War! What Is It Good for? Black Freedom Struggles and the U.S. Military from World War II to Iraq

By Kimberley L. Phillips | Go to book overview

Protesters in downtown Pittsburgh, January 1967, with signs reading
“Fight Poverty, Not Hanoi,” “SAV-CAP in the Hill,” and “L.B.J. Where’s Your Support?”
for demonstration against curtailment of antipoverty program.
Photo by Charles “Teenie” Harris; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, Heinz Family
Fund. ©2004 Carnegie Museum of Art, Charles “Teenie” Harris Archive
.

who recorded the first version in 1969, produced a sound that replicated the hum of auto factories and the elusive promise of good jobs. Starr’s single simultaneously re-created the din of combat and the cacophony of the call-and-response between rebellions in black neighborhoods over too few jobs and high draft rates. Drum rolls mimic the skilled swagger of men on the front line. A soldier exhales “War! HUNHH!” as he snaps and thrusts his bayonet. Tambourines replicate the rapid repeat of M-16s, and horns blast like shrill bombs. At the song’s end, the drum paces the precise and solemn pivot of an honor guard at a soldier’s funeral. As more young men march off to war, machine guns let loose their terrible, infectious rhythms.

Jimi Hendrix’s “Machine Gun,” another song released in 1970, organized

-2-

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