Monday, 22 August 2011

Mark Knopfler's Songs About War

There are many ways to write songs about war. Some songs are angry, some are eager but fortunately most can be understood as anti-war songs. Of these, Mark Knopfler is one of those who in my opinion is most successful in describing the powerlessness of those who suffers because of war; soldiers, civilians and those left behind. This is a collection of his best anti-war songs with a reference to the war in question where applicable.

Brothers in Arms
from the album with the same name, one dedicated to an anti-war agenda.

The Man's Too Strong
from the same album. Who is the man? A father would be an authority figure. So might a dictator. In a family, there might be no distinction.

Done With Bonaparte
from the solo album Golden Heart. This clearly refers to the Napoleonic wars, but notice how the last verse foreshadows the Second World War.

Remembrance Day
from his most recent album, Get Lucky. This is about the First World War as indicated through the title and specific topical wording. This song beautifully concludes the list, showing how small the individual becomes in war and how great our obligation to the victims should be.


  1. I couldn't agree more. Mark Knopfler is a true poet, bringing us visions of the horrors of war with so few words. Remembrance Day moves me to tears every time I listen to 'Angry Alfie, Bill and Ken...'

  2. Thanks for commenting, Anne!

    I'm a lifelong Knopfler-fan. I think his the strength of his lyrics lies in the limited focus on characters and the individual side to whatever he wishes to communicate.In addition, there is a lyrical mood to many of his lyrics. You seldom find dramatic or extreme language although he often describes people in situations many would consider extreme.

    This, of course, is where his musical skills enters and, somehow guiltily avoiding the discussion, I merely observe that it would be interesting looking at the dynamics between text and music in MK's most lyrical songs.