Eric Bogle, Music and the Great War: 'An Old Man's Tears', 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Eric Bogle, Music and the Great War

'An Old Man's Tears', 1st Edition

By Michael J. K. Walsh


180 pages | 26 B/W Illus.

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Hardback: 9781138719118
pub: 2017-12-04
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Eric Bogle has written many iconic songs that deal with the futility and waste of war. Two of these in particular, ‘And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda’ and ‘No Man’s Land (a.k.a. The Green Fields of France)’, have been recorded numerous times in a dozen or more languages indicating the universality and power of their simple message. Bogle’s other compositions about the First World War give a voice to the voiceless, prominence to the forgotten and personality to the anonymous as they interrogate the human experience, celebrate its spirit and empathise with its suffering.

This book examines Eric Bogle’s songs about the Great War within the geographies and socio-cultural contexts in which they were written and consumed. From Anzac Day in Australia and Turkey to the ‘The Troubles’ in Northern Ireland and from small Aboriginal communities in the Coorong to the influence of prime ministers and rock stars on a world stage, we are urged to contemplate the nature and importance of popular culture in shaping contemporary notions of history and national identity. It is entirely appropriate that we do so through the words of an artist who Melody Maker described as ‘the most important songwriter of our time’.


"This book represents the remarkably creative coming together of an academic with a great singer/songwriter. The result is an extraordinarily moving account of a combination of Great War remembrance and committed activism in which Eric Bogle’s songs are analysed in terms of the contexts of their creation and the profound ideals which they promote. The book includes an illuminating interview with Bogle during a centennial visit to the battlefield of the Somme. All those with an interest in the First World War and the poetry and folk music it inspired will find that reading it offers a truly profound experience."

- John M. MacKenzie, Emeritus Professor of Imperial History at Lancaster University, UK

"Eric Bogle is our greatest songwriter. This book shows a skilled professional at work – and, typically, working hard to underplay his importance!"

- Bill Gammage, Author of The Broken Years: Australian Soldiers in the Great War.

Table of Contents

Introduction – Eric and me

  1. Eric Bogle – Early Life, Work and a Culture of Protest
  2. ‘Tired old heroes from a forgotten war’: And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda, Australia and Gallipoli. 
  3. ‘When this war is over’: Remembering and Forgetting in Australia
  4. ‘A warm summer breeze’: No Man’s Land, Ireland and the Afterlives of Willie McBride 
  5. ‘A Stranger Without Even a Name:’ An Interview with Eric Bogle at the Somme, 2016
  6. ‘Old Men Still Talk and Argue:’ Remembrance, Education and the Future of the Past

Conclusion ‘Again and again and again and again…’



About the Author

Michael J. K. Walsh has published widely on cultural responses to, and interpretations of, the Great War. He is the author of: This Cult of Violence (2002) and Hanging a Rebel (2008); editor of A Dilemma of English Modernism (2007) and London, Modernism and 1914 (2010); and co-editor of Australia and the Great War: Identity, Memory and Mythology (2016) and The Great War and the British Empire: Culture and Society (2016).He is Associate Professor of Art History at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in First World War History

The First World War is a subject of perennial interest to historians and is often regarded as a watershed event, marking the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the 'modern' industrial world. The sheer scale of the conflict and massive loss of life means that it is constantly being assessed and reassessed to examine its lasting military, political, sociological, industrial, cultural and economic impact. Reflecting the latest international scholarly research, the Routledge Studies in First World War History series provides a unique platform for the publication of monographs on all aspects of the Great War. Whilst the main thrust of the series is on the military aspects of the conflict, other related areas (including cultural, visual, literary, political and social) are also addressed. Books published are aimed primarily at a post-graduate academic audience, furthering exciting recent interpretations of the war, whilst still being accessible enough to appeal to a wider audience of educated lay readers.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General
HISTORY / Military / World War I
MUSIC / Genres & Styles / Folk & Traditional
MUSIC / History & Criticism
MUSIC / Genres & Styles / Pop Vocal