PGS Top 40 Peace Songs
Top 10 songs
Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream (Ed McCurdy)
Let There be Peace on Earth (Jill Jackson Miller)
Imagine (John Lennon)
Dona Nobis Pacem (God Give us Peace) (Mozart)
Give Peace a Chance (John Lennon)
The Ballad of Penny Evans (Steve Goodman)
The Band Played Waltzing Matilda (Liam Clancy; the Pogues, written by Eric Bogle)
Down by the Riverside (John W. Work)
Universal Soldier (Buffy Sainte-Marie)
Peace Train (Yusuf Islam/ Cat Stevens)
The Strangest Dream was a favorite song of Josef Rotblat and the title of a documentary film about his life.
Eryl Court “I think this is the true classis of peace, because it predicts the triumph of Peace on Earth, and humanity’s role. I am proud that it was the creation of the great Canadian folk singer Ed McCurdy – a great inspiration and incentive for ALL OF US!”
Carol Schwartz “I feel a bit like someone produced the play list of my life on this page. Most of these songs and their performers are ones I know and love. Many of them have moved me to tears again and again. However, Ed McCurdy’s “Last Night I had the Strangest Dream” takes me back to my earliest childhood. I sang this song with my family, at summer camp, with friends, and later with my partner’s family. The wishes are so basic and universal and still unfulfilled. We need to keep singing it and struggling for peace”
Jeff Piker “When I was a kid in high school in Cincinnati in the mid ’50s and starting to pay attention to the idea of ‘peace’, this song gave me energy and hope. I know others of my generation for whom it had the same effect. It was a major anthem for peace work.”
Thanks to Larry Wartel for the following submission Wasteland
Larry states “This is an anti-fascist anti-imperialist peace and justice song. Because all four elements are included Ms. Dement relinks the peace movement to the other three struggles. Peace/disarmament can only be created through such solidarity.”
Other nominated songs:
Universal Soldier Buffy Sainte-Marie, submitted by Dr. Dale Dewar ” I remember crying the first time that I heard it. Bill and I had helped a couple of US army deserters cross into Canada – they were so young – they had been loyal and idealistic but so confused when we met them.”
The Patriot’s Dream Gordon Lightfoot, submitted by John Loretz ” What makes this song so powerful is that Lightfoot populates it with flesh and blood people who are damaged or destroyed by war in a variety of ways — young soldiers who are seduced by dreams of glory; a mother who gets a late night phone call and now must tell her sleeping children that their father won’t be coming home; a young woman who overhears the name of her fiancé on the street and returns home and “cries into the silken folds of her new wedding gown”; an old war profiteer who invites his wife onto the porch to watch the sunset and tells her “I’d like to say I’m sorry for the sinful deeds I’ve done, but let me first remind you I’m a patriotic son.” The whole thing works because Lightfoot is a great storyteller, knows that empathy and irony are far more powerful ways to condemn war than any amount of preaching, and can write music like nobody’s business.”
My name is Lisa Kalvelage Pete Seeger, submitted by Dr. Jason Bailey “I remember singing this 3 years ago at the Ottawa Peace Festival. I had recently finished 3 years of work as a medical doctor for the Canadian military where I spent three years as a doctor for Canadian Forces members stationed at CFB Petawawa. I saw many young people go to Afghanistan and never come back, or often they came back as mere shells of the young and vibrant people they once were. The front pages of the local newspapers too frequently displayed pictures of young families at yet another ramp ceremony for yet another father or mother lost in that war. Some of those pictures are imprinted so strongly in my mind that I still remember them vividly to this day. PTSD and depression were rampant in my patients. I can remember vividly many of my patients who were scarred for life from that war and still are suffering to this day. They will never truly be fully healed. I remember vividly many medics I worked with who were killed in that war and never came back. This doesn’t even touch upon how horribly the Afghan people and the opposing armies also suffered in similar ways, but on a much larger scale. So many people and their families were scarred beyond belief by that war, which in the end has caused nothing but death, needless loss, and destruction.
This song really inspired me at the time, and still does to this day, to do as much as I am capable of as an individual to advocate for peace, non-violent solutions to conflict, and a world without war. For me, their is no other way forward than to fight for peace (non-violently of course!) and a greener, more compassionate world. Lise Kalvelage’s words, put to music by the great Pete Seeger and later by his kindred spirit Ani Di Franco, always challenge me to remember that one day our children will look back and say “Where was your mother (or father), when?”
