Updated Aug 31st! Songs about Peace and War

New and improved!

by music co-ordinator, Jeff Piker

  • Suggested ‘songs suitable for children’:  identified by plus-sign  next to song title.
  • 2 new publications (identified in italics in the list).
  • 12 new songs  (identified in italics in the songlist).

Highlights:    2 more Buffy Sainte-Marie songs;  ‘Walking for peace’ by Attawapiskat Youth (Youtube); outstanding song & video by California rap guy, Matre, ‘Listen’ (Youtube)…

All the new songs have been added to the ‘Songs about peace and war’ playlist/channel on Youtube It has good versions of all 160+ songs. Updated songs have needed to get inserted down toward the end of the playlist.

Wendy Luella perkins, clapping at sing-along with an audience in the background.

Wendy Luella Perkins is a Kingston singer-songwriter and music teacher. Here she is leading a song about peace, at a community sing-along organized by PeaceQuest-Kingston and Cantabile Choirs. It was held at Sydenham St. United Church in January, 2015. (Photo by Hilbert Buist.)

Kingston's Al Rankin -- backed-up by Liam Fenton on guitar and vocals and Kieran L'abbe on 5-string banjo -- performs John McCutcheon's song, 'Christmas in the Trenches', at an event organized by PeaceQuest-Kingston to remember the Christmas truces of 1914. It was held at Memorial Hall in December, 2014. (Photo by Jolene Simko.)

Kingston’s Al Rankin — backed-up by Liam Fenton on guitar and vocals and Kieran L’abbe on 5-string banjo — performs John McCutcheon’s song, ‘Christmas in the Trenches’, at an event organized by PeaceQuest-Kingston to remember the Christmas truces of 1914. It was held at Memorial Hall in December, 2014. (Photo by Jolene Simko.)













buffysainte-marie-itsmyway(5)This is a list of more than 160 excellent songs about peace and war, plus eight published song collections.  Some listed songs are recent songs, some are older (from the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s), a few are traditional.  Composers and dates of composition are listed for all the listed songs.  (Canadian composers are identified in boldface.)

Music can make valuable contributions to peacework.  Thankfully, it’s still happening — although not as regularly as during the ‘peace movements’ in North America and elsewhere during the Cold War.  The list is intended to encourage and assist peace-workers to find ways to include music in their efforts.xclouds

People connect with music in ways they might not connect with other kinds of presentations.  More than a few musicians who sing about peace and war have commented that music is heartfelt.  It can also be incredibly thought-provoking — valuable in educational settings of all kinds, for learners of all ages.  Plus of course:  as a common language, music is entertaining.

Good versions of nearly all the songs listed here can be found by searching on Youtube.  (And don’t forget the Youtube playlist/channel of all the songs:  here.)  As well, words for almost every song can be found by on-line searching:  in your search-engine, write the song title and add the word, lyrics.  Similarly, chords can be found by the same search method — adding chords to the song title.The-Future-1992-Leonard-Cohen

The list is a work-in-progress.  To get it to this point, many resources were consulted, as well as many people familiar with songs about peace and war.  Certainly there are gaps:  more songs are needed for primary/junior-age children; almost none on the current list have francophone composers; the majority of the songs were composed by white men from the English-speaking world.  So if you check the list from time to time, you’ll find increased variety.

CAKE - Motorcase of GenerosityIf you have songs and/or publications to suggest being added to the list, please do it — either in a ‘comment’ at the end of the website list (note:  we love comments!), or by sending your suggestion(s) to the music co-ordinator of PeaceQuest-Kingston:  jpiker@kingston.net

(Note: It’s helpful if a version of each song be available on Youtube or elsewhere on-line, and also if lyrics for the song are available on-line — so that people who aren’t already familiar with it can check it out.)



Publications of songs about peace and war

Before you get to the total list of songs, here is a short list of useful publications of songs about peace and war. A link is attached to each title on the list, which takes you to a website that provides information. (Additional links take you to other useful information for each item.) Thanks to Wendy Luella Perkins and Gary Rasberry (both are singer-songwriters, song-leaders and music teachers in Kingston) for their suggestions.


Earth and Spirit Songbook: An Anthology of Songs Celebrating Earth and Peace (Book One)

By Jim Scott (2003) — he lives in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. The book includes 110 songs by a variety of composers. It is a resource for educators, song leaders, choirs, church musicians, etc. Full piano accompaniment is included for all songs.


