Vietnam War 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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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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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.

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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.

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I was shocked at just how many songs were written about the Vietnam War. Obviously it was an event of cultural importance, but this is definitely an important period in our history. I found an extensive list here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_songs_about_the_Vietnam_War
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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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