Soldier Blue Buffy Sainte-Marie – this song is submitted by David Graham – it was the first single he ever bought at age 16 “When I was 16 years old I saw Buffy perform this on BBC. It was the height of the Vietnam War and the B-Side (Moratorium) along with Soldier Blue made me aware of war and what was going on in the world. It also made me realise that Native Americans were real people and not “savages” being chased across the movie screen in Technicolor by John Wayne”
Let There be Peace on Earth written by Jill Jackson Miller, sung by Harlem Boys’ Choir submitted by Dr. Sylvia Keet. Dr. Douglas Alton added “This song was sung at our 50th wedding anniversary by a long-time friend soloist accompanied by her amazing accompanist / vocal coach. They had performed at many fundraisers over the years. This was their last public performance. The accompanist who was in her 80’s.”
I Come and Stand at Every Door lyrics by Nazim Hikmet, performed by Pete Seeger. Submitted by Jeff Piker “It’s a first-person song, which increases its power immeasurably. The voice is a child’s voice, which makes the words wonderfully poignant. The words are simple but incredibly moving, and the melody is so lovely. The focus, of course is Hiroshima — so the symbolic meaning of the song extends outward forever — with added importance today, since nuclear destruction is likely closer than it’s ever been since Hiroshima and Nagasaki, yet growing ever more distant from most of our minds. The final verse expresses a hope or dream which must never be forgot: ‘All that I ask is that for peace / You fight today, you fight today / So that the children of this world / May live and grow and laugh and play’. The song speaks to the mind, and just as strongly it speaks to the heart. I choke up every time I listen to it.”
Hymn to Freedom (instrumental) Oscar Peterson, submitted by Dr. Sylvia Keet “the anthem of the Civil Rights Movement, but was soon adopted as a rallying cry for peace internationally.
In 2000 Peterson was awarded the UNESCO International Music Prize, and Hymn to Freedom has been adopted in many countries and by Youth Choirs”
Peterson’s Hymn to Freedom, played by Oliver Jones and sung by Dione Taylor
Woodstock Joni Mitchell, submitted by L. Carriere
Red Clay Hills Mae Moore, Submitted by Dr. Vinay Jinal “beautifully and delicately expresses the internal and external struggles many activists face when their longing to preserve the earth and humanity is challenged by economics.”
Peace. Love and Understanding Nick Lowe, sung with Elvis Costello
Johnny I Hardly Knew Ya Traditional Irish, submitted by Jane Keeler, “It is one of the few songs that directly speaks to the brutal losses soldiers experience, both the amputations and the PTSD, a song almost too cruel to sing.”
Mothers Daughters Wives Judy Small, submitted by Jane Keeler, “This one also talks to the woman’s experience of war…women who ” proudly smiled & held your tears as they bravely waved goodbye”And it also promises a change as the “daughters change their lives Seeing more to our existence than just mothers, daughters, wives…”
Green Fields of France Eric Bogle. Submitted by Jeff Piker. A week prior to Remembrance Day Jeff posted a song every day on his Facebook page “As we approach Remembrance Day, I’m remembering Canadian soldiers (and others) who died in WW1 (and other wars) by posting on my Facebook page one song about war and peace eachday during the week leading up to November 11th. This is especially important now in Canadian History, because the leaders of our federal government are bent on celebrating ‘The Great War’ (1914-1918) as a way to re-define Canada as a ‘warrior nation’. Listening again to each of these songs will help me to re-consider what war has meant to me as a Canadian and to others in Canada and around the world — and what peace can mean. This first song was written by Eric Bogle in 1976. He’s a folk musician who was born in Scotland and moved to Australia, where he still lives. With appropriate relevance, the song is about ‘The Great War’. It’s sung here by Dropkick Murphys, a Celtic punk band from the United States.”
Gracias a la Vida Mercedes Sosa, submitted by L. Carriere
Christmas in the Trenches written and performed by John McCutcheon. Submitted by Jeff Piker ” I’ve known for some time about the unofficial ceasefires that took place between German and British soldiers around Christmas 1914, on the western front. I thought of those events as a sweet anecdote in an ugly war, not very meaningful — until a few weeks ago, when I first listened to this song. Clearly the Christmas truces ‘said’ so much more than that — about what fighting in wars can mean to the people who actually do it — and about what soldiers will sometimes do, despite how they’ve been trained and re-made by their superiors and all they’ve been fed by their warrior cultures. I plan to learn more about these ceasefires.”