Peace Songs: Some suggestions for a classroom Peacemaking theme unit

Contents include songs suitable for pre-school and elementary grades — by a variety of composers. The publisher is SongsForTeaching.com, with headquarters is Chandler, Arizona.


Peace Songs for Childrenpeace

The index of song titles can be found here. The publisher is Children’s Music Network, with headquarters in Arlington, Massachusetts. There is a Canadian regional coordinator in Aurora, Ontario.


Rise Up SingingBook Cover - Rise Up Singing

For people who love folk music (especially, the sing-along variety), this is perhaps the standard collection. The 15th Anniversary Edition was published by Sing Out! in 2005. In the ‘Peace’ section are thirty songs — including lyrics, chords and background notes. Conceived and edited by Peter Blood and Annie Patterson.


Songs for Peace51UyZSRzmAL._SX343_BO1,204,203,200_

Includes approximately 100 peace song standards: melodies, lyrics and chords. A list of all songs can be found here. Compiled and edited by Cliff Metzler, Jeff Harris and Pete Seeger. An Oak Archives publication (2006 — first edition in 1966).


Songs of Peace, Freedom and Protests-l300

A history of social protest in song, the book was collected and edited by Tom Glazer and contains over 150 selections.   Glazer was a U.S. folk singer, song-writer and collector.  He died in 2003.  Publisher is Fawcett (Greenwich, Connecticut)


Songs of Peace, Hope and Love — A Big Note Songbook

There are 34 songs by various composers, arranged for piano, vocals and guitar. A link at the website shows the entire list of songs. Published by Hal Leonard Corporation (‘the world’s largest music print publisher’ — in Milwaukee, Wisconsin).


Teaching Peace —  Songbook and Teacher’s GuideRGB-Large

Songs by Kathy and Red Grammer.  Piano/vocal arrangements by Christine Wu.  Teacher’s Guide by Kathy Grammer et al.  Published by Smilin’ Atcha Music (1993).  Table of contents and songs ‘preview’ can be found at the link.


Songs about peace and war

(Notes:  Songs in italics are new in this updated list.  Songs preceded by a plus-sign + are ones suggested for use with younger children.  Composers whose names are in bold are Canadian.)


+  Across the bridge of hope   —   poem:  Sean McLaughlin (1998);  melody:  Jan Sandström (date unknown)

After the war   —   by Paul Gross & David Keeley  (2011)

And so it goes   —   Hollerado (2013)

And the band played ‘Waltzing Matilda’    —    Eric Bogle  (1972)

Anthem    —    Leonard Cohen (1992)

Apache tears    —    Johnny Cash  (1964)

The ballad of Penny Evans     —    Steve Goodman  (1971)

The battle of Cape Henry    —    Todd Snider  (2008)

Battleship of Maine    —    traditional (versions of it differ in meaning & interpretation)

Beautiful thing    —    Slaid Cleaves (2010)

Belfast child   —   Simple Minds  (1989)

Between the wars   —   Billy Bragg  (1991)

+  Blowin’ in the wind    —    Bob Dylan  (1963)

Bomb the world    —    Michael Franti & Spearhead  (2003)

Born in the U.S.A.    —    Bruce Springsteen (1984)

Born on the Fouth of July   —   Tom Paxton  (1976)

Bring ’em home    —    Pete Seeger (1965)

Broken peace   —   Martyn Joseph  (2010)

Brothers in arms   —   Mark Knopfler  (Dire Straits – 1985)

Bury my heart at Wounded Knee  —  Buffy Sainte-Marie  (1992)

Buy a gun for your son   —   Tom Paxton (1965)

Call it democracy   —   Bruce Cockburn (1986)

Cheney’s toy    —    James McMurtry (2008)

Christmas in the trenches    —    John McCutcheon  (1984)

+  Crow on the cradle   —   Sydney Carter  (1962)

The cruel war    —    traditional

Dandelions   —   Steve O’Donoghue  (2016)

The day after tomorrow   —   Tom Waits  (2004)

Devils and dust    —    Bruce Springsteen (2005)

+  Dona nobis pacem  (Latin:  ‘Bring us peace’)   —   traditional

Don’t drop that bomb on me    —    Bryan Adams & Robert ‘Mutt’ Lange (1991)

Don’t take your guns to town   —   Johnny Cash  (1958)

+  Down by the riverside  (aka:  Study war no more)    —    traditional (first published in 1918)

Edmonton   —   Tannis Slimmon  (2007)

Eve of destruction   —   P. F. Sloan  (1964)

