Song of the Day #337: ‘Brothers in Arms’ – Dire Straits

dire_straitsI’m finishing the week with my favorite Dire Straits song, the title track of Brothers in Arms. This is what I call a “hold your breath” song, because you kind of have to do that from start to finish.

I’m usually partial to the piano as my instrument of choice. I get off on the ivory acrobatics of Ben Folds and the sumptuous playing of Billy Joel and Elton John. But a guitar handled just the right way is tough to beat, and Knopfler’s guitar work on this song is unmatched.

It starts with those first four notes, low and rough over a symphonic bed of keyboards. Four notes that drop you into the wasted battlefield at the heart of this song. And it just gets better from there, with each verse building on the last until the final verse is capped off with a guitar solo you want to just crawl into and ride for the rest of your life.

It seems that some of my very favorite songs are by artists who aren’t themselves among my very favorites. Perhaps when you’re so engaged in a whole body of work it’s harder to pick one or two highlights. In the case of Dire Straits, I’m not familiar with 90% of their output. But the five songs I’ve featured this week — especially this one — are real treasures. I hope you’ve enjoyed them as well.

These mist covered mountains
Are a home now for me
But my home is the lowlands
And always will be
Some day you’ll return to
Your valleys and your farms
And you’ll no longer burn
To be brothers in arms

Through these fields of destruction
Baptisms of fire
I’ve witnessed your suffering
As the battles raged higher
And though they did hurt me so bad
In the fear and alarm
You did not desert me
My brothers in arms

There’s so many different worlds
So many different suns
And we have just one world
But we live in different ones

Now the sun’s gone to hell
And the moon’s riding high
Let me bid you farewell
Every man has to die
But it’s written in the starlight
And every line in your palm
We’re fools to make war
On our brothers in arms


2 thoughts on “Song of the Day #337: ‘Brothers in Arms’ – Dire Straits

  1. Dana says:

    I was hoping you would feature this song, as it is truly special.

    This week definitely makes me want to buy some more Dire Straits.

  2. Amy says:

    I find your metaphors for describing how this song makes you feel quite fascinating. I agree that it’s a “hold your breath” song but don’t share your desire to crawl inside it. I find it almost unbearably sad. The only thing worse than having to go to war is to have to go to war with the awareness this soldier/singer has.

    You were complaining the other day about didactic lyrics. And it strikes me that Knopfler’s lyrics in this song could come across as didactic were they not so achingly simple. When he writes, “There’s so many different worlds/ So many different suns
    And we have just one world/ But we live in different ones,” he pretty much sums up every conflict that has ever let to bloodshed.

    I don’t mean to suggest that this song is a political statement, for I don’t think it is. Still, it is, musically and lyrically, a profound song. And maybe the most powerful political statements come from the most profound works of art. Just a thought.

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