Music Of The Vietnam War – ‘The First Battle of Television’ has also been recorded with over 5,000 songs. From protest to patriotism, the popular musical reveals the complexities of two decades of America’s experience fighting communism in Vietnam.
In the early 1970s, an obscure Louisiana-based country musician named Bob Necaise released ‘Mr. Where is it in Vietnam’. In the song, Lil Gary asks Dee, a “boy not four years old”:
Music Of The Vietnam War
Father, where is Vietnam? Is it too far? I want to see my father Do you want to take me there today?
How Did The Vietnam War Change Popular Culture?
In December 1961, under President John F. Kennedy, the United States had 3,205 troops stationed in Vietnam. By the late 1960s, this strange land would become the most controversial issue facing the United States, a divided nation, debated in Congress, demonstrated and opposed in the streets — and written about in song.
The magazine reported on June 4, 1966, ‘few controversies have sparked such a series of musical productions. As the magazine revealed, more than 100 records have been released in Vietnam since January alone. Fifty years later, more than 5,000 songs have been recorded about the war, creating an international conversation about the conflict that tore apart the fabric of politics, society and culture. When America was divided between “hawks” and “doves”, music became a powerful communication tool for both sides.
In the early stages of the war, protest songs expressed concerns about a weak movement. Many of the Vietnam songs released during the Kennedy presidency revealed a reluctance to record. In 1962, the Californian folk duo Goldcoast Singers released ‘Please Mr. Kennedy’, with a direct message to the president: ‘I don’t want to go’. Fewer than 80 deaths in America were reported between 1956 and 1962, compared to more than 16,000 in 1968 alone.
Rock N Roll 1965 1973: Vietnam War Woodstock Era
The playlists mentioned in each section are placed throughout the article. Press play above to listen.
One of the oldest JFK-era protest songs was published in New York folk magazine
On September 20, 1963, two months before Kennedy’s assassination. “Talkin Vietnam” by Phil Ochs criticized the government for “training a million Vietnamese, fighting for the wrong government and the American way”. It also attacked South Vietnam’s Catholic president Ngo Dinh Diem for his one-family law and repression of the Buddhist majority: “families that kill together, live together”. However, songs focused solely on opposing the Vietnam War were not common until 1964.
Protests And Music Of The Vietnam War
The turning point was the Gulf of Tonkin decision. On August 10, Congress passed a resolution authorizing President Lyndon B. Johnson to send hundreds of thousands of troops to preserve non-communist South Vietnam. As US troop levels rose from 59,900 to 448,800 between 1965 and 1967, songwriters directed their anger at the president.
Distrust of LBJ was expressed by folk singer Tom Paxton in “Lyndon Johnson Told the Nation” (1965). Paxton lamented the president’s actions: “even if it’s not a war, we’re sending another 50,000”. In ‘Hey, Hey LBJ’ (1967), Bill Fredericks, backed up by a group of children, asked ‘how many children have you killed today?’. Jacqueline Sharpe, a popular folk singer and social activist, mocked the administration’s stubborn insistence on sticking to its goals in her song “Honor Our Pledge” (1966), “even as the world rises with the smoke of a mushroom cloud”.
On April 30, 1967, Martin Luther King Jr. gave a speech entitled “Why I Oppose the Vietnam War” at the Riverside Church in New York. It was later released by Motown Records. King emphasized the relationship between Vietnam and the Civil Rights Movement, noting “the cruelty of watching black and white boys on television kill and die together for a society that cannot accommodate them in a schoolroom.” ‘, along with the killing of “little brown Vietnamese children”. King was not the first to make these comments. Nina Simone released ‘Backlash Blues’ in March 1967:
How Music Fought For The Soul Of A Country During Vietnam
You send my son to Vietnam You give me second-rate housing and second-rate schools. Do you think all people of color are just second class idiots?
For decades, civil rights groups battled accusations of anti-patriotism and communism, leaving many black artists to tread carefully. Public action against the war opened the floodgates. Many songs by black musicians compared Civil Rights to Vietnam, including activist Matt Jones who refused to fight the ‘Hell No! In Ain’t Gonna Go’ (1970), telling his audience that “Vietcong just like I am”.
