Songs Inspired By Hiroshima

ByJustin Hanus
Apr 26, 2024

Songs Inspired By Hiroshima

Given the long history of protest music and anti-war songs, it’s perhaps not surprising that songs written about Hiroshima are largely dominated by those concerning the 1945 nuclear attack on the city. From country music in the immediate post-war years through to more contemporary punk, pop and electronic styles, many acts have turned their attentions towards that fateful event and its aftermath. Here are some of the most well-known along with a couple of lesser-known tunes worth checking out.

Ultravox “Hiroshima Mon Amour” (1977)

Before they were a top-selling 1980s pop act fronted by Midge Ure, Ultravox was one of the most innovative and exciting British bands to emerge in the late 1970s punk scene. Their second album “Ha Ha Ha” featured the single “Hiroshima Mon Amour”, influenced by the classic 1959 film of the same name that tells the story of a love affair between a French actress and a Japanese architect in the aftermath of the atomic bombing. The song is eerie and oblique, not mentioning the city by name and referencing “riding intercity trains/dressed in European grey”, but it has become one of the most quintessential tracks inspired by Hiroshima in western popular culture.

OMD “Enola Gay” (1980)

A song from a similar era and scene to the Ultravox tune, “Enola Gay” by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD) addresses the impact of the bombing more directly. It’s a product of the UK new wave/electronic movement that produced a number of songs that tapped into anti-war sentiment and Cold War paranoia and became one of the band’s most enduringly popular hits. The title references the aircraft that dropped the bomb on August 6, 1945, and the lyrics use the tragedy as a warning against its repeat in an era of heightened global tensions. The line “Enola Gay is mother proud of little boy today” is a knowing nod towards the nickname of “little boy” given to the missile dropped on the city. Despite some fears that the subject matter might be too hard-hitting to be a chart hit, the song did very well across Europe in the early eighties.

Wishful Thinking “Hiroshima” (1971)

Originally released in 1971 at a time when many rock bands were knocking out anti-war anthems, this offering by slightly obscure British 4-piece Wishful Thinking is notable for focusing on Hiroshima rather than Vietnam, which was popular culture’s main protest cause of the time. “Hiroshima” didn’t trouble the charts on its first release but did well in a few European countries, including Germany, when it was reissued in 1978. A later German cover by singer Sandra peaked at number 4 in the charts in Germany, Switzerland and Israel.

Boris “Beyond Good and Evil” (2022)

Tokyo-based experimental noise pioneers Boris are better known for their crunching guitar soundscapes than for producing music that might be about something. But “Beyond Good and Evil”, taken from the band’s 27th studio album in 2022, uses Hiroshima’s devastating history as a starting point to create something typically beautiful and ugly at the same time. It’s perhaps not surprising as guitarist Wata hails from Hiroshima. The band has stated that the accompanying video is made “from the perspective of a mushroom cloud”.

Yoko Ono “Hiroshima Sky Is Always Blue” (1997)

One of Japan’s most globally famous artists as well as being John Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono has a rich and diverse catalogue of work spanning several mediums. Her haunting song “Hiroshima Sky Is Always Blue” is one of her lesser-known productions, originally written for a Broadway play about Hiroshima that premiered in 1997 and has so far only appeared on a CD accompanying Yoko’s solo exhibition “Road of Hope” at the Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art. The song features her voice uttering phrases including “John, we are here now together”, “peace on earth” and “Hiroshima sky is always blue”.

Eric Koch / Anefo, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

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