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Iraqi conflict strikes chord among singers

Geoff Boucher Los Angeles Times

The Rolling Stones, Green Day and Barbra Streisand rarely hit the same note, but all of them are turning heads with new songs or videos about life in wartime.

Veteran songstress Streisand and spiky-haired punk trio Green Day have issued surprisingly similar videos that tug at the heartstrings by showing troops in harm’s way with lyrics about the lovers left behind on the home front.

The Stones, meanwhile, are about to release perhaps the band’s most specifically political song ever on their new album.

Streisand’s “Stranger in a Strange Land” debuted Tuesday as a one-week exclusive (and free) streaming video on the home page of Internet merchant Amazon.com. It is culled from “Guilty Pleasures,” the singer’s upcoming collaboration album with Bee Gees singer Barry Gibb, who wrote and produced all the songs for the project, slated for a Sept. 20 release.

The video shows Streisand, wearing an evening gown and an intense expression, singing lyrics that include: “You may be someone else’s sweetheart/Fighting someone else’s war/And if you suffer for the millions/Then it’s what you’re fighting for.”

Her studio performance is intercut with footage of American troops shipping off to theaters of war past and present.

The video for Green Day’s “Wake Me Up When September Ends” is a seven-minute minimovie with dialogue and battlefield scenes that create an elaborate companion plot for the hit song. Evan Rachel Wood and Jamie Bell portray a young couple whose love story is endangered by his combat deployment.

It was conceived, written and directed by Samuel Bayer, whose resume includes more than 150 videos, including the watershed video for Nirvana’s song “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

The song was written by Green Day front man Billie Joe Armstrong as an ode to his late father. Bayer came up with the idea of dovetailing the song with images from Iraq.

“I hope this video gets people talking,” says Bayer, who calls the small-form war tale his best work.

“I think you have to be very careful of public backlash when you deal with issues as sensitive as our foreign policy and the war in Iraq,” he says. “Sometimes when musicians make antiwar statements it can sound crass and insincere. If you’re going to do this stuff, do it right.”

Politics is something the Stones typically haven’t done at all. “Street Fighting Man,” “Sympathy for the Devil” and “Undercover of the Night” had varying degrees of social or political imagery, but nothing like “Sweet Neo Con,” a song from their upcoming album “A Bigger Bang,” due Sept. 6.

The lyrics are pointed clearly at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., with its references to Halliburton and gasoline patriots. Among the lines: “It’s liberty for all/Democracy’s our style/Unless you are against us/Then it’s prison without trial.”

Jagger says that political commentary is not his forte, but that with the protracted political crisis of the day, it’s hard to stay limited to less reflective topics.

“I have my opinions, which I’ve stated in the tune,” he tells USA Today. “Maureen Dowd is no more qualified to have opinions than I am.”

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