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6 Iconic Vietnam War Songs You Might Have Heard

Music is the most important component of our human existence. It has been used to translate the different range of emotions – fear, sadness, gloom, love, hatred, and so much more. Music has been used to convey the core human feeling to the people. During the Vietnam War or the ‘First Television War’ – music played an important role in portraying the American emotion to the world.

Close to five thousand songs created during the Vietnam War era, which began with Bob Necaise’s ‘Mr. Where is Viet-Nam’. The song alludes to the war happening in the South Asian country, about which most Americans little attention. During the late 1960s, the American troops were stationed in Vietnam. With the subsequent years, the media attention and raising conflict in the country pushed the Americans to look beyond the borders.

The artists and musicians of the 60’s era were disillusioned by the loss of American life in the war, took up to music to express their emotions. Here are some of the popular Vietnam War songs:

1. Gimme Shelter

Artists: The Rolling Stones

Album: Let It Bleed

Genre: Rock

Hue War Museum
Hue War Museum

A powerful Vietnam War song that talks about the cultural movement surrounding it was released in 1969. The introductory paragraphs of the song include the words like ‘murder’ and ‘children’ that grabs the attention of the listeners immediately. The addition of Merry Clayton’s most iconic line, ‘It's just a shot away’ – makes the composition more haunting.     

2. House of the Rising Sun

Artists: The Animals

Album: The Animals

Genre: Rock

Recipient of the Grammy Hall of Fame, this Vietnam War song was memorably performed by the popular 1960’s band Animals – an English rock band. They used different techniques to make the song more hard-hitting without changing its contemporary tones. Narratives like ‘…It is about a man whose father was a drunken gambler...’ pushed the song to be a trans-Atlantic hit appealing both the war veterans as well as the American public staying back home.

3. Fortunate Son

Artist: Creedence Clearwater Revival

Album: Willy and the Poor Boys

Genre: Rock

Orphan after the Vietnam War
Orphan after the Vietnam War

One of the most iconic Vietnam War songs, another 1969 classic, and this song translates the American emotion in its truest form. The song brings out the anti-war and counter-culture sentiments of the elites who cooked up the war but failed to understand the impact of the bloodshed. According to pop-cultural critics, the song was inspired by the wedding of Julie Nixon and David Eisenhower – children of important political figures with an influential pedigree.    

Due to the song’s overall reach, it has been used in several movies including Forrest Grump.   

4. All Along the Watchtower  

Artist: Jimi Hendrix

Album: Electric Ladyland

Genre: Classic Rock

Released in 1968, the iconic Vietnam War song has come to be associated with Jimi Hendrix. However, ironically this song was originally composed, sung, and released by Bob Dylan. Hendrix performed a cover of the original song in his style. The original composer of the song (Dylan) was overwhelmed by the song’s new development that touched the raw core of the Americans. Jimi Hendrix’s cover ranks 47 is now included in the list of 500 greatest Songs of all times by Rolling Stones.

5. For What It’s Worth

Artists: Buffalo Springfield

Album: Buffalo Springfield

Genre: Folk or Psychedelic Rock    

War Remnants Museum, Ho Chi Minh City
War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City

Written by Stephen Stills, this song is often regarded as an anti-war song. However, according to the composer himself, the devastating Sunset Strip Riots in the late 1960s inspired him to compose the song. ‘For What it’s Worth’ has been made into covers and has been a popular cultural reference of the ’60s and the 70’s – making it the voice of the nation during the Vietnam War era.

6. We’ve Gotta Get Out of this Place

Artists: The Animals

Genre: Folk or Psychedelic Rock    

A favorite among the United States Armed Forces during the Vietnam War, the song resonated with the feelings of the troops deployed outside the country. One of the most requested songs by the forces, this composition was often played on the US Forces Vietnam Network. The simple lyrics and the appealing emotional touches made the song quite close to the home.   

Vietnam War is a piece of cultural and emotional baggage of our civilizations that disillusioned the 60s and 70s generation. These songs represent the view and point out how war-affected youth in two different places – America and Vietnam.

See Also: Vietnam Music