As the death planes drop bombs on the hospitals of Ukraine and the young people’s blood flows out of their bodies and is buried in the mud, Ed Sheeran’s new recording of Masters of War is a prayer for peace and a homage to Bob Dylan’s original written sixty years ago in 1962.
Like Dylan, Sheeran plays an old acoustic and summons up the same sense of despair Dylan must have felt as he watched American boys coming home wrapped in flags and body bags from Vietnam.
There will always be psychopaths like Putin who hide behind walls and hide behind masks. In Masters of War, we have more than a protest song, it is a battle hymn to remind to those who follow in Dylan’s footsteps that the protest will always have to be revived and continued.
Folk music is the history of the people in song passed down from one generation to the next. Each new generation may adapt the words, adjust the chords, but the story remains the same. This is the opening verse of Masters of War:
Come ye masters of war
You that build the big guns
You that build the death planes
You that build all the bombs
You that hide behind walls
You that hide behind desks
I just want you to know
I can see through your masks
Folk Music Legend
Bob Dylan as a teenager didn’t go to school that much. He was always dog tired staying up through the night in Hibbing, Minnesota, waiting for radio stations in the south to come on air with their set lists of blues, bluegrass, spirituals and country, early Elvis, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly. Dylan had learned piano and fiddle as a child. He took to the guitar like a bird to the air. He absorbed the music through his pores and turned into an encyclopaedia of the American tradition.
At 18, a guitar on his back, Dylan made the pilgrimage to visit folk legend Woody Guthrie in hospital in New Jersey suffering from Huntington’s chorea. He sat on the end of the bed playing Woody’s songs back to him and wrote Song To Woody. It was one of Dylan first compositions and, in folk tradition, drew on lines from Guthrie’s lyrics.
Electric Masters of War
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