Collision of War and Music: Vietnam and the Protest Music of the Mid 1960's and Early 1970's

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  • Topic: Vietnam War, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Anti-war
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  • Published : November 28, 2009
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Collision of War and Music:
Vietnam and the protest music of the mid 1960’s and early 1970’s

By: Ashley Gallegos-Sanchez
AP United States History
6th Hour

“War! / Hunh! Yeah / What is it good for / absolutely nothing… War has caused unrest within the younger generation
Induction, then destruction—who wants to die.”
Edwin Starr-“War” (1970)

Music has undeniably become an advocate in spreading a gospel of free opinion. Without the Vietnam War, the music that presented itself in the mid 1960’s and early 70’s would have inevitably been impossible. In looking at songs that targeted the general public, the soldiers fighting in Vietnam and with ‘subversive song’s’, it is apparent that the music of the 60’s and 70’s was indeed influenced by the war and turmoil in the society. Through this catalyst the people already angered by Vietnam War began their political movements through mass protest. The idea and motivation behind the protests were to bring home their dying sons, fathers and brothers from a pointless war. This idea has been preserved in the music behind the Vietnam War. The Vietnam War is an event that impacted the musical culture so profoundly that it would change the course of music history by introducing a new form of protest, in end creating a ‘golden age’ of musical expression. Particularly in the genres of rock and folk, who freely expressed their views, both pro-war and anti-war through music. This ‘golden age’ era consisted of the most popular and most influential bands of the time such as, Barry McGuire, the Animals, The Byrds, The Carpenters, Credence Clearwater Revival, and Neil Young. The widely controversial protest music of the mid-sixties and early seventies was ever only possible through occurrence of the Vietnam War and its impact on the cultural beliefs of society.

“The Eastern world is exploding, violence flaring and bullets loading, You’re old enough to kill, but not for voting…
…Ah, you don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction.” Barry McGuire-“Eve of Destruction” (1965)

Released in 1965, Barry McGuire’s “Eve of Destruction” not only clearly portrays the bloodshed of the war, but also criticizes the drafting of young men, who at the time were not even eligible to vote. These messages that depicted the government exploit of young men, mainly of middle to lower class origins, were the first of hundreds of songs that would spread a rebellious fever amongst the masses that would in end, lead to a revolutionary ideals. Another artist that explored and enforced this type of expression was the band Country Joe and the Fish in their song “I-Feel-Like-I’m-fixin’-to-Die Rag” Also recorded in 1965 (Vietnam Era Anti War Music-JW Anderson), this folk song represented the public’s and government’s willingness to send off their men without logic or humane influence, in end leaving the unprepared young men to die in a foreign land, as expressed in the quote “Next stop is Vietnam…There ain’t no time to wonder why Whoopee were all gonna die.” (1965). These songs reflected the publics view on the Vietnam War, but soon after songs that were of this nature were released, a new audience was targeted by the musical world, in which the intended audience were the soldiers themselves.

“We gotta get out of this place
If it’s the last thing we ever do
We gotta get out of this place.”
The Animals-“we gotta get out of this place” (1966)

A symbolic song that illustrated the situation of an average GI in Vietnam. “We gotta get out of this place” was exceedingly significant and meaningful to American troops in Vietnam. And the significance hasn’t ceased, this song is currently used as the official anthem of the annul DMZ to Delta Dance in Washington, DC over Veterans Day. Many people heard these songs and knew exactly what the message was, such as Armed Forces Radio veteran Nancy Smoyer, “…those of us who were there know very well all the levels of the words of the title.” (War music of the...
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