This song was inspired by the Falklands War, which was going on when Dire Straits lead singer Mark Knopfler wrote the song. The Falklands War was a conflict between Argentina and the UK over islands off the coast of Argentina that each country claimed rights to. The islands are British territories, but in 1982 Argentina tried to reclaim one of the islands. Britain reclaimed their territories, but lost 258 soldiers in the conflict.
In this song, Mark Knopfler sings about a soldier who is dying on the battlefield, surrounded by his comrades, who remain by his side as he slips away. It's a look at the folly of war and the plight of those who fight them. "We've got just one world but we live in different ones," he told the BBC. "It's just stupid, it really is. We're just foolish to take part in anybody's war."
The title is something Knopfler's dad said. In discussing the Falklands War, he described the Russians and Argentinians as "Brothers In Arms," meaning they had similar ideologies. That phrase ended up being used as the title for the album.
In 2007, a new version of this track featuring Mark Knopfler was released to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Falklands War. Proceeds from the sale of the single went to a program that brought British veterans back to the site of the war in an effort to help them deal with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
This is played in the Brad Pitt/ Robert Redford film Spy Game when Robert Redford's character meets Pitt's character in Germany after the Vietnam War. The song begins as Brad Pitt is flown out of Vietnam, the link being the fact that this is a song about comrades in war.
Suggestion credit: Mark - Guildford, England
Compared to the music video for "Money For Nothing," which was very modern for the time, very colorful and also very '80s, the video for "Brothers In Arms" is quite the opposite. It features sketchings of an ocean, a pendulum, soldiers, an island and the band playing as well as real footage of landscape and the band. This keeps the colors in black, white and gray with the exception of the end that is a colored sunset.
Metallica covered this song when they played Neil Young's Bridge School Benefit on October 27, 2007.
Suggestion credit: Line - Viborg, Denmark, for above 2
This played in the series finale of The Americans, which is about a family of Russian spies posing as regular Americans. The song plays in a section where their covers are unraveling, and it appears they now have common goals with those who were once their enemies.
Alan from SomersetThe first paragraph above mentions a conflict between Argentina and England. This is not so. It was between Argentina and the UK! Please amend this immediately because it is an insult to the Scottish and Welsh Regiments and personnel from all over the UK who were in the Royal Marines and all who served under the British Land Forces. That said, it's a beautiful song. [Fixed. Thanks for letting us know. -ed]
Dave Kearns from FloridaI served in Central America as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer. The song came out in 1985 during my senior year of college. The album was our Cross Country team's semi-official album "Money for Nothing" a favorite. But all through my service in Honduras I thought the song must surely have been about the Contra war in nearby Nicaragua. Every time I hear it, I think about the mist covered mountains, and those soldiers returning to their valleys and their farms. Gives me chills. Great song.
Justin Devereux from AucklandLately it dawned on me this is not just about brothers in arms at war, but also about Mark's estranged relationship with his brother Dave who walked out on Dire Straits and left the band during the recording of their Making Movies album. They were once brothers in arms taking on the world so to speak but Dave found it hard touring and their relationship soured and became toxic for more than one reason. Read the lyrics again or listen to the song...war is a convenient analogy or vessel to write about Mark's pain at losing his brother. Even to this day they don't speak to each other. Very sad. Great song.
Michael from WvEven though this song is about the lifelong friendship you make with your fellow soldiers in war, this song has taken on a new meaning for me following last night's graduation dinner for my fellow apprentices. I spent 5 years with these guys, saw a lot of changes in life thru this time, we all chewed a lot of dirt and stuck by one another in some unbelievably bad times. But in the end, we came out as great friends with a deep bond. I happen to refer to them as my brothers in arms.
Hugi Hugo from UsI know what the songs was meant to be about, but for me it is about my story. About how I have witnessed senseless suffering when my wife was going through the illness and the dying from the cancer. Through the fields of destruction - the terrible damage that the illness and the treatment do to the human being, Like in that song I am slowly starting to realize that every man has to die, We are fools to make wars, ie. how many things I could have done differently, And though it hurt me so bad, you did not desert me - I actually cry that perhaps that not how my wife felt, So many different words - I feel like living in the different world, no words can console me, Now the sun is going to hell, ..., let me bid you farewell - when my wife passed away during the night, I was beside her bed and this will stay with me forever. This mist cover mountains are home now for me, ..., someday you will return to... As we both grew up in the mountains, I believe that's what her Heaven looks like, and hopefully we will meet again. Good by my Angel, my 'Brother in Arms', I will take care of our little princess and maybe one day we will be one happy family again.