Changes Tupac Shakur, submitted by L. Carriere
Queen of Peace by Nalini Blossom. Submitted by Kadijah Photiades “A fairly new song but it speaks to peace as having woman’s energy and it being connected to deep ancient wisdom and that it exists all around us and in us.”
The Day After Tomorrow Tom Waits,
Blowing in the Wind Bob Dylan singing with Joan Baez, submitted by L. Carriere
Road To Peace Tom Waits, both Waits songs submitted by June-Etta Chenard , “Suffice to say that I think these are two of the more powerful anti-war songs I know. “The Road to Peace” adds some complexity to our North American slant on the Israeli war.”
Crow on the Cradle by Sydney Carter, recorded by Pete Seeger
Get Together The Youngbloods
Dona Nobis Pacem ( God Give us Peace ) Mozart, sung by youth at Waring School. “It was always sung during the many years I attended PGS meetings. My most vivid memory was in the cathedral in Paris at the I4th Congress of IPPNW in July 2000..represtatives from many nations singing together.” Dr. Sylvia Keet. Dr Barbara Birkett added ” It was often sung at PGS meetings-usually led by Joy Phillips and was enormously inspiring.” Nikki Shad added “Dona Nobis Pacem is important to me because it highlights being united with others. I have many memories of singing this piece in a choir with hundreds of other youth. It is a special song that connected us with each other, and to our friends and family in the audience. It is a simple, beautiful song that delivers the importance message of striving for peace”
The Peddler, by Maria Dunn Submitted by Dave Dunn ” It identifies the seductive and deceptive nature of war. That war is sold to us as the answer to evil yet we should not be fooled When we look more closely we can see it does not solve the injustice it tries to address, we would better invest our resources in pursuing peace.”
Old Man Atom – Sam Hinton written by Vern Partlow (May 25, 1910 – March 1, 1987), a [U.S.] newspaper reporter and folk singer who was blacklisted during the McCarthy era. He composed the popular satirical song “Old Man Atom”, which was famously banned during the period. It is considered one of the first anti-nuclear songs of the post-war era.
Eve of Destruction P.F.Sloane
Give Peace a Chance John Lennon. “Because it is just one line and everyone joins in until it becomes a meditation” Dr. Mary Wynne Ashford
One Love Bob Marley, submitted by L. Carriere
Masters of War Bob Dylan, sung by Odetta, submitted by Jeff Piker “War is destructive for the lives and livelihoods of so many…but not of everyone.
Bob Dylan wrote the song in 1963. It’s interesting to consider who and what he was talking about: which ‘masters of war’ and which ‘war’? In 1962 the U.S. (under JFK) had increased the number of ‘U.S. advisors’ in Vietnam from 700 to 12,000. Still there was not yet much public attention in North America to a ‘war in Vietnam’.
My guess is that the war Dylan was writing about was the ‘Cold War’. That’s a phrase used first by George Orwell, in an essay in 1945 (‘You and the atomic bomb’), in which he wrote about ‘the peace that is no peace’.
Time they are a Changin Bob Dylan, sung by Bruce Springstein. Submitted by L. Carriere
Happy Christmas – War is Over John Lennon, submitted by L. Carriere
We Want Peace Lenny Kravitz
World on Fire Sarah McLachlan
It’s Going Down Slow Bruce Cockburn
What Have They Done to the Rain by Malvina Reynolds, sung by Marianne Faithful. Submitted by Bill Curry ” People now think of this as a song about acid rain, but it was originally written as part of a campaign to stop aboveground nuclear testing, which was putting strontium-90 in the air, where it was washed down by the rain, got into the soil and thence to the grass, which was eaten by cows. When children drank the cows’ milk the strontium-90, chemically similar to calcium but radioactive, was deposited in their bones. Mothers saved their children’s baby teeth and sent them in to be tested by scientists who indeed found elevated levels of strontium-90 in their teeth. A year after this song was written, President Kennedy signed the treaty against aboveground testing.”
