“One” by Metallica
Unlike other heavy metal bands, Metallica has written a surprising number of songs inspired by literature. “The Thing That Should Not Be” was inspired by H.P Lovecraft’s series of novels about the monster Cthulhu, while “For Whom The Bell Tolls” was inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s novel about the Spanish Civil War. One of the band’s most enduring hits, “One,” was inspired by Dalton Trumbo’s Johnny Got His Gun. This pacifist novel tells the fictional story of a young man who fights in the trenches of Europe, only to lose his limbs, face, and ability to talk after stepping on a landmine. Amazingly, he survives the ordeal and is kept alive on a life support system. As he reminisces about his life up to this point, he finds out he is able to communicate with the doctors and generals at his bedside through hitting his head on the pillow in Morse code.
“1916” by Motörhead
Another surprising cut from a heavy metal band, “1916” shows off Motörhead’s more tender and reflective side. Former bassist and singer Lemmy Kilmister was an avid history buff with a keen interest on military history. The title track from their 1991 album of the same name tells the tale of a young British man who enlists in the army for the sense of adventure and comradeship with his mates. His idealism quickly fades as he experiences the horrors of war: “I heard my friend cry/And he sank to his knees/Coughing blood as he screamed for his mother/And I fell by his side, and that’s how he died/Clinging like kids to each other…And I called for my mother, and she never came/Though it wasn’t my fault and I wasn’t to blame/The day not half over and ten thousand slain/And now there’s nobody who remembers our names/And that’s how it is for a soldier.”
“And The Band Played ‘Waltzing Matilda” by Eric Bogle
Scottish-Australian folk musician Eric Bogle wrote this song in 1971 in response to what he perceived as a lack of knowledge and respect for the Australian soldiers who fought and died during the Battle of Gallipoli in 1915. This battle was fought mainly by the British Empire against the Ottoman Empire and their German military advisers. The plan was to launch an attack against the Dardanelles Strait in Turkey that joined the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea, creating a safe passage to send reinforcements to the Russians in their southern Caucasus Front. The invasion did not go according to plan, as many British naval vessels were sunk by Ottoman mines and artillery, and most of the ground force was pinned at the beaches along the Dardanelles. For the first time in their military history, soldiers from Australia and New Zealand fought together under the banner of the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps, or ANZAC. They were joined by a strong sense of duty, camaraderie, and "matesmanship" that ceased to fade even as the ANZAC forces were forced to retreat.
The song alludes to "Waltzing Matilda,"a beloved Australian folk song that tells the story of a hobo or "swagman" on the run from the law. "Waltzing Matilda" occupies much the same space in Australian popular culture as "Yankee Doodle" does in America. Some Australians even see it as an unofficial national anthem for their country.