Feel like I’m fixin’ to die rag   —   Country Joe McDonald  (1965)

The fiddle and the drum    —    Joani Mitchell  (2004)

Five sisters   —   Martyn Joseph  (2009)

Fly little white dove fly   —   The Bells  (1971)

The fortunate son    —    John Fogerty  (1969)

For what it’s worth    —    Buffalo Springfield (1966)

Freedom has beckoned  —  Four the Moment  (1987)

The future    —    Leonard Cohen (1992)

Galveston Bay    —    Bruce Springsteen (1995)

Get together    —    Chet Powers (early 1960’s)

Give peace a chance    —    John Lennon  (1969)

The good in me is dead   —   Martyn Joseph  (1999)

Goodbye blue sky    —    Pink Floyd (The Wall – 1979)

Going Home   —   Fred Smith  (2013)

The great American novel   —   Larry Norman  (1975)

Green fields of France  (aka:  No man’s land, Willie McBride)    —    Eric Bogle  (1976)

Gypsy biker    —    Bruce Springsteen (2007)

Happy xmas (war is over)    —    John Lennon & Yoko Ono (1971)

+  Heal the world   —   Michael Jackson  (1991)

Heroes   —   Mika  (2012)

Hiway 9    —    Eliza Gilkyson (2003)

How did we end up here   —   Martyn Joseph  (2005)

+  Hymn for (the) nations    —    words: Josephine Bacon (1940); melody: Beethoven, ‘Ode to joy’ (1824)

I ain’t marching anymore    —    Phil Ochs  (1965)

I bombed Korea   —   Cake  (1994)

+  I come and stand at every door    —    words:  Nazim Hikmet;  melody: ‘The great (or grey) silkie’;  adapted by Pete Seeger (1972)    note:  very serious theme, can ‘speak’ to children

I didn’t raise my boy to be a soldier    —    lyrics:  Alfred Bryan; music:  Al    Piantadosi (1915)

+  If we only have love (Quond on n’a que l’amour)    —    Jacques Brel (1957)

+  If I had a hammer    —    Lee Hays & Pete Seeger (1949)

If I had a rocket launcher    —    Bruce Cockburn  (1983)

If you tolerate this, your children will be next    —    Manic Street Preachers (1998)

+  Imagine    —    John Lennon  (1971)

In Flanders fields    —    Jon Brooks (2007 — based on the McCrae poem)

In the hills of Shiloh   —   Shel Silverstein & Jim Friedman  (1963)

It’s going down slow    —    Bruce Cockburn  (1971)

+  I’ve got peace in my fingers    —    Susan Salidor (1995)

I wanna be in the cavalry    —    lyrics:  Corb Lund; music:  Stan Rogers  (2007)

I want peace   —   Peter Buttita & Jay Rehak  (2008)

Johnny I hardly knew ye    —    traditional Irish

John Walker’s blues    —    Steve Earle (2002)

Last to die    —    Bruce Springsteen (2007)

Last letter home  (aka: Rose in a Spanish garden)    —  Butch McDade (1977)

+  Last night I had the strangest dream    —    Ed McCurdy (1950)

Let me die in my footsteps     —    Bob Dylan (1962)

+  Let there be peace on earth   —    Jill Jackson Miller & Sy Miller (1955)

Let’s get together    —    Chet Powers (early 1960’s)

Listen   —   Matre  (2015)

Livin’ in the wasteland of the free   —   Iris DeMent  (1996)

Living with war    —    Neil Young (2006)

Lost in the flood    —    Bruce Springsteen (1973)

Love and understanding   —   Jim Cuddy & Greg Keelor  (Blue Rodeo – 1989)

Manzanar    —    Tom Russell (1993)

Masters of war    —    Bob Dylan (1963)

The mines of Mozambique   —   Bruce Cockburn  (1995)

Mothers, daughters, wives   —   Judy Small  (1982)

My country ‘tis of thy people you’re dying  —  Buffy Sainte-Marie  (1966)

My kind of war    —    Rita Marley (2005)

My name is Lisa Kavelage   —   Pete Seeger  (1998 ?)