War Edwin Star
Chimes of Freedom Bob Dylan, sung by Bruce Springstein
Mines of Mozambique Bruce Cockburn
Love and Understanding Blue Rodeo
Imagine John Lennon
We Shall Overcome Pete Seeger, sung by various artists at Seeger’s 90th birthday
Belfast Child Simple Minds
Simple Song of Freedom Bobby Darin
Sweet Child by Shards of Jade, submitted by Daniel O’Leary “because its rare to find a moving, hard rocking antiwar/peace anthem recorded recently”
Down by the Riverside by John W. Work. Submitted by Bill Curry “Because it has long deep roots and is known/sung by so many, and largely because it has such a swords-into-ploughshares message. Lay down my sword and shield, and study war no more.” Angela Bischoff from Ontario Clean Air Alliance added “It’s memorable, a classic. Everyone knows the song. And we used it as our wedding song and added a few verses which we wrote words for.”
This World Over XTC
Feel Like I’m Fixing to Die Country Joe, submitted by Dr. Jeannie Rosenberg and Jane Keeler, Keeler wrote “It’s full of the fresh irony and bitterness of the Vietnam draftees, who were my classmates and friends in the high school class of ’62.”
Peace Train Yusuf Islam ( Cat Stevens ), Submitted by Dr. Juan Carlos Chirgwin and Kadijah Photiades, Kadijah writes “I love the energy of it and the crescendo throughout the song and the utter bliss of peace expressed.”
These Hands Dave Gunning submitted by Dr. Dale Dewar, ” This song describes the ways in which hands serve to make the world a better place. The chorus asks, “What can I do with these hands of mine”?
If I Had a Hammer Pete Seeger and Lee Hays
Where Have all the Flowers Gone Pete Seeger and Joe Hickerson, sung by Peter, Paul and Mary
The Ballad of Penny Evans Steve Goodman, submitted by Dr. Cathy Vakil. “This is the very personal view of a 21 year old war widow with 2 infants, who explains her story in an articulate and heart-wrenching manner. This song is a lesson to us all about the huge personal cost of war and how politicians’ efforts to cover up and justify the consequences are not accepted by those that bear the tragic burden directly” Jeff Piker also submitted this song and wrote ” Wars are largely fought by men (and boys — who often are forced to be soldiers without their consent). It is usually men who make decisions and plans for nations and armies to go to war. (pace Margaret Thatcher.) The people who profit most from war (politically and financially) are almost always men. But women are involved in war as well. Today’s song was written in 1971 by Steve Goodman, the marvelous folk-singer and song-writer from Chicago. Alas he died 30 years ago from leukemia, much too young. In this version he appears as I remember him at Mariposa Folk Festival on Toronto Island in the early 70’s.”
Ghetto Gospel Tupac Ft Elton John, submitted by L. Carriere
With God on Our Side Bob Dylan
No Nuclear War Peter Tosh
Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream Ed McCurdy, Jeff Piker When I was a kid in high school in Cincinnati in the mid ’50s and starting to pay attention to the idea of ‘peace’, this song gave me energy and hope. I know others of my generation for whom it had the same effect. It was a major anthem for peace work.
Recent anecdote: Last Saturday a friend and some others were handing out white ‘peace poppies’ downtown here in Kingston. Someone came up to them and asked, “Hey, are you allowed to do that?”
Paul Robinson, former Canadian and British army officer and later a military historian, has written that the most obvious domestic result of Canada’s war in Afghanistan has been a “return of militarism not seen in Canada in peacetime since before the First World War.”
Are we allowed to dream of peace anymore? Do we even allow ourselves to do it?
The song was written by US Folk-singer, Ed McCurdy, in 1950 — he died in 2000.
Band Played Waltzing Matilda Eric Bogle, sung by Liam Clancy, submitted by Dr. Jeannie Rosenberg and Jeff Piker. Piker writes”Bogle wrote it in 1972 is about WW1. The landing at Suvla Bay on the Aegean coast in Aug. 1915 was part of a British, French and Australian effort to break the deadlock of the battle of Gallipoli, against the Turks. Following in the boot-steps of our neighbours to the south, Canada has adopted the imperial mode of remembering and celebrating ‘The Great War’ (and other wars): hats which venerate the war and the battle (Vimy Ridge) which ‘made us a nation’, the ‘highway of heroes’, dramatic statues of our fighting men — all valour and heroism and self-righteousness — especially in recent years, as our federal government spares no cost to re-define us as a ‘warrior nation’.
The Band Played Waltzing Matilda Another version by the Pogues because of the powerful visuals. Suggested by Avery Bain
Heal the World Michael Jackson
No Man’s Land Eric Bogle
The Willing Conscript Tom Paxton, sung by Pete Seeger
This is Bagdad “ Bruce Cockburn “A powerful song about the consequences of war”