“If you were in John’s shoes, would you have gone to France to fight, taken his job too?”
A lyric from a rap song written and sung by 16-year-old Charlie Farquharson looking back on the life of John Henry Anderson, who served with the 7th Battalion Canadian Infantry. Anderson was part of the attack at Vimy Ridge and died between April 8 and 10, 1917, just shy of his 25th birthday, according to The Canadian Letters and Images Project.
Charlie was in Grade 10 when he was tasked by his social studies teacher at Brookswood Secondary to research and present on a Canadian World War veteran. Most students, Charlie said, created a PowerPoint presentation, but he decided to take his work in a different direction in an effort to really convey to the young generation the privileges Canadians now experience thanks to the sacrifices of those who fought for our freedoms.
The result, a powerful and captivating rap song humanizing the war in an effort to bring a distant historical event back into the forefront for young people.
“I decided to do it mainly because I get the feeling that some kids when it comes to World War and Remembrance Day, they just think, ‘Oh, some people died.’ – that’s it,” he said.
Charlie’s goal with his creative work was to convey the significance of Remembrance Day and help youth connect with the gravity of the historical event that moves further into the past each year.
“It has been so long… but still, it’s still an important thing to remember, reconcile and understand because it’s something that many people lost their lives for,” he said.
“I focus on a lot of the negative effects of war [in the song], because most of the effects of war are negative. And I tried to use strong adjectives to try to really plant that seed.”
Charlie uses imaginary in his writing to help the listener grasp the magnitude of the war. One line in particular, “long rows of pot holes” helps depict the vast plain of trenches that remained in the aftermath as a tragic reminder of what had occurred.
“The only thing we can really think of is – we look at them, we think of the graves, we think of the people that have died. Nothing positive really comes out of it,” he said.
The rap chronicles the sacrifices of Anderson, when he enlisted, his death and how the news of his death travelled back to his family in British Columbia.
“I tried to put a lot of dedication into it, because I knew it was something important,” Charlie said.
He estimates the entirely of the work, writing and recording, took him roughly three hours.
But writing and recording music is nothing new for the Brookswood teenager, he calls it a hobby.
“It’s been a hobby of mine growing up, whether it’s just listening to music or making my own with my buddies,” he said.
Now in Grade 11 at Brookswood Secondary, Charlie hopes his song continues to resonate with young people and help them understand the significance of Remembrance Day.
“It’s more common with older people to have relatives, who have fought in the war, for them to connect,” said Charlie. “I think it would be a good idea to find a different way to connect to the youth. Now what that idea is, I’m not entirely sure… I feel like some kids, maybe just don’t understand it as much as others.”
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