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Music Speaks In Times of War - 2001-09-19

As the United States assesses the damage from the terrorist assaults of September 11, its musical artists will no doubt continue their long tradition of reflecting the national mood.

The dust has yet to settle from the ruins of New York's World Trade Center, and recovery efforts continue at the Pentagon. But, already the music world is mobilizing. Record companies have pledged donations totaling millions of dollars. Michael Jackson is assembling an all-star cast to record a benefit song.

Rock acts first came to terms with war in the 1960s, when artists such as The Youngbloods spoke out against the Vietnam conflict with their 1967 hit, "Get Together."

The Vietnam conflict exposed deep philosophical divisions within the United States. While many individuals expressed their opposition to U.S. involvement, others declared their unequivocal support for U.S. policies. Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler reached number one on the national charts with his 1966 hit, "Ballad of the Green Berets."

As America entered the post-Vietnam years, it largely looked within. Pop artists of the 1970s and '80s reflected this introspective impulse, with little focus on political subject matter. In 1991, the U.S. rallied an international coalition against the territorial ambitions of Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein. This volatile time produced one of the modern era's most widely-heard prayers for peace: Bette Midler's rendition of "From A Distance."

Written by Julie Gold, and performed by Bette Midler, "From A Distance" became perhaps the best-known song to emerge from the Gulf War era. Although written and recorded prior to the actual conflict, it was quickly adopted by listeners the world over.

As Americans attempt to fathom terrorism's impact, they rally around their leaders, their families, and friends. The present sense of national resolve is perhaps best expressed in Lee Greenwood's patriotic hit from 1984, "God Bless the USA."