The last living British World War I veteran, Harry Patch, died on July 25, 2009, at the ripe old age of 111. An unlikely tribute has been paid to Patch by Radiohead, who are offering a download of their song, “Harry Patch (In Memory Of),” for a small fee in their official online store.
Thom Yorke was inspired to write the song after hearing an interview with Patch on the radio four years ago, and it was recorded during sessions for a new Radiohead album with regular producer Nigel Godrich. A brief 30-second clip of the string-laden track is available here. All proceeds from the song go to the British Legion.
Audio on YouTube:
The lyrics for “Harry Patch (In Memory Of)” are available at Dead Air Space, and Yorke has issued the following statement about the song:
Recently the last remaining UK veteran of the 1st world war Harry Patch died at the age of 111. I had heard a very emotional interview with him a few years ago on the Today program on Radio4. 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 Jonny. I very much hope the song does justice to his memory as the last survivor.
It would be very easy for our generation to forget the true horror of war, without the likes of Harry to remind us.
I hope we do not forget.
As Harry himself said
“Irrespective of the uniforms we wore, we were all victims”.