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Asleep In Dress Blues: Music For Memorial Day

A lone bugler plays "Taps" during a burial service at Arlington National Cemetery.
Win McNamee
/
Getty Images
A lone bugler plays "Taps" during a burial service at Arlington National Cemetery.

Memorial Day can all too easily mark the start of grilling season and retail sales events instead of fulfilling its original purpose, honoring those who lost their lives in service to our country.

Congress made the holiday official in 1971, but the practice dates back to the 1860s, when it was known as Decoration Day, an occasion for decorating the graves of Civil War soldiers. Late May was chosen, historians say, because flowers would be in bloom throughout the country.

It was only after World War I that Decoration Day was extended to commemorate the dead from all U.S. battles. Monday we'll remember those soldiers, especially the most recent casualties. Since 2003, according to the Department of Defense, more than 6,800 men and women in the U.S. armed forces have died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The horror of war continues to inspire musicians in myriad ways, and for this Memorial Day we've compiled a short list of songs. It's not really a playlist or mixtape for the day, but simply some music that celebrates our heroes, comforts the family and friends of the fallen and causes us all to think — not about this weekend's bargains but the everlasting cost of war.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Tom Huizenga is a producer for NPR Music. He contributes a wide range of stories about classical music to NPR's news programs and is the classical music reviewer for All Things Considered. He appears regularly on NPR Music podcasts and founded NPR's classical music blog Deceptive Cadence in 2010.