News / Arts & Entertainment

    Vietnam War Protests Influenced Popular Music

    A U.S. Marine pinned down by sniper fire, looks back to check on his buddies as white phosphorous artillery rounds mark major Viet Cong position, action took place 15 miles south, southwest of Da Nang, Jan. 29, 1967.
    A U.S. Marine pinned down by sniper fire, looks back to check on his buddies as white phosphorous artillery rounds mark major Viet Cong position, action took place 15 miles south, southwest of Da Nang, Jan. 29, 1967.
    Richard Paul
    Today, April 30, marks the anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War.  On this date in 1975, Marines evacuated the last Americans from the embassy in Saigon, bringing to a close America’s most divisive foreign conflict - a division expressed in street protests and in song.  

    The Vietnam War took place at an unusual time in United States history.  A record number of U.S. women gave birth in the years 1946 to 1959, and the largest part of that “Baby Boom” was of fighting age when the war began.  The “Baby Boomers” had also created a full-fledged youth culture by that time, a culture based largely on music.  So when public sentiment turned against the war, so did popular songs.
     
    Vietnam War Protests Influenced Popular Music
    Vietnam War Protests Influenced Popular Musici
    || 0:00:00
    ...    
     
    X

    America’s involvement in Vietnam started slowly - only 5,000 soldiers in 1960.  So at first, people in the U.S. weren’t paying very close attention. But the protest movement was starting even then.  

    Within two years of the 1963 song, "A Soldier’s Letter Home,” the number of Americans in Vietnam would increase dramatically.  America didn’t have an all-volunteer army back then. In 1962 the government implemented the Selective Service, or “The Draft.”  

    “When you registered for the selective service system, you were assigned a draft number.  And if your number came up, then you were in the Army,” said Leslie Waffen, the retired head of the motion picture, sound, and video branch at the National Archives and also an expert on the music of the Vietnam War.  

    “'Draft Dodger Rag’ was a very important, influential song.  And it was recorded by many folk singers and groups.  And the lyrics were filled with ways to dodge the draft,” Waffen added.

    Draft dodging songs, like "Draft Dodger Rag" or David Crosby’s “Draft Morning,” mostly talked about the unfairness of the draft.

    “The ‘Fortunate Son’ song had several lines in it that referred to privileged youth who are able to avoid the draft and not have to participate in the war,” Waffen said

    The president and the generals in Vietnam told Americans back home that the U.S. was winning the war.  But in January 1968, North Vietnamese soldiers attacked positions deep inside South Vietnam, including the U.S. embassy.  Though the offensive was soon crushed, it left Americans doubting what they were being told.  

    The song, “Fixin’ To Die Rag,”  was performed by Country Joe and the Fish at Woodstock, a giant music festival that was held in upstate New York in 1969.  According to Les Waffen, “it became extremely popular as a song that said everything about the public’s antagonism against the war and it sort of reflected what public opinion was all about.”

    Even more important, Waffen says the song also became popular with the soldiers who were fighting in Vietnam.  

    “There would be DJs in certain zones who would set up their own radio station and begin to broadcast the songs that you were not going to hear on Armed Forces Radio,” he said.

    Of course there were also songs in favor of the war.  In 1965 and 1966 the most popular song in America was “The Ballad of the Green Berets.”  

    And those celebrating soldiers also sang songs mocking those who found ways not to have to fight, as in "The Yellow Beret" by Bob Seeger.

    America is a place of diverse opinions.  It’s also a place that offers citizens the right to express those opinions -- even when they go against the government, even in the middle of a war.

    You May Like

    California Republicans Mull Choices in Presidential Race

    Ted Cruz tells California Republican Convention delegates the campaign will be 'a battle on the ground, district by district by district,' ahead of the June 7 primary

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, many Kurds are trying to escape turmoil by focusing on success of football team Amedspor

    South African Company Designs Unique Solar Cooker

    Two-man team of solar power technologists introduces Sol4, hot plate that heats up so fast it’s like cooking with gas or electricity

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    New in Music Alley

    Border Crossings: A Great Big Worldi
    || 0:00:00
    ...  
     
    X
    April 27, 2016 12:30 PM
    Duo Ian Axel and Chad King who are better known as "A Great Big World" released their sophomore CD in 2015, "When the Morning Comes" and they join Border Crossings host Larry London to perform songs from the new CD and also their biggest hit, "Say Something."

    Duo Ian Axel and Chad King who are better known as "A Great Big World" released their sophomore CD in 2015, "When the Morning Comes" and they join Border Crossings host Larry London to perform songs from the new CD and also their biggest hit, "Say Something."