The Unknown Soldier (song)

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"The Unknown Soldier"
The Unknown Soldier - The Doors.jpg
Single by The Doors
from the album Waiting for the Sun
B-side"We Could Be So Good Together"
ReleasedMarch 1968
RecordedFebruary 1968 at TTG Studios, Hollywood, California
GenrePsychedelic rock
Length3:10
LabelElektra
Songwriter(s)Jim Morrison
Ray Manzarek
Robby Krieger
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)


"The Unknown Soldier" is the first single from the Doors' 1968 album Waiting for the Sun and released in March of that year by Elektra Records. An accompanying 16mm publicity film for the song featuring the band was directed and produced Edward Dephoure and Mark Abramson. The song became the band's fourth Top 40 hit in the US, peaking at number 39 on the Billboard Hot 100, and enjoying an eight-week appearance on the Billboard Hot 100 list overall. However, due to the song's controversial lyrics many radio stations refused to play it.

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" concerned the way news of the war was being presented in the living rooms of ordinary people.

A secondary message is the image that war is normalized within everyday life as is depicted with the unknown soldier being shot while the American family sits for breakfast and watches television. It is this lack of identity with the soldier that infuses the position of an ignorant citizenry who are largely devoid of emotion in regards to the men who are fighting and dying for them.

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, Ray Manzarek would raise his hand and drop it as if to release the signal, and Morrison would fall screaming to the ground. In other live versions, Morrison would temporarily excuse himself and grab a drink of water while Densmore drew out the drum roll, then fall to the stage dramatically and appear to be dead for a few seconds when the rimshot would occur. 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 released single was edited in which a different gunshot sound was used and does not include the cheering crowds nor the tolling bells at the end. Reportedly, producer Paul Rothchild was so particular about how the song came out that it ultimately took over 130 takes to finish.[1] Upon completion, the song became the band's fourth Top 40 hit in the US, peaking at number 39 on the Billboard Hot 100, and enjoying an 8-week appearance on the Billboard Hot 100 list overall.[2] "We Could Be So Good Together" served as the B-side.

Charts[edit]

Chart (1968) Peak
position
US Billboard Hot 100 39

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Vigliar, Virginia. "The Doors - unknown Soldier (1968)". Words in the Bucket. Retrieved November 4, 2016.
  2. ^ "The Hot 100 - May 18, 1968". Billboard. Retrieved November 4, 2016.