First Hit #1: June 15, 1974
The most chipper song ever written about dying in a war, Billy Don’t Be a Hero does exactly what you expect it to. From the moment the chorus kicks in, you know exactly where this story is going. Dude’s going to be a hero, and he’s going to die, because that makes dramatic sense and to do anything else would make Billy seem like a bit of a jerk. There’s no way he’s going to go through the war, survive happily, and marry his girl, because a song about a guy surviving a war by deliberately avoiding being a hero isn’t exactly compelling or interesting. Nope, Billy’s fate was sealed as soon as his girlfriend made for a somewhat catchy chorus.
It is bizarre just how catchy this song is, considering the subject matter. The military-esque drums and whistling belong in something casual and a bit fun, not a song about death and sadness. It’s a very goofy track, but the subject matter isn’t goofy at all. It’s a strange combination that makes the whole thing somehow even darker than it would be played straight.