Radiohead’s Rock Tribute: Harry Patch

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Lionized rock band Radiohead released a single on August 7, 2009 in memory of the last surviving British WWI soldier, Harry Patch. The decorated veteran died on July 25, 2009 at 111-years-old. ‘Harry Patch (In memory of)’ can be downloaded from the band’s website for  £1, or about USD1.65, or you can just listen to it on the BBC website. All proceeds will go to the Royal British Legion.

The tune will delight fans of Kid A; the spooky song reminds us of Motion Picture Soundtrack, complete with the organ riffs, and leaves us with the foreboding lines: “I’ve seen devils coming up from the ground / I’ve seen hell upon this earth / The next will be chemical but they will never learn”. Yorke’s oft-wailing voice is almost as scary as in OK Computer, but the orchestral feel behind the piece gives it a regal sentiment – perfect for a tribute. Weaving intros and outros make this song a strong standalone piece to add to the already impressive repertoire of Radiohead singles.

Thom Yorke had a chance to sit down with Patch to interview him for BBC Radio 4 a few years ago. He relayed the experience as “emotional” to the New York Times.

“The way he talked about war had a profound effect on me. It became the inspiration for a song that we happened to record a few weeks before his death. It was done live in an abbey. The strings were arranged by [lead guitarist] Jonny. I very much hope the song does justice to his memory as the last survivor,” Yorke said to the NYT.

In other Radiohead news, The Guardian reported on August 11, 2009 that the band has no intention of releasing any more full length albums. They will instead focus on orchestral EPs and singles.

“Harry Patch (In memory of)” is an inspired listen; take 5:33 out of your day to check it out.

Lest we forget.

-Cora Nijhawan

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