Radiohead surprised fans and listeners of the BBC this morning by premiering a new song called “Harry Patch (In Memory Of).” The song is a tribute to Harry Patch, who was the last living World War I veteran to fight in the trenches until his death on July 25th at the ripe old age of 111. As Thom Yorke writes on Radiohead’s Dead Air Space Website, a “very emotional” interview Patch gave to the BBC in 2005 was the inspiration for the song. “The way he talked about war had a profound effect on me,” Yorke writes. “It became the inspiration for a song that we happened to record a few weeks before his death.”
The song is available now through Radiohead’s Waste digital music store for the price of one pound, or about $1.70. Proceeds from the song will benefit the British Legion. The strings on “Harry Patch” were arranged by Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood, and the track itself is similar to Greenwood’s Academy Award-snubbed score for There Will Be Blood, except it features Yorke singing lyrics either inspired by or previously spoken by Harry Patch himself. “I very much hope the song does justice to his memory as the last survivor,” Yorke writes.
After a lull on new material following the release of 2007’s In Rainbows, Radiohead have been busy of late. As Rock Daily previously reported, the band is back in the studio, working on new material. Thom Yorke has especially been active, debuting a new song called “The Present Tense” during his performance at the Latitude Festival, contributing a cover of “All For the Best” to the Ciao My Shining Star: The Songs of Mark Mulcahy compilation and reportedly penning a track called “New Moon” for the Twilight sequel of the same name.
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