Top 10 Songs for Memorial Day

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Simon and Garfunkel - "America" (1968)

Simon and Garfunkel Bookends
Simon and Garfunkel - Bookends. Courtesy Columbia

Although not released as an official single until 1972 to promote the compilation album Simon and Garfunkel's Greatest Hits, "America" was already celebrated as one of the duo's best songs. The tale of a couple hitchhiking across the Unites States to "look for America" still resonates on days in which we honor our country. It remains powerful enough that Bernie Sanders used the song as part of his 2016 presidential campaign. "America" also received a boost in popularity when it was used on the soundtrack for the 2000 hit movie Almost Famous.

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Glen Campbell - "Galveston" (1969)

Glen Campbell Galveston
Glen Campbell - "Galveston". Courtesy Capitol

Glen Campbell's #1 country and top 5 pop hit "Galveston" was written from the viewpoint of a soldier waiting to go into battle and thinking about his home town of Galveston, Texas. It was released at the height of the Vietnam War. Particularly moving is the line, "Galveston, oh Galveston, I am so afraid of dying." The song has been recognized as one of the top country songs of all time.

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David Bowie - "Heroes" (1977)

David Bowie Heroes
David Bowie - "Heroes". Courtesy RCA

David Bowie's song "Heroes" was originally written after seeing David Bowie's producer Tony Visconti embracing his girlfriend near the Berlin Wall. The song is credited with being a part of the string of events that eventually brought the wall down. In recent years, "Heroes" has been seen as a powerful celebration of all situations in which people find themselves performing heroic acts. Multiple publications have listed the song among the top 100 of all time. It was never a major hit single but over time has earned legendary status.

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Mariah Carey - "Hero" (1993)

Mariah Carey Hero
Mariah Carey - "Hero". Courtesy Columbia

The song "Hero" was originally written with Gloria Estefan in mind. However, after Mariah Carey made some changes to personalize it, she recorded "Hero" for her third studio album Music Box. Some criticized the song as being overly schmaltzy, but pop music fans connected strongly with the sentiments expressed about being one's own hero. "Hero" went to #1 on the pop chart in the US and #7 in the UK. It also hit #2 on the adult contemporary chart and #5 R&B.

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Dire Straits - "Brothers In Arms" (1985)

Dire Straits Brothers In Arms
Dire Straits - Brothers In Arms. Courtesy Warner Bros.

"Brothers In Arms" is the title cut and closing song from the band Dire Straits' multi-platinum #1 hit album. The song was originally written at the time of the Falklands War in 1982. In recent years it was re-released to help raise funds for veterans of the war who were suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder. The lyrics detail the foolishness of war and the refusal of soldiers to desert their fellow soldiers.


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Elvis Costello - "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding"

Elvis Costello Armed Forces
Elvis Costello and the Attractions - Armed Forces. Courtesy Columbia

"(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding" was originally recorded by English singer/songwriter Nick Lowe in 1974. However, Elvis Costello's 1978 version has become the standard interpretation. Nick Lowe has said he originally wrote the song form the viewpoint of a hippie being laughed at for his support for world peace. He eventually saw it as more than a joke and focused on delivering a quality song. It is now seen as a powerful anthem for promoting peace and acceptance of others.

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Joni Mitchell - "The Fiddle and the Drum" (1969)

Joni Mitchell Clouds
Joni Mitchell - Clouds. Courtesy Reprise

Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell first wrote and recorded "The Fiddle and the Drum" for her 1969 album Clouds. The song is anti-war and in particular laments the tendency of the United States to engage in warlike stances toward other countries. The rock band A Perfect Circle brought new attention to "The Fiddle and the Drum" when they covered it in 2004 in protest of the Iraq War.

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Neil Young - "Soldier" (1972)

Neil Young Journey Through the Past
Neil Young - Journey Through the Past. Courtesy Reprise

"Soldier" was the only new song that Neil Young recorded for his 1972 album Journey Through the Past. It was recorded in a sawmill, and the sounds of a roaring fire can be heard in the background. It is a haunting song that includes the line, "Soldier, your eyes, they shine like the sun, I wonder why." Neil Young later released a slightly edited version of the song on his 1977 compilation album Decade.


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Edwin Starr - "War" (1970)

Edwin Starr War
Edwin Starr - "War". Courtesy Gordy

"War" is one of the classic anti-war hit singles of all time. It was released in 1970 at the height of the Vietnam War. It went to #1 on the US pop chart and reached the top 3 in the UK and on the US R&B singles chart. "War" remains a powerful distillation of anger toward the general destruction wrought by warfare including the massive loss of life. A live version of "War" recorded by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band hit the pop top 10 in 1986.

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Sarah McLachlan - "I Will Remember You" (1995)

Sarah McLachlan I Will Remember You
Sarah McLachlan - "I Will Remember You". Courtesy Arista

Sarah McLachlan's "I Will Remember You" addresses the value of keeping appreciation for others alive through memories. She recorded the song for the soundtrack to the movie The Brothers McMullen. It peaked at #65 on the pop chart in the US. In 1999 Sarah McLachlan released a live version of the song on her album Mirrorball. It was released as a single and peaked at #14 on the US pop chart and went all the way to #2 on the adult pop radio chart. Sarah McLachlan earned a Grammy Award nomination for Best Female Pop Vocal for the live version of "I Will Remember You."

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