Collision of War and Music: Vietnam and the protest music of the mid 1960’s and early 1970’s By: Ashley Gallegos-Sanchez AP United States History 6th Hour “War! / Hunh! Yeah / What is it good for / absolutely nothing… War has caused unrest within the younger generation Induction, then destruction—who wants to die. ” Edwin Starr-“War” (1970) Music has undeniably become an advocate in spreading a gospel of free opinion.
Without the Vietnam War, the music that presented itself in the mid 1960’s and early 70’s would have inevitably been impossible. In looking at songs that targeted the general public, the soldiers fighting in Vietnam and with ‘subversive song’s’, it is apparent that the music of the 60’s and 70’s was indeed influenced by the war and turmoil in the society. Through this catalyst the people already angered by Vietnam War began their political movements through mass protest.
The idea and motivation behind the protests were to bring home their dying sons, fathers and brothers from a pointless war. This idea has been preserved in the music behind the Vietnam War. The Vietnam War is an event that impacted the musical culture so profoundly that it would change the course of music history by introducing a new form of protest, in end creating a ‘golden age’ of musical expression. Particularly in the genres of rock and folk, who freely expressed their views, both pro-war and anti-war through music.
This ‘golden age’ era consisted of the most popular and most influential bands of the time such as, Barry McGuire, the Animals, The Byrds, The Carpenters, Credence Clearwater Revival, and Neil Young. The widely controversial protest music of the mid-sixties and early seventies was ever only possible through occurrence of the Vietnam War and its impact on the cultural beliefs of society. “The Eastern world is exploding, violence flaring and bullets loading, You’re old enough to kill, but not for voting… Ah, you don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction. ” Barry McGuire-“Eve of Destruction” (1965) Released in 1965, Barry McGuire’s “Eve of Destruction” not only clearly portrays the bloodshed of the war, but also criticizes the drafting of young men, who at the time were not even eligible to vote. These messages that depicted the government exploit of young men, mainly of middle to lower class origins, were the first of hundreds of songs that would spread a rebellious fever amongst the masses that would in end, lead to a revolutionary ideals.
Another artist that explored and enforced this type of expression was the band Country Joe and the Fish in their song “I-Feel-Like-I’m-fixin’-to-Die Rag” Also recorded in 1965 (Vietnam Era Anti War Music-JW Anderson), this folk song represented the public’s and government’s willingness to send off their men without logic or humane influence, in end leaving the unprepared young men to die in a foreign land, as expressed in the quote “Next stop is Vietnam…There ain’t no time to wonder why Whoopee were all gonna die. (1965). These songs reflected the publics view on the Vietnam War, but soon after songs that were of this nature were released, a new audience was targeted by the musical world, in which the intended audience were the soldiers themselves. “We gotta get out of this place If it’s the last thing we ever do We gotta get out of this place. ” The Animals-“we gotta get out of this place” (1966) A symbolic song that illustrated the situation of an average GI in Vietnam. We gotta get out of this place” was exceedingly significant and meaningful to American troops in Vietnam. And the significance hasn’t ceased, this song is currently used as the official anthem of the annul DMZ to Delta Dance in Washington, DC over Veterans Day. Many people heard these songs and knew exactly what the message was, such as Armed Forces Radio veteran Nancy Smoyer, “…those of us who were there know very well all the levels of the words of the title. (War music of the 1960’s). For those trapped in the Vietnam War these influential songs brought upon a new type of appeal to the soldiers, an emotional appeal. “…I’ll be home for Christmas If only in my dreams. ” The Carpenters-“I’ll be home for Christmas” (1978) Did song lyrics affect American troops in Vietnam? This is a question on which the song “I’ll be home for Christmas” touches on.
The expansion in musical lyrics that no longer criticized the war but instead called upon the troops’ emotions were relevant to the Vietnam War due to the fact that it appealed to the troops, rather than try to send a political message that so many bands did before. While songs like “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” did not hold any direct orientation to the Vietnam War or to the counterculture, but the lyrics could potentially be damaging to morale because of what they symbolized to the soldiers who heard them (World-Wide Symphony-Brett Sharp).
Such songs had immense impact on GI’s fighting a war thousands of miles away from their loved ones, in that those songs reminded them of a far away home. “Where have all the soldiers gone? – gone to the graveyard everyone” lyrics from the song “Where have all the flowers gone” by Pete Seeger shows no direct incitement towards Vietnam in the lyrics but the allegation that all of our soldiers would end up in a necropolis could have led American troops to reflect on their actions and situation in Vietnam (War music of the 1960’s).
