The Unknown Soldier (song)

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"The Unknown Soldier"
Single by The Doors
from the album Waiting for the Sun
B-side "We Could Be So Good Together"
Released March 1968
Recorded January 1968 at Sunset Sound Recorders, Hollywood, CA
Genre Psychedelic rock
Length 3:10
Label Elektra
Writer(s) Jim Morrison
Robby Krieger
Ray Manzarek
John Densmore
Producer(s) Paul A. Rothchild
The Doors singles chronology
"Love Me Two Times"
(1967)
"The Unknown Soldier"
(1968)
"Hello, I Love You"
(1968)
Waiting for the Sun track listing
"Wintertime Love"
(5)
"The Unknown Soldier"
(6)
"Spanish Caravan"
(7)

"The Unknown Soldier" was the first single from The Doors' 1968 album Waiting for the Sun, and was also the subject of one of the band's music videos.

Lyrics[edit]

The song was Jim Morrison's reaction to the Vietnam War and the way that conflict was portrayed in American media at the time. Lines such as "Breakfast where the news is read/ Television children fed/ Unborn living, living dead/ Bullets strike the helmet's head" concern the way news of the war was being presented in the living rooms of ordinary people.

Structure[edit]

In the beginning, as well as after the middle of the song, the mysterious sounds of the organ is heard, depicting the mystery of the "Unknown Soldier". In the middle of the song, the Doors produce the sounds of what appears to be a marching cadence. It begins with military drums, plus the sound of the Sergeant counting off in 4s, (HUP, HUP, HUP 2 3 4), until he says "COMPANY! HALT! PRESENT! ARMS!" being followed by the sounds of loading rifles, and a long military drum roll, a pause, and then the rifleshots; in live performances Robby Krieger would point his guitar towards Morrison like a rifle, drummer John Densmore would emulate a gunshot by producing a loud rimshot, by hitting the edge of the snare drum, and breaking the drum sticks, Manzarek would raise his hand and drop it as if to release the signal, and Morrison would fall screaming to the ground. After this middle section, the verses return, with Morrison, first singing in a sadder tone, to "Make a grave for the Unknown Soldier", with the mysterious organ being heard. Then the lyrics about the "Breakfast", is heard with Morrison screaming three of the four lines, minus the line "Unborn Living, Living Dead", and the song ends with Morrison's ecstatic celebration of a war being over. In the studio version of the song, the sounds of crowds cheering and bells tolling can be heard.

Release and reception[edit]

The single release was edited in which a different gunshot sound was used and does not include the cheering crowds and tolling bells at the end. It became the band's fourth Top 40 hit in the US, peaking at number 39 on the Billboard Hot 100. "We Could Be So Good Together" served as the B-side.

Chart (1968) Peak
position
US Billboard Hot 100 39

See also[edit]