The sound of gunfire, off in the distance. #PlagueSongs, no. 40

This song — written in 1979 — imagines war in the US. Though war is not happening in the US (at the time of this writing, anyway), war is always happening somewhere. After Russia attacked Ukraine this week, Talking Heads’ “Life During Wartime” — with its images of urban warfare, urgent insurgency, limited food — has been ringing in my mind. So, here’s my version.

More on the song, below. First, here’s how you can help the people of Ukraine.

Second, to counter propagandists and fools out there, no, the former US president and long-time Putin fan would not have deterred Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This invasion is the direct result of one of the most successful intelligence operations in world history — Russia’s interference in the 2016 US Presidential elections, the result of which was elevating a useful idiot to the office of the presidency. During the career criminal’s term in office, he looked away from NATO and even withheld necessary military aid in an effort to blackmail Ukraine’s president into manufacturing some scandal about Joe Biden’s son.

So, while President Biden could be doing more than he is, let’s remember that his predecessor is currently applauding Putin for waging war on his neighbor. Indeed, Mar-a-Lago’s most famous resident called Putin’s plan to kill Ukrainians “genius.” In contrast, Biden is sending aid, coordinating sanctions with other countries, and condemning this war.

Third,… the song. (Remember the song?) It first appears on Talking Heads’ Fear of Music (1979), reappearing on the live albums The Name of This Band Is Talking Heads (1982) and Stop Making Sense (1984). Remarkably, each recording of it is better than the previous version. That’s why I modeled my own performance (such as it is) on the Stop Making Sense arrangement.

Another amazing thing about this song: it’s only two chords: Am and E. The funky rhythms and the bass riff propel it forward. In the live version above, the arrangement also keeps it interesting, as do the outstanding musicians joining the already excellent core band of Byrne, Frantz, Harrison, and Weymouth. And, well, you really need to watch the entire performance — Byrne and co. running in place, and Byrne acting out some of the lyrics. It’s riveting.

One final thing here. Have you heard the Staple Singers’ cover version? No? Well, give yourself a treat.

Looking for more music thematically connected to the Corona Era? Well,… OK. The playlist below offers a lot of music. Likely more than you need.

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