About the song

John Denver’s “You Say That the Battle Is Over”. Now that’s a song that resonates deeply, a powerful ballad that cuts through layers of complacency. Denver, a man synonymous with folksy optimism and odes to nature, takes a surprising turn here. This isn’t a song about sunshine and mountain trails; it’s a stark look at the ongoing struggle for environmental preservation.

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Released in 1971 on his album “Poems, Prayers & Promises,” the song arrived at a pivotal moment. The environmental movement was gaining momentum, with Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962) acting as a clarion call. Public awareness about endangered species, pollution, and habitat destruction was rising.

“You Say That the Battle Is Over” doesn’t shy away from the harsh realities. The opening line punches us in the gut: “And you say that the battle is over, and you say that the war is all done.” Denver immediately confronts the tendency to declare victory prematurely, the easy dismissal of environmental threats.

The song then shifts its focus to the victims, “those with the wind in their nose who run from the sound of the gun.” These are the animals – the seals, the whales, the creatures hunted to near extinction for fleeting human desires. The imagery is stark: the “glorious chase” turns tragic, the “wild in their eyes” replaced with fear. The line “it is they who must die, and it’s we who must measure the loss” is a stark indictment.

Denver doesn’t stop at the immediate threat. He delves deeper, suggesting a darkness that fuels this destruction. “There are those who would deal in the darkness of life, there are those who would tear down the sun.” These are the forces of greed and exploitation, those prioritizing profit over the well-being of the planet.

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The song is not without a glimmer of hope, however faint. The repeated line “go tell it” serves as a call to action. We must spread awareness, challenge the status quo, and hold those responsible accountable.

“You Say That the Battle Is Over” is not a singalong anthem. It’s a sobering reminder that environmental battles are rarely quick victories. It’s a song that continues to resonate today, urging us to look beyond pronouncements of progress and recognize the ongoing fight for a sustainable future.

Video

Lyrics

And you say that the battle is over, and you say that the war is all done.
Go tell it to those with the wind in their nose who run from the sound of the gun.
And write it on the sides of the great whaling-ships,
or on ice floes where conscience is tossed.

With the wild in their eyes, it is they who must die,
and it’s we who must measure the loss.And you say that the battle is over, and finally the world is at peace.
You mean no one is dying, and mothers don’t weep, or it’s not in the papers, at least.
There are those who would deal in the darkness of life,
there are those who would tear down the sun.

And most men are ruthless, but some will still weep
when the gifts we were given are gone.Now the blame cannot fall on the heads of a few, it’s become such a part of the race.
It’s eternally tragic when that which is magic be killed at the end of the glorious chase.

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From young seals to great whales, from waters to wood,
they will fall just like weeds in the wind.
With fur coats and perfumes and trophies on walls, what a hell of a race to call men.

And you say that the battle is over, and you say that the war is all done.
Go tell it to those with the wind in their nose who run from the sound of the gun.
And write it on the sides of the great whaling-ships,
or on ice floes where conscience is tossed.

With the wild in their eyes, it is they who must die,
and it’s we who must measure the loss.
With the wild in their eyes, it is they who must die,
and it’s we who must measure the loss.