Home Feature 4 more Canadian folk songs about the Canadian war experience for Remembrance...

4 more Canadian folk songs about the Canadian war experience for Remembrance Day

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Field of poppies.
Photo by Matteo Kutufa on Unsplash.

For the first couple of years after Roots Music Canada’s revival, we posted song lists for Remembrance Day here on the site, featuring songs like the Trews’ “Highway of Heroes” and David Francey’s “Flowers of Saskatchewan.”

Then we set that tradition aside for a couple of years as COVID took over our thoughts.

But with war raging in Ukraine, this year seemed like a good year to resume it.

Nearly all of the songs on this year’s list aren’t so much about the war experience as they are about what comes after it: the impact of post traumatic stress disorder on soldiers and their families.

Many artists met or got to know survivors who returned from Afghanistan and heard their stories of it first hand, inspiring these compositions.

Here is this year’s song list, and there are links above to the previous lists too.

“The War Bride’s Waltz” by Aengus Finnan

These days, many people know Aengus as the recently-departed executive director of Folk Alliance International, but he is a singer-songwriter in his own right, and he released his debut album, Fool’s Gold, in 1999. This sweet, sad song from it touches on the reality that the reunions that happened between couples after the war were seldom as happily-ever-after as we might’ve wanted to believe at the time. Aengus’ recording isn’t available online, but Paul Mills, who produced the album, uploaded a rendition of it to YouTube, along with some photos of the original recording session and a funny story about how he met Aengus.

“Wounded” by Lennie Gallant

One of the not-so-talked-about aspects of the war in Afghanistan was the number of Canadian musicians who traveled overseas to play for the troops. Lennie was one of them. He released this song on his 2009 album, If We Had a Fire, inspired by the stories of the soldiers who made it home – but not necessarily in one piece.

“Hometown Battlefield” by J.P. Cormier

This song about soldiers living with post-traumatic stress disorder arguably transformed J.P.’s career. Like Lennie, J.P. was inspired to compose a number after visiting the troops in Afghanistan. In 2014, after 30 or so years slogging it out in the music industry trenches, he posted a rough video of him playing this then-new song at his kitchen table. Within a couple of weeks, it had been viewed more than a million times. In fact, the social media following he amassed after its release helped him transition his career to YouTube during the pandemic.

“Blue Berets” by Stompin’ Tom Connors

Stompin’ Tom was nothing if not a patriotic Canadian in the most grassroots hockey-and-Timmys sense of the word. And that included supporting our troops – particularly our peacekeeping troops, because at the time of this song’s writing, Canada was still largely known and celebrated for them. I haven’t read Romeo Dallaire’s Shake Hands with the Devil, but I understand he says in the book that he played this song for the troops in Rawanda to keep up their morale when they were under siege.

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