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RU Music of the Vietnam War Essay

RU Music of the Vietnam War Essay


For American soldiers in Vietnam, music was an important part of their lives overseas. It was a reminder of home in a dangerous and foreign place. At the beginning of the war, the major source of music for the troops in Vietnam was Armed Forces Radio, operated by the United States Department of Defense.
The Department of Defense placed a number of restrictions on the types of music that could be played over Armed Forces Radio. Protest songs, or those that could be interpreted as protest songs, were prohibited. One song approved was “The Ballad of the Green Berets” from 1966 by Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler (Leepson, 2017). The song’s lyrics “Fighting soldiers from the sky, Fearless men who jump and die” spoke to courage and bravery of the Green Berets (Barry Sadler lyrics, n.d.). Sadler’s song would hit number one on the Billboard charts and stay there for five weeks (Leepson, 2017).
As the war in Vietnam dragged on and public opinion towards it shifted; the popular music about the war began to change too. Increasingly musicians had something to say and Armed Forces Radio had more music to prohibit. Bored with the approved playlists, which were increasingly dominated by classical music and light pop tunes, soldiers began to bringing music and stereos with them to Vietnam. From that point on, songs like “We Gotta Get Outta This Place”(1965) by the Animals, “Fortunate Son”(1969) by John Fogerty, “Purple Haze”(1970) by Jimi Hendrix, and “War”(1970) by Edwin Starr that were popular back home were also a hit with American troops in Vietnam.
Works Cited:
Barry Sadler lyrics. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Leepson, M. (2017, April 13). Barry Sadler. Retrieved from
Written Assignment Instructions
Research two or three of the songs mentioned above or in the article “If Ya Wanna End War and Stuff, You Gotta Sing Loud:
A Survey of Vietnam-related Protest Music”. Use the guidelines below to focus your work. 

Gather important details on the songs you have selected including: the lyrics, biographical information on the songs, artists or groups, and the time period in which they were written.

Research how the music you selected fits with responses and reactions to the Vietnam War at home (for example: support levels for the war, protests, and press coverage).

Reflect on how your selected songs fit into a time line of the major events of the Vietnam War: The Geneva Accords, The Battle of Dien Bien Phu, The Gulf of Tonkin Incident, Operation Rolling Thunder, the Tet Offensive, My Lai Massacre, the 1968 Democratic Convention and protests, the Pentagon Papers, Kent State Shootings, and the Fall of Saigon.

Think about how the artists and/or groups are using the lyrics of the song to educate, inspire, influence, and/or provide social commentary. Where do you specifically see this in the lyrics?

Think about how artists and songs from this era gave a voice to Americans who could not vote on political issues at the time? Some historical context: the legal voting age during the 1960s for federal elections (Congress, President) in the United States was 21. The first draft lottery for the Vietnam War (males, ages 18 to 24) occurred in December 1969. It was not until July of 1971, when President Nixon signed the 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that the voting age was lowered from 21 to 18.

Watch and Listen to clips of songs you selected (using YouTube or other sources) and be sure to include these clips in your works cited list.
Write an essay using the information and details you gathered from your research above to answer the following questions.
How did the artists and/or groups of this era use the lyrics of the song to educate, inspire, influence, or provide social commentary on the War in Vietnam? Where do you specifically see this in the lyrics? How do you think artists and songs from this era gave a voice to Americans who could not vote on political issues at the time?
Support your answers with specifics gathered from your research above including: titles of songs, names of groups, lyrics from a song and other details. Please be specific. 

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