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Thursday, January 12, 2012

"Harry Patch (In Memory Of)"

Radiohead - Harry Patch (In Memory Of) (2009)

A tribute to the last trench warfare veteran of WWI in the world.

A sort of tone poem with lyrics and vocals by front man Thom York and orchestral part written by lead guitarist Johnny Greenwood. There is no rock element to this song, despite being "performed" by one of the biggest rock bands of the era. York's lyrics are written as from the point of view of a front line soldier. Many of the lines are based on quotes by Harry Patch himself. He was alive when the song was recorded, but died about a week before it was released. Radiohead released the song on their website for download for a pound and donated all the money to The Royal British Legion.

The strings are mainly in arpeggios. It starts very simply, reminding one of rolling hills or a slowly moving river. As York's voice enters, where you not to speak English, you might think that it was just a beautiful lyric about a woman, or the environment around you. But the lyric is about being the only survivor of a terrible battle, and it contrasts so painfully with the music that it tugs at our soul. Around 2:30 the middle section gets minor and oppressive. York's voice hums and hauntingly moans behind lower strings rolling under a high pitched wail of a sound. A minute later, the main theme breaks through again. York's lyrics are harder to make out, but no less poignant. The last minute is the orchestra outro. You need it to decompress in my opinion. This song is not one I'd put on my ipod, but it is a powerful song to listen to.

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