When introducing the Vietnam War to my class, I like to begin the unit with music from the time period to help set the mood. What songs do you remember from that point in American History, or what songs when you hear them on the radio or in movies make you think of the period. Please add why you like them, or why they make you think of the war.
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I'll just go with a few protest songs that I use to teach about Vietnam and public opinion and such:
- Feel Like I'm Fixin' to Die Rag
- War (Edwin Start)
- Fortunate Son
- For What It's Worth
- Four Dead in Ohio
- Star Spangled Banner (Hendrix)
Outside of that, I think that the music that makes me think most of that era and the war in particular is essentially anything by CCR.
Because of the extreme association with Vietnam, music from the movie MASH comes to my mind (I know the movie is set in Korea, but everyone I have ever talked to about it agrees that it is really about Vietnam). The song from this movie that everyone remembers is Suicide is Painless by Johnny Mandel and Mike Altman, which became the theme for the TV show based on the movie.
The air was full of songs about Vietnam as the boys in my high school had to prepare for facing the newly initiated draft, hoping their lottery numbers would not come up. It's hard to say I "liked" most of the anti-war songs: They were meant to move listeners to decisive action, not to sentiment. Barry McGuire's "Eve of Destruction" asked the painfully ironic question of whether the destruction the U.S. was part of--from the halls of high schools to the jungles of Vietnam and the skies of Cambodia--was or was not the eve of destruction.
Eric Burdon and The Animals protested the destruction in "Sky Pilot" featuring Military Chaplains who escorted youths to battle and to death after. Cat Stevens and Tom Paxton sang of the hope of peace in "Peace Train" and "Peace Will Come," respectively. Creedence Clearwater Revival asked in beautiful metaphor who would bring the peace in "Who'll Stop the Rain":
The rain been comin' down.
Clouds of myst'ry pourin'
Confusion on the ground.
Good men through the ages,
Tried to find the sun;
And I wonder, still I wonder,
Who'll stop the rain.
Cat Stevens "Peace Train" (live, 1970s footage)
Given that you have already received many wonderful suggestions, I am suggesting a little different introduction. The one thing I remember about music from the Vietnam War was shown to me through Robin William's casting in the movie Good Morning Vietnam. Given that he was a radio announcer and woke up the camp every morning. You could show a clip from that movie (it includes music).
Wow! You already have some excellent choices (especially those by pohnpei) in the previous posts. The Country Joe McDonald selection that includes the "Fish Cheer" and Jimi Hendrix's version of the national anthem (as well as "Purple Haze") are essential. I think other good choices would be The Chambers Brothers' "Time (Has Come Today)"; The Doors' "The End" (memorably heard in Apocalypse Now); the Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter"; John Prine's "Sam Stone" and "Your Flag Decal Won't Get You Into Heaven Anymore"; Pete Seeger's "Where Have All the Flowers Gone"; and the slightly more contemporary "Charlie Don't Surf" by The Clash. Phil Ochs and Tom Paxton wrote many Vietnam War protest songs that are memorable if not particularly hit-worthy.
My grandfather served in the American Air Force during the Vietnam War. He met my grandmother here in California, and during the first year of their marriage they lived in the Philippine Islands, Vietnam, and Thailand. In the Philippines they lived in Angeles City near Clarke Air Base.
According to my grandmother when they lived in Angeles City, they lived in a house of ill repute (her words), which shared a city lot with a nightclub. The nightclub had a jukebox, which is a sort of old fashioned kind of Ipod, on which people played records, which are a kind of old fashioned of CD.
The two most popular songs were Yesterday and It’s Crying Time Again.
I found this story on the internet.
My grandmother says it reminds her of the nightclub in the PI, but actually I think the nightclub in the story is in Vietnam.
The story mentions dances like the Bunny Hop, Cotton Eyed Joe, the Suzy-Q, the Cha Cha, and the Reel. It mentions an vocal artist, James Brown.
The songs featured in the Vietnam-era section of the film Forrest Gump always remind me of that period, and, of course, the film itself is easy to love. You might want to play a clip from that part of the film. There don't seem to be too many on YouTube (surprisingly), but you should be able to find that section of the film easily on DVD.
John Prine's "Your Flag Decal Won't Get you Into Heaven Anymore", mentioned above, is brilliant, as is "The Great Compromise," by the same artist. It's a little allegorical though, so perhaps not all that useful in a classroom, and the same could be said for Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower". For me, "Fortunate Son," also mentioned above, gets right at the heart of most people's complaints about the war. "Ohio" is a great and moving song about Kent State, and "Okie From Muskogee" by Merle Haggard is a good look at the cultural divide the war helped create.
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