LONDON (Reuters) - British musician Paul Hardcastle is releasing an updated version of his international anti-war hit “19” 25 years on, but this time his focus is on the Afghan conflict rather than Vietnam.
The 1985 hit topped charts in 13 countries when it was released, appealing to audiences with its dance beat, catchy tune, anti-war message and accompanying video featuring harrowing footage of U.S. troops fighting in Vietnam.
It was inspired by a documentary Hardcastle saw which stated that the average age of a combat soldier in Vietnam was 19, compared with 26 in World War Two — figures which are disputed by some.
On April 19, the musician is releasing a re-mixed version and new video which cuts film of British troops serving in Afghanistan with the older footage in the original.
“I was always going to do a 25th anniversary edition,” Hardcastle said in an interview to promote the single.
“Seeing what is happening now, and my son’s friend is actually one of the people that died in Afghanistan ... I thought maybe I should feature what’s happening now as well, so that was the main reason of doing it I guess,” he added.
Georgie Sparks, his son’s friend, was 19 years old when he was killed in 2008.
While Hardcastle supports troops in the field, he criticized the government for failing to equip them as well as they would like, said they were paid too little and took issue with sending men and women into battle at such an early age.
“I think being out there and not even knowing who you’re fighting — is that a family over there or is it someone who is about to blow themselves up? — I don’t think that’s fair on a 19-year-old kid. I think it’s too young.
“At 21, you can’t even have a (alcoholic) drink in America, yet you can go into some battlezone when you’re 19 or 18. How does that work?”
Hardcastle acknowledged that the British army was voluntary, but believed many young people were forced into joining the armed forces due to economic pressures.
“I know a few people that want to go into the army, and why do they want to go into the army? Because they can’t get jobs.”
The musician, who spends most of his time working on smooth jazz, or instrumental “chill out music,” saw parallels between the Vietnam and Afghan conflicts.
“There are parallels and that’s what it shows you on the video — you see two shots, one from 35 years ago and one from now and it almost looks like the same piece of footage.
“It was all history repeating itself, as I say on the record. After seeing how long this Afghan thing is going to drag on, and it’s going to drag on for a long tine, it could become another Vietnam, and that will be a big problem.”
Hardcastle said his aim was to raise awareness and ensure that the British people did not forget that soldiers were fighting and dying in Afghanistan.
“The fact that the families of the people that have died out there are saying to me ‘Thanks for keeping our sons’ names alive’, that’s one of the things that spurs me on.”
Writing by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato