“Harry Patch (In Memory Of)” isn’t a new Radiohead song. Actually, it was originally self-released as a single in 2009 as a tribute to Harry Patch, the last surviving World War I combat soldier who died shortly after the song was recorded. The song hasn’t been widely available for the last decade, where music listening has been dominated, and in many cases restricted to, online streaming. Today, Radiohead made “Harry Patch (In Memory Of)” available to stream on Spotify.
Though Thom Yorke has widely criticized the results of the US election, the re-release of this song isn’t a response to President-Elect Donald Trump-not directly, anyway. Radiohead shared the song on November 11, Remembrance Day, which honors those who have died in the line of duty.
These are the only lyrics:
I am the only one that got through The others died where ever they fell It was an ambush They came up from all sides Give your leaders each a gun and then let them fight it out themselves I’ve seen devils coming up from the ground I’ve seen hell upon this earth The next will be chemical but they will never learn.
Again, Radiohead made no mention to releasing this song in response to the 2016 Presidential Election, but I’d imagine it’s no coincidence. If there’s anything we need right now, it’s a reminder of the horrors of violence, of hatred, of war. If there’s anything we need right now, it’s a swirling orchestral arrangement from Jonny Greenwood with Yorke’s soothing voice soaring above it. If there’s anything we need right now, it’s Radiohead.
For much of the last decade, Radiohed has lost the angst of its younger years, its and outrage for Bush-era politics. In fact, 2003’s Hail to the Thief was Radiohead’s last political album. Between Brexit and Trump, the world is about to change. Musicians-all of us, in fact-have something very real and very scary to fight against.
We don’t know what that will look like yet, but given the horror of this election we have something of an idea. “Harry Patch (In Memory Of)” is the calm before the storm-we can only hope Radiohead sees the rest of this out with us.