+  My peace    —    lyrics:  Woody Guthrie (date unknown);  music:  Arlo Guthrie  (published:  2003)

My son John   —   Tom Paxton (1966)

Nagasaki nightmare   —   Crass  (1982)

Never mind    —    Leonard Cohen  (2014)

No more genocide    —    Holly Near (1972)

No nuclear war   —   Peter Tosh  (1987)

Nothing more   —   the Alternate Routes  (2014)

Now that the buffalo’s gone    —    Buffy Sainte-Marie  (1964)

Old man atom   —   Vern Partlow  (1945)

+  One tin soldier    —    Dennis Lambert & Brian Potter (1969)

One word (peace)    —    John Magnie & Tommy Malone  (the Subdudes – 2006)

+  The Patriot’s Dream   —  Gordon Lightfoot  (1972)

+  Peace call    —    lyrics:  Woody Guthrie (1951-3); music:  Eliza Gilkyson (2003)

+  Peace train    —    Cat Stevens (1971)

Peace will come    —    Tom Paxton (1977)

The peddler   —   Maria Dunn  (2003)

Quand les hommes vivront d’amour    —    Raymond Levesque  (1956)

Requiem for the Masses   —   Terry Kirkman  (The Association – 1967)

Rich man’s war    —    Steve Earle (2004)

Road to peace   —   Tom Waits  (2006)

Rosie, the riveter – revisited    —    Linda Allen (1984)

+  Sempre vicino (A child’s prayer for peace)   —   Jill Ann Siemens (2002)

Shed a little light   —   James Taylor  (1991)

+  Shule arun (aka:  Shule aroon, Siuil a run)    —    traditional Irish folk song; similar to  the traditional English folk song, Johnny has gone for a soldier (aka:  Buttermilk Hill)

Shut out the light    —    Bruce Springsteen (1984)

+  Simple song of freedom   —   Bobby Darin (1969)

Soldier blue   —  Buffy Sainte-Marie  (1971)

+  Song for peace   —   Kitaro  (1997)

A song of peace   —   Teresa Jennings  (2009)

Sticks that made thunder    —    Mike Henderson & Chris Stapleton (SteelDrivers — 2008)

Story of Isaac    —    Leonard Cohen (1969)

Sunday bloody Sunday    —    U2  (1983)

Sweet child   —   Shards of Jade  (2011)

Swansea   —   Martyn Joseph  (1992)

+  Talk about peace   —   Joe Hampson (the Travellers  —  1970)

Teaching peace   —   Red Grammer  (1986)

Tender Mercies    —    Eliza Gilkyson (2003)

That’s the news    —    Merle Haggard (2003)

There but for fortune    —    Phil Ochs  (1964)

There’s a wall in Washington    —    Iris DeMent (1996)

There’s always money for a war   —   Shelley Posen & Ian Robb  (2015)

These hands   —   Dave Gunning & George Canyon  (2012)

This is Baghdad   —   Bruce Cockburn  (2006)

This is my song  —  music:  Jan Sibelius (1899);  lyrics:  Lloyd Stone (1934)

This world over   —   XTC  (1984)

Travelin’ soldier    —    Bruce Robison (1996 – rewritten 1999)

Universal soldier    —    Buffy Sainte-Marie  (1964)

+  Voices of peace   —   Jim Scott  (2013)

Waist deep in the Big Muddy    —    Pete Seeger  (1967)

Walking for peace   —   Attawapiskat Youth   (2016)

The wall    —    Bruce Springsteen (2003)

War    —    Bob Marley & the Wailers (1976)

War    —    Edwin Starr (Whitfield & Strong – 1969)

War baby   —   Tom Robinson  (1983)

The war is over    —    Phil Ochs (1968)

Warrior    —    Steve Earle  (2004)

War song    —    Neil Young & Graham Nash (1972)

The war song     —    Boy George (1984)

We want peace   —   Lenny Kravitz  (2004)

We Want Peace   —   Wayan Honarjo (2013)

We were all wounded at Wounded Knee   —   Redbone  (1973)

 What are you fighting for   —   Phil Ochs  (date?)

+  What the world needs now    —    Hal David & Bert Bacharach (1965)

(What’s so funny ’bout) peace, love & understanding    —    Nick Lowe (1974)

+  Where have all the flowers gone    —    Pete Seeger & Joe Hickerson (1961)

White bones of Allende   —   Tom Paxton  (1977)

The willing conscript    —    Tom Paxton (1963)

With god on our side    —    Bob Dylan (1964)

Woodstock   —   Joani Mitchell  (1970)

The words that maketh murder    —    PJ Harvey (2011)

Yet still this will not be   —   Martyn Joseph  (2005)

Your flag decal won’t get you into heaven anymore    —    John Prine  (1971)

Zombie    —    The Cranberries  (1994)