In end, songs like “Where have all the flowers gone” contributed to depression along with several other psychological health issues that would be injected into many soldiers through the war. A song that truly reflects this idea would be, “Ruby Don’t Take Your Love to Town” by Kenny Rogers where the story of a paralyzed veteran comes to life, “It Wasn’t Me that started that old crazy Asian war / but I was proud to go and do my patriotic chore,” are the words he laments as his wife leaves to find love in the arms of a younger, healthier man. Ruby Don’t take Your Love To Town” is a bleak reminder of the horrendous truth of the war and may have caused the listener, the average citizen or soldier, to rethink how necessary war truly is. “Yeh, some folks inherit star spangled eyes, Ooh, they send you down to war, lord, And when you ask them, how much should we give, Oh, they only answer, more, more, more, yeh. ” Credence Clearwater Revival-“Fortunate Son” (1969)
Another topic that was often tapped into by musical artists was the fact that the draftees were mostly consisted of middle to lower class men. Credence Clearwater Revival captured this momentous fact through their song “Fortunate Son” and by doing so causing a riot in peoples mind for it was the general publics sons, fathers and brothers who were being drafted and killed while the rich or “senators’ sons” were protected by their money, and their indifference to the war along with the troubles it brought for the average American.
The working class is the groundwork on which the United States is built on, but yet when war falls upon us, we the people that make this country great are burdened with the insurmountable weight of fighting it while the rich ‘college students’ stay in their classes (Vietnam Protest). The rage of the people is overwhelming by the 1970’s and the demand for the end of Vietnam by the citizens turns to large anti-war protests.
With the influence of music as a source of finding peace, they marched with lyrics of “Fortunate Son”, “We Gotta Get Out of This Place”, “Eve of Destruction”, in their hearts along with the hundreds of other influential songs that laid such an impression upon the people. “Tin soldiers and Nixon’s bombing We’re finally on our own This summer I hear the drumming Four dead in Ohio” Neil Young-“Ohio” (1970) On May 4, 1970 an extremist anti-war protest at a ROTC building at Kent State University began to turn into violence.
Tactics such as attempts to set the building on fire with fire bombs as well as throwing rocks, shattering several windows were used during the anti-protest. 2,100 National Guardsmen were called to control the large riot but in end the anti-war protesters began to use their methods of violence against them, in which the Guardsmen responded by shooting into the crowd blindly, hitting fourteen people and killing four student protesters (At war with war-Time Magazine). Almost an immediate response could be heard by the people through Neil Young’s song “Ohio”. In ten lines, young captured the fear, frustration and anger felt by the youth across the country and set it to a lumbering D-modal death march that hammered home the dread. ” As said by Jimmy Mcdonough, Neil Young’s biographer. The song “Ohio” captivated the heart of the people, which in turn lead to dozens of more protests throughout the 70’s. The gospel of free opinion through music was most definitely reached its peak in the ‘golden age’ of the 1960’s and 1970’s, which was only ever possible through the Vietnam War that caused a social and political eruption in society.
The musical artists of the era cultivated the already present emotions in the people brought upon them by the war. In turn the people reacted to the songs that targeted the general public, the troops fighting in Vietnam, and with ‘subversive song’s’ through mass anti-war protests. In end, without the influence and impact the Vietnam War had on the American society, this music of message would have never have entered and altered musical history. Abstract Music provides a voice for the people in times of social and political turmoil.
Songs carry the influence of the time, and the era of the mid 1960’s and early 1970’s did indeed reflect the years of the Vietnam War along with the war on the home front to bring a stop to the pointless war abroad. Music is what is happening around it at the second it is being made and without the influence of the Vietnam War, the music of the 60’s and 70’s would not have came into existence. With songs that targeted the general public, soldiers fighting in Vietnam along with ‘subversive songs’, it is clear that the music was a creation of its time.
And so by looking at several artists that were influenced and in turn impacted cultural and political society, we can see that the event of the Vietnam war was the one and only catalyst in bringing about the anti-war protest music of the 1960’s and 1970’s. Bibliography Sharp, Brett. , 2008-01-09 “World-Wide Symphony: The Role of Popular Music in American Foreign Policy” Time Magazine-“at war with war” Monday, May 18, 1970 http://www. geocites. com/afvn3/historybac. html http://www. jwsrockgarden. com/jw02vvaw. htm http://www. vietnam-war. info/protests/protests2. php