Pouring your life into another man’s words

A civilian imagines his way into the thoughts of a teenage soldier in World War 1. Imagines so well that veterans choose his words to tell their own story:

Lemmy from Motörhead was inspired to write 1916 after seeing a First World War documentary. It was the fact that 250,000 teenage soldiers and officers, some as young as 14,  fought at the Somme that shocked and moved him most:

Lemmy never served as a soldier himself, but he knew how to use words and music to bring another man’s experience to life. He set the words to plod, at teenage soldier pace, in an inexorable progress towards death. Mother is a masterful choice of word.

It takes an old soldier to use his own memories to bring Lemmy’s words back to the experience. Full circle.

When you sing somebody else’s words, remember that Veteran for Peace. He brings Lemmy’s words close to his own heart. He owns them. He shapes the words to suit his own experience. He’s not copying Lemmy. He’s giving Lemmy’s words a new life.

By the way: Veterans for Peace march to the Cenotaph in London every year, on Remembrance Day, to lay their wreath of white Peace Poppies, in among the red. It’s not an easy march for them. They get heckled and abused, as well as cheered.

© Sing Better English, 2016


5 thoughts on “Pouring your life into another man’s words”

  1. What a beautiful, stirring, heartbreaking … well, I hesitate to call it a “cover,” because he so clearly sings it from his heart and his own experience. Thank you for sharing this fitting ode for Remembrance Day. Too often we remember the wars, but forget their cost.


    1. Hi Heather – it is heartbreaking, isn’t it? I don’t know his name, but I know he’s been in the armed forces because he’s marching with Veterans for Peace.

      You’re right about Remembrance Day. It needs to be a recognition of those who’ve fought and died and, in counting the lives lost to war, a reminder that we humans have better ways to ease our differences. By now, war should be one of those old-fashioned customs you read about in history books, like duelling or jousting.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You always say it so beautifully! I do wish war were an old-fashioned custom. Or that our leaders would settle disputes with a fist-fight, instead of involving entire nations! Well, those are the dreams of a naïve idealist, aren’t they. Sigh.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. The day will come. Slowly, slowly.

        It would be interesting if our leaders settled things with fist-fights. Or fencing – apparently good swordsmanship is not just a thing of youth. So we could let our leaders mature in the job and learn to fence on the side, just in case.

        Liked by 1 person

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