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If Music be the Fodder of War … Stop the Bombing

By William Thomas
April 17, 2017 - 0 comments

Music, the soother of souls has always been badly abused and not just by heavy metal bands, but by history and war as well. Music makes you feel good and when used as a movie’s soundtrack, it tells you how you’re supposed to feel while watching a particular scene. Music can lift your spirits and improve your attitude except Debbie Boone’s “You Light Up My Life” damn near put me in therapy.

Music is supposed to be flowing and melodious, but when I hear America sing that line from “A Horse With No Name” - “In the dessert, you can remember your name. ‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain.” - I’m reminded of the severe shortage of editors in the songwriting business. 

The often-quoted philosopher George Santayana was not a fan: “Music is essentially useless, as is life.” The Greek historian Ephorus never trusted it: “Music was invented to deceive and delude mankind.” And an anonymous writer of the mid-17th century had a crude theory of its origin: “Music is but a fart sent from the guts of an instrument.” I suppose this is why music is often accompanied by lit candles. 

Music has always been used as a military weapon and quite successfully so. The Israelites smote the heathen Egyptians in the walled city of Jericho by first deafening them with long periods of trumpet blasts.

In 1989 after the U.S. military fl attened a sizable portion of Panama City to flush out General Manuel Noriega, a Catholic church became the chosen hideout for this little dictator with industrial strength acne. (And don’t think I couldn’t sell that title to an inner city punk band desperately in need of a name. A lot catchier than the Chicago band Atombombpocketknife.)

Reluctant to blow up a church, the CIA used the unrelenting sound of the heavy metal band AC/DC to separate Noriega from the confessional. Once captured, the CIA offered him a gift of AC/DC’s “Back In Black.” Instead of graciously accepting their offer, the dictator confessed to a whole bunch of stuff he didn’t even do

And later in Waco, Texas ATF agents attacked David Koresh and the Branch Davidians with Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’.” But so far no arm of the U.S military has ever been forced to bring out the big guns of song - endless loops of the uncut version of “Louis Louis” or “The Chipmunks Christmas Song” played at high speed.

My own strategy in ending the civil war in Syria was code-named “Send In Celine.” After three days of “My Heart Will Go On And On And On And On” white flags would have been popping up everywhere from Turkey to Tuktoyaktuk.

The Scots, of course, in what might be the cruelest use of music to disable enemies, sent in the dreaded bagpipes. Trust me, once you’ve heard Robbie Burns’ Favourite Farm Tunes, you quickly understand why Scotland, even to this day, remains invasion-free. 

Last winter I was the guest speaker at an event held at a Canadian Legion where the head table was ceremoniously piped into the hall. It really was quite stirring but in the end, I’m still a humorist. When I got to the podium I tried to soften them up and set them up for a punch line by telling them I loved the bagpipes and half my CD collection is Great Highland aerophone music. 

They weren’t buying any of it. So I thought, what the hell, even if you’re a hit as a guest speaker, they seldom invite you back. So I went for it: “Let’s remember, the musical defi nition of ‘perfect pitch’,” I said. “Perfect pitch is when you throw the bagpipes into the trash bin and you hit the accordion on your fi rst shot!” As I said, they hardly ever invite you back anyway.

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