Danny P. from TexasThis might sound a little wussy coming from a Soldier. But I remember listening to this song in Afghanistan while looking up at the Hindu Kush mountains and thinking about the valley back home...and weeping.
Eithne from IowaI think these lines:
But it's written in the starlight And every line in your palm We are fools to make war On our brothers in arms
refer to two common methods of fortune telling, astrology and palm reading. The narrator is saying that it has always been predictable that it is foolish to make war on other human beings because in the end our similarities are far greater than our differences.
Best anti-war song ever. I tear up every time I hear it.
Anshuman from IndiaAlways loved the haunting melody of this song.
I always had dictatorial or autocratic regimes in mind when I had heard this song... not just Stalin, but also those who have tried to alter the popular perception of "historical facts". Think of those who burnt the Library of Alexandria, Mac Caulay's twisting of Indian historical achievements by rewriting history and destroying in the bargain, the destruction of Iraq's museums and rich history....
I did not realise the reference to the Falkland war till I came upon this page.
Anshuman from India@ Max - Eden hills
I think "...Your sister gave me diamonds And I gave them to your wife...." refers to an act of dishonesty. viz... your sister trusted me and gave me diamonds (presumably because she loved me... ?). But I turned my back on her faith and gave those diamonds to your wife.... double dishonesty.
Juxtapose this with the modern context of some countries who at certain times may promise help to one country but actually help their enemy.
Bill from Fairfax, VaCertainly a song about mercenaries, but also very pointedly reminds about communist rebels in Cuba. You can easily imagine Che and Fidel as the song unfolds. One of my top Dire Straits tracks.
Joel from Oscoda, MiI read a interview Mark Knophler had with Bill Flanagan "I've never felt moved to write about particularly obscene people - I've gotten close, writing about people who are very, very different from me like "Les Boys" [Making Movies]. You take the part of somebody else, you're just not that person. On "The Man's Too Strong" [Brothers in Arms], I tried to do a study in guilt and hatred and fear. On some levels, you can almost see a Hess-like figure, in the depths of Spandau. You might see somebody who's just not at peace with himself. It's always interesting to me that any kind of heavy censorship, like book burnings, has always failed in the long run. That kind of suppression. I was just trying to get in the mind of somebody who's lived his life that way. There's nothing very heavy about it, it's just an experiment in character and playwriting. That song is absolutely not me"(the site is tripod.com if anyone wants to read it) my thoughts is it was Mark K. that mentioned Hess's name just thought I would put my 2 cents in. but still one of my favorite songs
Max from Eden Hills, AustraliaAlways thought that "The Man's Too Strong" was about Rudolf Hess, utterly in thrall to Hitler. Of course there have been any number of people who've done horrific things in someone else's name, but I think that there are a few pointers to Hess, especially "Striven for peace" - his 1941 flight to Scotland. The "walls that have made me alone" could easily refer to his solitary in Spandau, although to be honest, I don't understand "Your sister gave me diamonds And I gave them to your wife."
Dan from Towson, MdA great Miami Vice episode starring Bruce "D-Day" McGill from Animal House, and the song plays while Crockett and Tubbs discover an Edgar Allen Poe inspired ending.
Hasani from London, United KingdomThis is a classic. I am big fan of Dire Straits. Listen to "Six blade knife" by the same group and you will appreciate the guitar mastery of Mark Knopfler.
Miglena from San Jose, CaI agree with Phillip, this song looks very much like Bird of Paradise!
Craig from Perth, AustraliaThe lyrics dont match The Falklands, rather: On the second side of the album, three songs ("Ride Across the River", "The Man's too Strong" and "Brothers in Arms") are lyrically focused on the guerrilla wars in El Salvador and Nicaragua of the 1980s. The title of the album was inspired by a conversation in which Knopfler's father remarked, "We shouldn't be at war with our brothers in arms."
"Ride Across the River" is built on an off-beat rhythm. The song uses immersive Latin American rain forest imagery, accompanied by pan flute and eerie background noises, to allude to the elements of guerilla warfare.
Possibleparenthesis from London, United KingdomI like to think the final scene as a sunrise rather than a sunset.
Robert from Reynoldsburg, Oh I don't know if he (Knopfler)meant them to or not but I always felt that three of the last 4 songs on the album (Brothers in Arms) went together in a story arc. Ride across the river is about a man who becomes involved in a guerilla war on the side of a warlord "the man" At some point our narrator betrays this leader and during the song The mans too strong he is on trial for this action and awaiting his death sentence. Brothers in Arms completes this arc as our narrator is dying and looking back on everything that led him to this point.
