The band members Chadwick Stokes and Brad Corrigan said they hope that Russian soldiers will hear the antiwar song and discontinue their invasion.
The roots rock band Dispatch on Tuesday rereleased its popular antiwar anthem, “The General,” after recording it in Russian in hopes, the band said, that Russian soldiers might hear the song and its message and “question their role” in the Ukrainian invasion.
The song, originally released in 1998, tells the story of a “decorated general with a heart of gold” who has a dream about the opposing soldiers, and their affected mothers, on the eve of battle and wakes up to tell his men about a change of heart.
“He said, ‘I have seen the others, and I have discovered that this fight is not worth fighting,’” the band sings in the chorus. “‘And I’ve seen their mothers, and I will no other to follow me where I’m going.’”
“‘So take your shower, shine your shoes, you got no time to lose; you are young and you must be living,’” the original chorus continues. “‘Go now, you are forgiven.’”
Chadwick Stokes and Brad Corrigan, the founding members of the band, said in a statement that they realized how relevant the lyrics were to the war in Ukraine. Stokes then recorded the whole song in Russian, working with Olga Berg, who acted as a translator and language coach.
Stokes described to Rolling Stone, which first reported the rerelease, how he and Berg changed some of the lyrics, tailoring them a bit for a different audience.
“This one part usually goes, ‘Take a shower, shine your shoes,’ and she said to me, ‘I’m not sure “take a shower” is going to work,’” recalled Stokes. “So we changed it to [the Russian translation of] ‘Polish your boots, and go on your way.’”
Berg, who was born in Ukraine, is working with several nonprofit organizations to support Ukraine, including the Polish Institute for Emergency Medicine. (Corrigan contributed vocal harmonies.)
“To force someone to act against humanity,” Stokes said in the statement, “is to destroy their own humanity.”
All proceeds from streaming the song will go toward the Leleka Foundation, which provides first aid kits for fighters and emergency medical responders in Ukraine. Founded in 2014 after Russia invaded and annexed Crimea, the foundation says it has now raised almost $2 million since the war began in February.
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Gavriel Heine. The American conductor, a fixture at the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, Russia, for 15 years, has resigned from his post as one of the state-run theater’s resident conductors. He said in a series of interviews that he had been increasingly disturbed by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“Please make a Russian language version of The General!” the comment read.
“If anyone wants to translate and make it work,” Dispatch responded, “let’s do it!”
From there, Stokes found Berg — a friend of a friend — through Facebook posts and other connections, Rolling Stone reported. They worked together for a couple of weeks, drilling daily.
Formed in 1996, Dispatch has crafted eight studio albums and five live albums. On hiatus since 2002, the band reunited in 2011 for a national tour. This summer, Dispatch will tour North America with the rock band O.A.R.
The lyrics in the original version of “The General” do not reference any particular conflict. The sentiments they evoke were still powerful, though, to one listener who commented on the YouTube video of the original song two months ago as the invasion of Ukraine loomed.
“With an impending war in Eastern Europe, my thoughts wandered to this song,” reads the comment. “May those Russian soldiers come to a similar realization as this song and may peace follow soon after.”