Music is a core part of culture around the world, it both shapes and is shaped by current events. This is especially prevalent during the 60s, and in this post I’ll talk about music’s involvement with Vietnam and how we view the conflict today.
If you don’t know much about the war in Vietnam that’s understandable, but you definitely know the music. This war was a massive historical and cultural moment for America, and it has a killer soundtrack.
Vietnam was iconic, partially because of the music that is often associated with it. Many songs became beloved by troops because of their reflection on the war intentional or not. In class, we listened to a few of these songs as examples from a short series of videos that talked about what they meant at the time. We covered a few songs from Vietnam like: “We Gotta Get out of This Place” by The Animals, and “These Boots are Made for Walking” by Nancy Sinatra, which were popular among the troops. We also analyzed other songs in relation to different events like Martin Gayes “Whats Going on”, but I personally found the Vietnam connections the most interesting.
Songs were adopted by people to represent the war, like “We Gotta Get Out of This Place”, which many of the GI’s would listen to, reminding themselves of what pretty much all of them were thinking as they counted down the days till the end of their deployment. Other songs like “War” by Edwin Starr were reactionary. “War” was a protest to the Vietnam war and is one of the first Motown songs to be a political statement.
War, I despise
‘Cause it means destruction of innocent lives
War means tears to thousands of mother’s eyes
When their sons go off to fight
And lose their lives
”War”, Edwin Starr
Songs were not only iconic and representative of the time but also used to spread awareness about events. The song “Ohio” by Neil Young was recorded right after the shooting of a protest at Kent State and the killing of 4 college students. This song instantly became a hit and as influence across the country as people rallied behind the music against the government.
The influence of songs like this can still be felt to this day and in modern times more and more of these reflective pieces of music that try to address issues with society are being made.