Ted from Surrey, United Kingdomthis song is an ENGLISH song sung by an ENGLISH band. i am proud of this status and this song has a lot of meaning to me. england fight for what is right and that willnever change
Oldpink from New Castle, InI have this one on Super Audio CD, and it REALLY comes alive on a 5.1 sound system. Knopfler's nearly whispered vocals set the mood perfectly. Great lyrics, that work for whatever conflict du jour is going on, not just the Falklands. Then, he executes that gentle, mournful, wailing guitar. Absolutely spellbinding piece of understatement. Oh, and the thunder at the beginning blasts out of the rear speakers on the SACD, too. ;-)
anthony from North Cape May, NjAs someone from the United States, i do not feel much of the emotional attachments to this song, but i do sense a very relaxing mood in this song, and such a true voice from Mark.
Fredy from Neuquen, ArgentinaWell, i´m an argentinian. I know this song is about war in general, and especific about the war over MALVINAS or FALKLANDS. My contry in that moment was under a dictator, we went into a war with a country that also was under a dictator "maggie". This was one of the most stupid war of all time. Divided to nations, ment to be brothers. I think that mark song is great peace of art, not olly a good song, it´s the true, and when art tells you the true, there´s nothing more realistic than that. I know most of argentinians now hates english people for that war! i also know that the war at the time was not approved by british people. of course we can discuss about who has the right over the land, but it doesnt have to be that way. They were brothers fighting against brothers. I cry every time i hear the song, its more than just a song, its important that we are able to have these art manifestations, these social manifestations, in order not to forget the mistakes of the past! listen to this song, think about the war out there, happening at this very moment, cry with me brother, not a paralizeing cry, but the one that makes you stand up and claim for the end of the war between brothers!!
Ali from Melbourne, AustraliaThe song was written during the Falklands war, which caused huge rifts amongst the Brits. After the "victory", the returning soldiers were almost hidden & ignored by the Govt., instead of being welcomed as returning heroes. The Falklands are small, cold, rocky, misty & mountainous islands off Argentina. Song was inspired by Knopfler's father remarking "We shouldn't be making war on our brothers in arms."
Ben Dirks from Nijmegen, -To me the song is also about [senselesness] of fighting in a war. About my father who was a professional soldier. About Balkan war. About my [real!] brothers and me when our father had died. About being not alone; being "here" with everyone!!! [and it is -of course- a great piece of music] Tears often ...
Ben Dirks from Nijmegen, -This song is covered beautifully by Croatian group "Zlatni Dukati" and translated in Croatian as "U oruzju brat". Great to hear this song played in "Tamburica" style, big "mandolin" tapestry on which song is layed. Lyrics are translated almost literally; at the end though there is a "slight" twist that I really do not like, but I found that out way AFTER I started to love this version. So now I listen to it with mixed feelings sometimes [sometimes I just enjoy]
Matt from Boston, MaNot that it actually matters, but my understanding is that this song specifically refers to the Yom Kippur War. Knopfler is Jewish, although of Hungarian descent, and this song seems to speak to the hopelessness of war, and the struggle of Israel to find peace. The irony of the song asking the question, "Why do we make war with those we identify with the most, our Brothers in Arms?"
Danny from Miami, FlThis song was featured in an episode of the West Wing titled "Two Cathedrals". Probably one of the greatest hours of television ever filmed. -Danny, Miami, Fl.
Christopher from Stoke On Trent, United Kingdombrilliant song no matter what war its based on chris uk
Cristian from Santiago, ChileThe Live version "On The Night" CD is the best !!! Please take a look, you will cry...
J from Wynnewood, Pa> Possibly the most peaceful > and relaxing song ever. > - Victor, Vienna, VA I dunno, Victor -- if you completely ignore the lyrics, perhaps it could be argued that the music could be considered peaceful... but combine the music with the lyrics and I can't imagine anyone's considering the song to be other than heart-rending and chilling. I've never seen the video, but based on the descriptions I've read here today I'd say that Dire Straits did not intend this to be peaceful or relaxing, but thought-provoking and disturbing (as exquisitely beautiful as it is).
