The best anti-war song ever written actually began its life as a poem. But like most fine poems, it contained an abundance of musical elements and concrete, vivid imagery. So much so that folk singer John Gorka readily saw the opportunity to turn it into a haunting, masterful song, so plaintive and quietly anguished that it throws off the power of its anti-war outrage under the cloak of a mother’s muffled sobs.
“Let them in, Peter,” implores the first line, and we immediately know which “Peter” the poet Elma Dean was referring to in the dark days of 1942, when the war was going very badly in post-Pearl Harbor America. This is the Peter who does not need a last name. The sentence finishes: “…they are very tired.”
And the next lines:
Give them couches where the angels sleep, and light those fires
Let them wake whole again, to brand new dawns
Fired by the sun, not w...