“The Hairy who sings to not think about his fate, not thinking to the fields of massacre and pain,” wrote the soldier, Claude Parron in his book war of the year 1915. Before the First world War, the songs have become the medium of expression the most popular, coming out of the cabarets and cafés-concerts. During the war, thousands of songs continue to be created. Sometimes by the stars of the music. But, often, it’s the soldiers themselves who take up and adapt the choruses in vogue.

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The air sung by soldiers are real scenes from the life of the trenches. They compose odes more or less creaking at whatever pace the day. Ma P’tite Mimi is a conversation lascivious of a soldier with his machine gun. Plonk , which is fundamental to survive, “made of the good by where it passes the” . The Wheel , written by Lucien Boyer, a famous guoguettier of Montmartre, unleashes the irony of the soldiers in 1917. He describes with mordant the mobile canteen: “The new rich have their dinner at Paillard, the profiteers, and y-z have a bar, but the Soldier himself, nurtures the wheel.”

another famous, The Watchman, is composed by René Clozier, soldier in the 1st Regiment of Zouaves. “I am the sentinel: others sleep, I sleep ; the trench is my stay, my periscope in hand, and day and night, evening and morning. And I watch, I always watch…”

The melodies are used to, the reality of war, but also to move away the most possible. Madelon , which puts the spotlight on a waitress a little shy, has ignited many a night of the Hairy, after that of Bach, a comic famous, has sung at the front in 1916. Regretting the wife patient but distant, the troops had to content themselves as they can: “It’s only Madelon, but for us it is the love”.

The staff understands that this music is slight, recovery in chorus by the soldiers, can give the spirit to the troops. And become a tool of propaganda. It sings of the victory of Valmy, égosille on La Marseillaise , and Aristide Bruant, the greatest songwriter of the era, interpreter Tighten your rows in support of the soldiers. Claude Debussy, very sick, composed in 1915, in a poignant Christmas song patriotic to “children who have no house”.

songs of battle

The song is especially a great tool of protest. To such an extent that historians believe to 25,000 the number of bans from the censor board for antimilitarism. On the murderer plateau of Craonne, in 1917, the soldiers are exhausted, and rebel against the offensive on the chemin des Dames. The dread in front of the hundreds of dead daily, their inspiration, on the melody of a tube before the war, the words desperate. “Farewell life, farewell love, (…) It’s at Craonne, on the plateau, That one should leave his skin, Because we’re all doomed, That is, we sacrificed!” The military command, offers in vain for a bonus and demobilization who denounce the author of this rant against the hypocrisy of the leaders and “cowards”. Until 1974, it was banned.

At the end of the war, one French person in three between 18 and 27 years died. Add the broken faces, the widows, the orphans. The song must play an air of comfort. Théodore Botrel, a herald of Britain patriotism exacerbated, sings, For our dead, resound bugles , on the occasion of the parade of 14 July 1919. He pronounces the prayer of these “young Gods, fallen for the salvation of the world.”

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