The Vietnam War lasted for nearly 20 years, and spawned many movies, books and of course, emotionally charged Vietnam War songs. The conflict, officially ending in 1975, was often polarizing to people around the world, politically, philosophically and even artistically.
The music influenced by this time-period ranged thematically from strident war-protest songs to military first-person perspective to songs simply suggesting the world find peace. However, one thing was for certain: whatever the message was, it was sung with passion and conviction.
Read on to find out the 7 Vietnam War songs you need to hear:
1. “The Unknown Soldier” - The Doors (1968)
Jim Morrison could protest a piece of bread and many people in the late 60s would have followed his lead. He (and the rest of his band) chose to write about the war from the perspective of how poorly they felt the media was covering it and how after the war, soldiers were often forgotten.
An excerpt from the song:
"Breakfast where the news is read
Television children fed
Unborn living, living dead
Bullets strike the helmet's head"
2. “Vietnam” - Jimmy Cliff (1970)
Jamaican Reggae singer Jimmy Cliff put an ironically upbeat Ska spin on his lyrically straightforward take on Vietnam war songs.
Yesterday, I got a letter from my friend fighting in Vietnam
And this is what he had to say
"Tell all my friends that I'll be coming home soon
My time'll be up some time in June
Don't forget", he said, "To tell my sweet Mary
Her golden lips are sweet as cherry"
3. “Us and Them” - Pink Floyd (1973)
Pop on "over the pond, " and bands from the U.K. offered their opinions on what they felt was the absurdity of war. Roger Waters (who wrote the lyrics) got particularly philosophical when he questioned "Who knows which is which and who is who?" An excerpt from the song: "'Forward' he cried from the rear And the front rank died. And the general sat and the lines on the map Moved from side to side. Black and blue And who knows which is which and who is who."
"'Forward' he cried from the rear
And the front rank died.
And the general sat and the lines on the map
Moved from side to side.
Black and blue
And who knows which is which and who is who."
4. “The Ballad of the Green Berets” - Sgt. Barry Sadler (1966)
Barry Sadler, who actually ranked as a staff sergeant as a Green Beret combat medic in The Vietnam War, wrote one of the rare patriotic Vietnam war songs, celebrating military heroism in a positive light.