Masters of War by Bob Dylan is the Peace Song of the Day for Saturday, September 10, 2011. When Duchess Susanna heard Duke Augustus playing this song this morning, she requested he post it as it the Peace Song of the Day because she had to leave to go bring music into the world. Duke Augustus find these to be some of Dylan’s most straight-forward lyrics, but there still seems to be room for disagreement. The song was released in the spring of 1963 album The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. Wikipedia claims that Nat Hentoff‘s liner notes frame the song as a protest against Cold War arms build-up.The liner note themselves seem to give the song a broader context:
“Masters of War” startles Dylan himself. “I’ve never really written anything like that before,” he recalls. “I don’t sing songs which hope people will die, but I couldn’t help it in this one. The song is a sort of striking out, a reaction to the last straw, a feeling of what can you do?” The rage (which is as much anguish as it is anger) is a away of catharsis, a way of getting temporary relief from the heavy feeling of impotence that affects many who cannot understand a civilization which juggles it’s own means for oblivion and calls that performance an act toward peace.
You that never done nothin’ But build to destroy
Considering that this song was on the same album as Blowin’ In The Wind, A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall, and Talking World War III Blues, it is clear that the world’s violence was much on 21-year-old Bob Dylan’s mind. As Duke Augustus has said in general about great art, and in particular about Dylan’s songs, the meaning deepens as it ages. As the US deepened it’s involvement with the Viet Nam War, this song became ever more prescient. And during the last 10 years of permanent US War, the song has again risen in significance.
The melody for this song was adapted from folk legend Jean Ritchie‘s arrangement of the traditional song, “Nottamun Town“. The lyrics have been included in the Howard Zinn book, Voices of a People’s History of the United States
- Wartime Royal Song of the Day 9/2/11 (peacecouple.com)
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- Royal Song of the Day: Friday 8/19/11 (peacecouple.com)