In 1968, North Vietnamese and Vietnamese forces launched coordinated attacks on the South, storming the American Embassy in Saigon. After the Tet Offensive, public support for independence from Vietnam increased from 19 to 55 percent. The anxieties of war were becoming invisible. The United States dropped 388,000 tons of Napalm B on Indochina between 1963 and 1973. The jelly-like gasoline mixture stuck to the skin and caused severe burns when it caught fire. A group of active-duty GIs from Idaho called the Covered Wagon Musicians gave a disturbing account of the war in “Napalm Sticks to Kids” (1972):
How A Model Soldier Becomes A Vietnam Protester: The Barry Romo Story (part I Of Ii)
We shoot the sick, the young and the disabled. We do our best to kill and maim Because every kill counts. The same Napalm sticks to the kids.
As public support for the war waned, withdrawal became a major issue in the November 1968 presidential election. Most candidates supported some form of withdrawal as slogans began to emphasize the length of the war. , military failure and a rising death rate. Bob Seger attacked the political system with ‘2 + 2 =?’ (1968): ‘it is the laws and not the soldier that I find the real enemy.’
Richard Nixon won the election and soon became the target of protests. Three important events increased the pressure on Nixon. Each of them inspired reports. The first was the “moratorium to end the war in Vietnam”, a large demonstration that took place across the United States on October 15, 1969, followed by a march on Washington on November 15. Native American singer Buffy Saint Marie released “Moratorium” in 1971, highlighting the growing number of people in the protest movement in the early 70s:
Pre Order) Us Soldier Playing Music Vietnam War 1:35 Pro Built Model #1
Yes, the soldier is yours We’re risking ‘all we’ve got We’ve been impaled and imprisoned just like you Our lives have been defeated
The second was the Kent State demonstration on May 4, 1970, opposing Nixon’s invasion of Cambodia, an attempt to cut off North Vietnam’s supply routes south through its neighbor. Four students were killed by Ohio State Troopers. That the brutality of the war had reached American soil shocked the nation. After a few weeks, Crosby, Men Nash & Young released “Ohio”, firmly blaming the government. It was just one of more than 50 songs released by Kent State.
Third, in 1971 the Pentagon Papers, a top-secret study of the history of the war, conducted in 1967, were handed over to
The Vietnam War: A History In Song
By military expert Daniel Ellsberg. The papers revealed that the public had been misled about the progress of the war. The resulting material inspired Texas band Bloodrock’s “Thank You Daniel Ellsberg” (1972):
I want to thank you Danny boy For what you’ve said and done You’ve learned from every side But you don’t know it’s you.
After the “Tet Offensive” and the subsequent shift in public opinion, commercially oriented records were less afraid to release strong anti-war songs, such as “War” by Edwin Starr (1970) on Motown. In the 1970s, anti-war songs came from a variety of cultures and traditions. Anti-war sentiment has spread to the country’s traditionally conservative nature. John Wesley Ryle’s “Kay” (1968) features “two young soldiers” telling the singer how they “hate the Vietnam War”, while the wounded soldier in George Kent’s “Mama Bake a Pie” (1970) says:
Selling A War: West Point And Vietnam
Yes, it was worth it for the old red, white, and blue And since I won’t be traveling anymore, I think I’ll save some money for shoes.
But for every protest song denouncing the senseless brutality of war, there was another side to the story.
Anti-war sentiment led to a large discography, but so did anti-communist sentiment. Opinion polls have shown strong support for the president’s policies across the Heartland and South, areas associated with agriculture and religion. Patriotic songs in support of the government and the military filled the national charts and radio stations from JFK to the Nixon war era.
The Vietnam War
Jimmy Jack’s “Vietnam War” (1964) described the need to stop the “Commie charge” in Vietnam and “keep it free”. In 1965, The Lonesome Valley Singers released “It’s All Worth Fighting For”, which described Dwight Eisenhower’s Domino concept. The national team sang:
I think there are people who think we should go ahead and give Vietnam to the enemy, but what country do they want next? We have to stop this crime somewhere. And it might as well be here in the jungles of South Vietnam.
The American flag was an important symbol in patriotic songs. In Hank Snow’s 1966 “Letter From Vietnam,” the narrator vowed to do his best for the “old glory, red, white and blue.” And like a flag,
February 15, 1967
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