Thursday, February 7, 2008

World War "One": History Rocks 1.0

In order to stay in tune with today's discussion of music and culture and WWI, I offer this post both as a learning tool and as a way to highlight one of my favorite bands (in addition to this musician): Metallica.

Metallica's 1989 song "One" was inspired by the novel "Johnny Got His Gun." Published in 1939, this anti-war story is about a soldier injured during WWI. The phrase "Johnny Got His Gun" comes from the George Cohan song "Over There" we listened to in class.

The novel has been adapted to the stage (the 1940s) and the screen (the 1970s), and a new film version is scheduled to debut this year.

Metallica's music video for "One" won a Grammy in 1990 and is quite famous; it musically depitcs tension, conflict, and via drums, machine guns. Check it out here and read the lyrics here.

A couple of questions......

What is significant about the historical context of the book's publication in the late 1930s, and about the film version of the book (both during the 1970s and today)? What does the song say about wartime experiences, and how does this relate to what we've read and discussed in class?

[Photo credit here.]


Nikolas said...

WEll to say the least after watching the video in class and reading the book it seems to be the story of a painful tragedy a "midnight of the soul" in a sense. The main character is a man who sufferes from incredible injuries sustained from a bomb blast which destroyed a portion of his face and other parts of his body. After the explosion he is saved and placed into a hospital where reconstructive surgery is commenced but his only desire after enduring all the pain of the blast is to die and escape his pain forever. THe song "One" by Metallica and the book are both about this man's forced exsistence. Why I say exsistence is because he is not truly living because of his injuries he cannot speak and can barely move along with the pain he is enduring. The reality is that if he had not been attached to those machines he would have died and as you progress through the novel you discover the twisted exsistence he has to endure because he cannot voice his own will on account of his injuries. My initial thought is that my desire would be to survive at any cost and not to give in to my own misery and pain but I have to give the disclaimer that you never know how you will react in such a situation and that the feeling of being alonce coupled with the pain my push some people over the edge.

Anonymous said...

The anit-war novel “Johnny Got his Gun” discusses the individual morality and the interplay between science, medicine, religion and politics. A man that was torn into pieces literally because of his war experience and where everything was taken away from him. During the publication of the novel the great depression was going on and WWII was on the verge of beginning. The novel could be away to help Americans see that war does nothing but destroy the country and thoes who serve it: and to prevent to oncoming war. The song “One” speaks negitvily of war and how all it does is take way. Where as the song we listened to in class “Over There” has more of an optimistic view on war; a nationalistic theme. Some took the war as an adventure while others viewed it as only a nightmare.
-Kayla Adel-

Anonymous said...

i think that all this shows us what it is really like to be in world war I. The music video shows what it was like to be wounded in the war and the song shows the negativity of the war where some things that we have looked it show a more positive look at the war.
natalie johnson

Phil said...

Both story and song are powerful, and gripping. Look for one more post this week about war, and in particular WWI--what Mark Twain had to say.