for me, Britt sings in his 1942 recording that sold more than one million copies.

3. “American Soldier” by Toby Keith

As the son of an Army veteran, Toby Keith‘s patriotic songs come from an honest place. That’s true of “American Soldier,” which tells the story of a fearless and courageous soldier who never backs down even when faced with the gravest danger. Keith’s earnest approach casts the soldier as a man with a wife and children, fighting for their safety. Hope and courage are the undercurrent of the song that features such lyrics as: I’m an American soldier, an American / Beside my brothers and my sisters / I will proudly take a stand / When liberty’s in jeopardy / I will always do what’s right.

[RELATED: 5 Classic Rock Songs That Defined the Vietnam War Era]

2. “Stoned Love” by The Supremes

Countless artists were releasing songs as protests against the Vietnam War, The Supremes being one of them. But instead of releasing a blatant anti-war song, the female trio fronted by Diana Ross offered a message of peace as a form of protest. The upbeat song features such hopeful lyrics as: A love for each other will bring fighting to an end / Forgiving one another, time after time doubt creeps in and And to the man on whose shoulder the world must depend / I pray for peace and love, Amen. The positive spirit of the song is infectious, making for one of the most hopeful war songs.

1. “Imagine” by John Lennon

John Lennon‘s “Imagine” is one of the most hopeful songs ever recorded. Released during the tail end of the Vietnam War in 1971, “Imagine” doesn’t take aim at any one war, but rather imagines a world where such atrocity doesn’t exist. In Lennon’s idyllic world, country boundaries are erased, along with possessions, religion, and everything else that divides humanity. Instead, Lennon genuinely pleads: Imagine all the people / Livin’ life in peace / You may say I’m a dreamer / But I’m not the only one / I hope someday you’ll join us / And the world will be as one. When it comes to music, there’s arguably no more peaceful offering than “Imagine.”

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