Some songs are inherently tragic. Songs like “Tears In Heaven” by Eric Clapton and “Small Bump” by Ed Sheeran spring to mind as I write that sentence. You’d wanna have a heart of pure stone for those songs to not trigger an immediate emotional response. It’s not just that they’re sad though, they deal with the death of a child and a miscarriage respectively and for the majority of people those are relatable topics. What about when a song is covering a sad but far less relatable topic?
“Brothers In Arms” is a song that tells the tale of a dying soldier or more specifically sung from the perspective of one. At the time it was written and released the Falklands War was underway. The Falklands had been and gone 6 years before I was born. In my lifetime I have witnessed an 8 year war unfold in Iraq with horrendous atrocities undertaken. Though I didn’t live through the Falklands or indeed Vietnam, Korea and World War 2 before it, I can use my emotional response to the Iraq War as a measure to register my relatability to “Brothers In Arms” (and being a World War 2 nerd as a child doesn’t hurt either).
I didn’t live through it though, if you know what I mean. In countries like the USA songs of this subject matter might be more immediately relatable. In Ireland, being a neutral country, we don’t have that immediate connection to men and women serving at war. Yet they’ve always managed to strike a chord with me. Alongside this I’ve also always had a soft spot for songs like “Bellau Wood” by Garth Brooks and “Goodnight Saigon” by Billy Joel. Yet I have no connection to family or friends who have lost their lives in service to their country. Well actually if I trace my family tree back far enough apparently I’ve a great granduncle or similar that served on a submarine.
Anyway, it’s not a subject that strikes a chord with me in a general sense. Yet still they are songs I gravitate towards. I think it’s more the nonsensical side of it that really rings true with me to be honest. I have tried to live my life without regret but the regrets I do possess all align with relatives who have passed. The age old expression that you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone and that you should say what needs to be said before its too late is one I can massively relate to.
This song was requested by my auntie and I know it means a lot to her given its connection to her late husband. My uncle (in-law? Does it really matter?) Tom passed away in 2012 after a hard and bravely fought fight. I’m not one for revisionist history and in general I hate when we find ourselves bigging up our relationships with people once they’ve passed so I will say that myself and Tom weren’t overly close. Not through any particular animosity just…I suppose once you go beyond parents and grandparents your relationships with your extended family can vary wildly.
Really it’s debatable whether or not that’s even relevant anyway. The loss of any life is never something to be taken lightly, though I have in the past. Strip away the direct connotations to war and the horrors of battle in this song and you have a far more simple and powerful sentiment – never take for granted those who you get for free. Be it a lifelong friendship, familial relation or even unrequited love. Those people in your life that cause you to take a moment and pause for thought. Those people it pains you to be seperate from. Those people you never want to let go of once you get a hold of them. They are the ones that matter, be they blood or not. As always I hope you enjoy and that you watch/like/share/subscribe.