Five Songs About the Cold War

Literature is typically the most reliable way to absorb accurate historical facts regarding the Cold War, but there are other platforms that can provide you with a deeper, emotional connection than text. We’re talking about music. While music is definitely open for interpretation, these contemporary songs, listed below, were specifically written about the Cold War and can give you a unique perspective on the Cold War era.

Back in the USSR – The Beatles, 1968

This very upbeat song has a melody that is easy to dance too, but if you listen to the lyrics closely the 1960’s song has a very satirical meaning. It isn’t pro-communist exactly, but it does manage to take a jab at Western attitudes towards the Soviet Union as well as mock British conservatives’ governmental campaign, “I’m Backing the UK.”

Children of the Grave – Black Sabbath, 1971

An anti-war protest song, released during the Cold War/ Vietnam era, directed towards the younger generation. The lyrics attempt to convince the younger generation to stand up for their power to exercise their rights as well as un-do the damage brought forth by their elders via protesting. In a nutshell the song warns the threat of nuclear war.

99 Red Balloons – Nena, 1984

A song that starts with innocence abd finishes with a Cold War apocalypse. Two children release ninety-nine red balloons into the sky. Enemy radar interprets them as suspect devices, causing to a red alert. The President of this unnamed nation orders out the troops and ‘high-tec super fighters’. The result is war and devastation and a city reduced to dust. Although no countries are named in the song, Nena was a German singer and the original version was in German hence the song is widely believed to indicate a war over Berlin between West and East Germany.

Russians – Sting, 1985

This thought-provoking song, which rhetorically asks if the Russians “love their children too,” offers many themes that directly relate to the Cold War, including hysteria and fear of the atomic bomb. A dramatic/haunting song in its own right, the 1985 piece really tried to make its audience see that Russians and Americans were one of the same with lyrics like, “we share the same biology, regardless of ideology.”

Nikita – Elton John, 1985

Masked as a love ballad, this politically-charged song written during the Cold War era tells the story of a westerner who falls in love with an Eastern European named Nikita—however their love is short lived because the Berlin Wall keeps them apart. It’s rumored that the song references Nikita Khrushchev, the first secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Some historians also say the song alludes to homosexuality on both sides of the world since Nikita is often a male, Russian name.

Let us know of other songs that should be included in this list, either by contacting us or leaving a comment.

So far we’ve had…

1. Two Tribes – Frankie Goes To Hollywood, 1984
2. Radio Free Europe – REM, 1981
3. Burning Heart – Survivor, 1985
4. Wind of Change – Scorpions, 1991
5. Think Again – Dick Gaughan, 1983
6. Child in Time – Deep Purple, 1970
7. Masters of War – Bob Dylan, 1963
8. With God On Our Side – Bob Dylan, 1964
9. Leningrad – Billy Joel, 1989
10. Seconds – U2, 1983

Lenore Holditch
Lenore is a freelance writer for, a website that is designed to help students find online programs in their respected field, including history.

Read more about the Cold War in The Cold War: History In An Hour published by Harper Press and available in various digital formats and audio.

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