R.E.M. have made the studio version of a new anti-war song, “Final Straw,” available for streaming on their Web site, remhq.com. The band unveiled the song at a surprise in-store performance in Vancouver on March 23rd.
“This is the strongest voice I could think of to send out there,” Michael Stipe wrote on the site of the song, a quiet, simmering protest tune recorded during sessions for the band’s next album. “We had to send something out there now. We are praying and hoping for the lives of all people involved, the troops, the Iraqi civilians, refugees, POWs, families of troops, the innocents — that they are safe and okay.”
Though the song’s lyrics are typically arcane, it contains a fairly clear plea for peace. “Now love cannot be called into question/Forgiveness is the only hope I hold/And love, love will be my strongest weapon/I do believe that I am not alone.”
Also included is a fairly stark, post-9/11 criticism of the current administration. “I don’t believe and I never did/That two wrongs make a right/If the world were filled with the likes of you/Then I’m putting up a fight/Make it right.”
“It seems that Vietnam would have taught us that you should figure out why you’re having a war and who you’re fighting,” guitarist Peter Buck recently told Rolling Stone. “And I haven’t seen that anyone’s figured that out yet. I especially don’t want to see any young people die so that we can continue to have cheap oil.”
The song is the latest in a growing catalog of tunes written to protest military action in Iraq. Lou Reed has reworked his classic “Walk on the Wild Side” with producer 7 Aurelius (Ashanti, Alicia Keys), as “Walk on the Wild Side (Georgie Joins the Army).” The song includes a tweaked second verse with the lines: “Georgie went to join the Army/To earn some money and keep his family out of harm’s way/Now he’s in the desert looking out for gas/He never dreamed he’d be kicking no Iraqi ass/Says, ‘Hey, take a walk on the wild side.'” Lenny Kravitz recently collaborated with Iraq’s biggest musical star on “We Want Peace,” which the pair contributed to rockthevote.org
Last week, former Rage Against the Machine frontman Zack de la Rocha and DJ Shadow posted their new anti-war collaboration, “March of Death” on marchofdeath.com. Earlier this month, John Mellencamp updated the lyrics of Woody Guthrie’s “Baltimore to Washington” to fit in the context of the conflict with Iraq, with lyrics including “He wants to fight with many/And he says it’s not for oil/He sent out the National Guard/To police the world/From Baghdad to Washington.” The song is available for download at mellencamp.com.