What does War Song mean?

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Neil Young: War Song Meaning


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Song Released: 1972

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War Song Lyrics

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In the morning when you wake up,
You've got planes flying in the sky.
Flying bombs made to break up,
Other lives in your eyes.

And The Man
Says he can't
Put an end to war.

They shot George Wallace down,
He'll never walk around.


    click a star to vote
    Feb 9th, 2012 2:27pm report

    When I sing about Love and war
    I don't really know what I'm saying
    I've been in Love and I've seen a lot of war
    Seen a lot of people praying
    They pray to Allah and they pray to the lord
    But mostly they pray about Love and war

    Pray about Love and war
    Pray about Love and war

    In "Love and War", Neil Young works alone with his guitar, and sends out a poignant prayer to the listeners. The chord progressions are beautiful & morose. Neil has seen so much Love and war in his lifetime and still it is difficult for him to know precisely what to say on the topics. Love and war are very complicated & touchy to discuss and the effects of both can be deadly. Neil decides to write his first verse about the "action" and power of prayer. He knows that people "pray" a lot when they are sick, sad, hurt and going through terrible pain. When a person feels SO brutally wounded and he doesn't know what to say to other humans about the pain he is experiencing, he uses prayer to release both his anguish and his hopes. Neil is singing that it is always good, healing, and very crucial to meditate, pray, contemplate & send positive vibes in a particular direction. If we don't like the word "prayer", there are various other words we can use for the same basic concept. In our daily lives, many of us summon strength and guidance through some sort of spiritual "dialogue' or "communion". It can be a very subconscious action when we are thinking of ourselves & our own unique problems. Sometimes it is almost a defense we use in order to take care of ourselves. But when we make an earnest request on another's behalf, prayer is often a very thoughtful and conscious action. We think of a particular hardship or tragedy a Loved one is experiencing & we want to help alleviate their sorrow. We want them to get well. So we send a message out into the universe for the person we Love to know that we care for them. We make a request that they recover from their pain. This, "the power of prayer", is widely rumoured to be effective. But we don't know for sure, because there is no way to truly measure how well our thoughts and good wishes are helping our Loved ones. Still, we don't stop wishing the best for them simply because we don't know if the process is "really working". Soo, no matter how cool positive vibe-ing a person can be, it is also crucial for actions, words and attempts to match our prayers. Hence, the vast majority of us often choose to take a visible action as well. We'll bring them some soup or a funny magazine or we will visit them in the hospital. We will bring them medicine. We will write them a note calling them The Mayor of Hazelden or we will pick up the phone. We would somehow show by a small or large gesture that we care for them. So... Neil is saying that while prayer can be a very powerful source of release and hope, there is more to Loving a person than prayer alone. We should take some form of action when we are able to do so....

    I've seen a lot of young men go to war
    And leave a lot of young brides waiting
    I've watched them try to explain it to their kids
    And seen a lot of them failing
    They tried to tell them and they tried to explain
    Why daddy won't ever come home again.
    Daddy won't ever come home again

    Daddy won't ever come home
    Daddy won't ever come home

    This verse is about the action of speaking and how, unlike prayer, we know our words can be both powerful & ineffective. When a soldier tells his Loved ones about his choice to go to war, sometimes the Loved ones question the reasons behind the war effort. They wonder why he must take part. Before the young men leave their brides and children at home, they try to explain their position and often this results in difficult conversations. Sometimes the soldier might not even know the real answer as to why his country is fighting a war. The governments and powers-that-be tell the soldiers and civilians one thing, when so often the truth is hidden under a blanket of lies. After attempting to explain why he has to leave his family, the father is now telling his kids about the potential of his death. Words fail to describe the magnitude of "Daddy won't ever come home again." It is hard for everyone to comprehend the weight and reality of those spoken words. When the soldier has this soul-quaking discussion with his kids he tries to fathom the possibility that he will never see them again. This is when a soldier and his family resort to prayer. There is no action the family can take besides hugging, holding and attempting to be brave when he leaves. Whether prayer is powerful or ineffective, it's basically all the family can do. They have no real control in the matter. They can only pray..

    I said a lot of things that I can't take back
    But I don't really know if I want to
    In songs about Love I sang songs about war
    Since the backstreets of Toronto
    I sang for justice and I hit a bad chord
    But I still try to sing about Love and war

    This verse is about the power of both speech and song. Neil has said many things which have caused pain, but he doesn't know if he really regrets saying them. He wants justice for humanity, but sometimes it is nowhere to be found in Love and war. Many times fairness, mercy & compassion become lost in the battle. But still Neil tries to sing about them even (& especially) when he feels hopeless. Neil is wishing for some sort of positive action through the power of his song. His song started as words which turned into lyrics which were then set to music and now are sung by The Man as a prayer. This verse is where all three connect. He wants to send out a prayer to the universe and he makes it happen through song. Being a song-writer and musician, Neil has the power to make things happen. Neil sings his beautiful prayer about Love and war to us. Neil Young is Mr. Action.

    The saddest thing in the whole wide world
    Is to break the heart of your Lover
    I made a mistake and I did it again
    And we struggle to recover
    I sang in anger, hit another bad chord
    But I still try to sing about love and war

    Sing about Love and war
    Sing about Love and war
    Love and war

    This verse is about the very real, lasting and powerful effects of both Love and war. The broken-hearted person can experience Love as if he was a soldier who fought in a horrific war. After experiencing a "War of Love", a person can feel wounded, scarred, incredibly shaken and shell-shocked. He experiences a tug-of-war type of situation with his feelings. Many times he wants to avoid dealing with the trauma he endured. Other times he wants to revisit the war zone in order to try to make sense & process the events which took place. The victim most definitely suffers from fear, helplessness, despair and in very rare cases, delusions. He often develops PTSD and other similarly pervasive and complex trauma disorders. He experiences flashbacks throughout his day as a specific person, place or song can trigger his memory of these events. This calls up stress, anxiety and any number of other negative psychological or physiological responses. There are also other ways in which the trauma is manifested...He experiences recurring distressing dreams... He gets sick with medical illnesses... He takes part in impulsive and destructive behaviours. His shattered psyche and battered soul are crying out for relief. The traumatized one feels so alone but finds comfort in believing that he is incredibly brave. As I mentioned previously, in a very small number of cases, a broken-hearted person will protect himself with delusions of grandeur. These cause him to "realize" the events which he experienced would have caused significant symptoms of distress in ANYONE, as he believes his ordeal was completely outside the range of "usual human experience". The broken Lover experiences difficulty falling or staying asleep, the inability to experience real joy, problems with concentration and/or hypervigilance due to being preyed upon. He has such severely impaired functioning that finding employment is most likely futile. Social relations and recreational activities are also deeply affected by his chronic disordered thinking. Many times family members will have to look for a Loving caregiver outside of their familial system as not many have the patience of Job and sensitivity to deal with such a "project". The victim's life is now a struggle & process of "recovery". Neil is singing all about Love and how it can bring forth extremely severe pain in a human being. He is warning us to be careful with our Loved ones.

    When I sing about Love and War
    I don't really know what I'm saying
    I've been in Love and I've seen a lot of war
    Seen a lot of people praying
    They pray to Allah and they pray to the lord
    But mostly they pray about Love and war
    Pray about Love and war.
    Pray about Love and war.
    Love and war.

    Neil is asking us: What have we all learned about Love and war? What have we learned about each other and about ourselves in the process? What have we learned about prayer? What have we learned about song? About the definition of "action"?

    Love and war can tear people apart... But afterward... Watching how the warring factions take action by rebuilding, bonding & uniting, might very well be a powerful result of his song and prayer.

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