“Search and Destroy” by Soundgarden

Considering that they also covered The Doors’ 1970 piece “Waiting for the Sun“, it can be gleaned that Soundgarden had an affinity for tunes from the late-1960s/early-1970s. This was perhaps the most-prominent era of social activism in American history, as there were a number of issues which citizens were passionate about. 

One of those, of course, was the Vietnam War. And such is the situation that “Search and Destroy” is meant to address.

But of course Soundgarden themselves came to prominence well after the Vietnam War had already concluded. And there are no direct references to that particular conflict in the lyrics. 


And with the above in mind, it can be said that the vocalist is portraying the role of a veteran or in the very least someone who has been directly affected by modern warfare in general. And the specific battle he does make a reference to, if any, would be World War II, as he mentions “the nuclear A-bomb”. 

But again, he is “a runaway son” of this devastating phenomenon. And that wording does not come off as if he actually participated in the dropping of an A-bomb, i.e. World War II itself. Rather he is part of the generation that was brought forth in that event’s aftermath – a soldier whose goal is not to bring peace or do anything constructive but rather to “search and destroy”.

“Search and Destroy”

In fact the term “search and destroy” is one which really came into prominence, as alluded to earlier, during the Vietnam War. This is when the United States instituted a strategy which some refer to as the BEAST system, of which “search and destroy” is one of its components

And summarily, to make a long story short, America’s involvement in the Vietnam War proved to be very controversial stateside, largely as a result of such inhumane strategies. And as such, of course musicians, such as The Stooges, took it upon themselves to speak out.

But even after America’s shall we say disgraceful exit from Vietnam, as you may well be aware, the war machine itself never stopped. Indeed even as of the writing of this post, it is only now that the United States appears to be really serious about withdrawing from Afghanistan, where it has retained a volatile military presence for well over a decade. 

Primary Concept

And that ultimately seems to be the main concept the narrator of this song may be speaking to.  He is resident in a warmongering society. Or more to the point he is someone, a vet it would appear, that has been directly affected by said conflicts. 

And similar to a common sentiment expressed by veterans of the Vietnam War, he now feels disenfranchised, as if the “world” has “forgotten” him, in the aftermath. Also there is a strong sense of frustration on his part, made most evident by his perceived necessity for ‘somebody to save his soul’.

So it’s not easy to encapsulate all of the above within a singular thesis sentiment. But perhaps most simply we can say that the vocalist is portraying the role of a veteran of the Vietnam War.

Lyrics for "Search and Destroy"

Date of Release

Soundgarden’s rendition of “Search and Destroy” came out on 22 March 2011. The song is an official cover of a track The Stooges originally dropped in early-1973. 

Quick Facts about “Search and Destroy”

The credited writers are two members of The Stooges, rock icon Iggy Pop and his former bandmate, James Williamson.

“Search and Destroy” is considered to be one of the greatest rock songs in history. And this would likely be one of the reasons why Soundgarden decided to cover it. 

And it is actually a live performance of the tune that is featured on their 2011 project “Live on I-5”. The said project was released by A&M Records, a label they had been signed to since 1989.


Soundgarden did ultimately go defunct in 2019. This was a couple of years after their frontman, Chris Cornell (1964-2017), committed suicide at the age of 52.

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