Anotherguy from Mojave, Chinathe interpretation of this song differs greatly from one person to another. This is what i see in this:
first we need to consider two possible meaning for "brothers in arms" - 1)guys wearing weapons(soldier, my soldier brother) 2)and normally unseen, a true brother. one who has been taken to our arms (here meaning hands)
so in the first stanza, "brothers in arms" is used with the second meaning. The soldier is in mountains. its high. but its mist covered. (shows the disability to 'see'). But his heart craves for the lowlands and valleys, where everything is simple and clear. Thats his home, where he truly belongs. He dont want to be in the heights. Some day he will return to his true home, and he will not have to burn the 'to be brothers in arms', will not have to kill the ones, who will be his brothers one day.
The second stanza is about soldier brothers. who fought together with him, for someone else's war He describes the scary face of war. and remembers with grattitude that, you, my soldier brother, you did not left me alone though it was all death and destruction around. you were always with me.
third stanza says about the meaninglessness of all these barriers -cultural/geographic/political. Thought the world is one we live in entirely different worlds for each other. Here an interesting usage is for the sun. Sun is something through which we usually understand the world around us. It depicts people who shows and shapes the real world to the distorted one. The world with so many barriers which is fed to our mind.
The last stanza is where the magic comes. Its a tragic ending. "NOw the suns gone to hell" (the hatred of the soldier about the distorted view of the world - "let it go to hell") and moon riding high. But sadly, soldier has to leave now as every man has to die. "Every man" - not every one :-) men fight war, some one else's war. and they have to die (decided by someone else, normally) and in startlight (there is no sun to show you the world now, you are free to see the world in your own perspective) and every line in your palm (we fight war with hands, we kill with hands. but we were too busy killing that we didnt notice its written inside it) that we are fools to make war on our brothers in arms (again the second brother. human brother)
sun -person/ideologies/beliefs which draw barriers in the actual world moon, starlight - absence of every stupid things like those, a pure mind
perhaps the most meaningful lyrics written in an english song. an evertime classic. the best music.
and @kenny, dublin, Ireland no wonder my brother. This song so touching. you are very lucky if u still can cry. Lot of people cant
Mateusz from Adamin, PolandGreat song and guitar solo...
Rick from London, Englandthis is a very moving song. An all time classic.
Kenny from Dublin, Irelandi cry everytime i hear this song it just reminds me of my own brother its just great no words to describe it
T. Michels from Venlo, NetherlandsBeautiful, very emotional song. I first thought it was two about brothers who had been in brawl with each other all their lives, but finally make peace because they feel that 'they're fools to make war'. Nice interpretation of the lyrics of course, but when I saw the video I realized it was a reference to war. Still, I think my interpretation is more tearjerking. :p
Pete from Saint Paul, MnFeatured in the Miami Vice episode "Out Where the Buses Don't Run". Great episode, one of the best of the series.
Joe from Vancouver, CanadaI love this song even though it's pretty quiet.
Dev01d from Wollongong, AustraliaGreat, great song. Mark Knopfler is one of my favourite guitarists. Up there with Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton. The film clip for this song is amazing too, I love the bid where it kinda 'flies' up to him playing on the cliff and the skulls in the waves. Amazing song by an amazing band.
Joakim from Gothenburg, MdThe Solo at the end is very atmospheric, one of the most underated solo´ of all time great one.
Geoff from San Francisco, CaThis song, which includes on of my all-time favorite guitar licks (right after the "And we have just one world but we live in different ones" line), is also centrally featured on a great Due South episode, "I Coulda Been a Defendant": http://home.hiwaay.net/~warydbom/duesouth/episodes/ep343.htm If you like this song, and know someone like me who has the Due South disease (buys all the available DVD's) you should really check this episode out.
Robert from Puyallup, WaThe video was a tour de force in animation production. It consists of scratchy pencil line-drawings, and rotoscoped images of the band. Images of war and death permeate the video, with waves of foam becoming skulls, trenchcoated doughboys rising from the trenches to go over the top into battle, and disembodied hands breaking the shackles of oppression. Incredible.
Phillip from Sydney, AustraliaThanks Daryl. Now for my follow up question - which is the better song? I like Bird of Paradise at least twice as much as Brothers in Arms :)
Daryl from Stoke, EnglandI second that Phillip. It certainly has some similarities. Well spotted.
Phillip from Sydney, AustraliaThis song sounds a little like "Bird Of Paradise" by Snowy White that came out a few years earlier in 1983. Anyone else make that comparison?
Brian from Shaker Heights, OhFirst featured in "Miami Vice" in an episode about a guy Crockett knew who went nuts.
N.b from Gloucestershire, Englandthis is the best song of all time,just listen and enjoy!!
Victor from Vienna, VaPossibly the most peaceful and relaxing song ever.
Sandra from Tel Aviv, IsraelThe song was also featured in an episode of The West Wing.