Time for the 2nd post in this series taking a look at popular music during the Vietnam War and suggestions for a playlist that you can listen to while you play wargames covering the time. In Part 1 we looked at music from 1964 to 1969 and it included 11 songs. Part 2 will take a look at music from 1970-1975 and includes 12 songs. As I mentioned in Part 1, I tend to gravitate more to the folk rock side of the genre, although a good guitar riff is also very appealing to me, with some of my favorite artists of the time being Boy Dylan, Neil Young (Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young), The Rolling Stones and Creedence Clearwater Revival. Please let me know what songs you enjoy from the period.
Also, one final caveat. I know that some of the songs that I have included on this list are decidedly anti-war. This post is not a political statement and I am not trying to take a position. I support my country and the men and women who have fought and still fight to keep it free.
American Woman – The Guess Who (1970)
American Woman is a song released by the Canadian rock band The Guess Who in January 1970. I really find it interesting that a Canadian band wrote this song. I read where the song’s lyrics have been a matter of debate and are sometimes interpreted as an attack on U.S. politics, especially the draft. Cummings, who composed the lyrics, said in 2013 that they had nothing to do with politics. “What was on my mind was that girls in the States seemed to get older quicker than our girls and that made them, well, dangerous. When I said ‘American woman, stay away from me,’ I really meant ‘Canadian woman, I prefer you.’ It was all a happy accident.”
American woman, stay away from me
American woman, mama let me be
Don’t come a hangin’ around my door
I don’t want to see your face no more
I got more important things to do
Than spend my time growin’ old with you
Now woman, I said stay away
American woman, listen what I say
When Lennie Kravitz covered the song in 2009 it rejuvenated my interest in the song and added it back into my listening rotation. I really enjoy the Guess Who version of the song the best and find the guitar riff to be enervating.
War Pigs – Black Sabbath (1970)
Probably the hardest rock song on my list is the classic War Pigs from Black Sabbath. The song is visceral and you can literally chew on this over 7 minute song.
During this time period, mandatory army service had recently ended in Britain but with the Vietnam War raging, many young men feared they’d be conscripted to fight in it. “That’s what started this whole rebellion thing about not going to war for anybody”, said Butler. “I was dreading being called up”, the lyricist recalled.
Gen’rals gathered in their masses,
Just like witches at black masses
Evil minds that plot destruction,
Sorcerer of death’s construction
In the fields the bodies burning,
As the war machine keeps turning
Death and hatred to mankind,
Poisoning their brainwashed minds
Oh Lord yeah
I know that this one might not be as tied directly to the Vietnam War but it sure is a good song. I know that it is a bit dark, and admittedly called EVIL by the band, but it has always spoken to me, especially the opening lyrics.
Ohio – Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young (1970)
I simply love this song. I actually admittedly am a huge fan of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, and later Neil Young rock is some of my most listened to music from the period. In fact, I just bought a Neil Young Greatest Hits album from Walmart in that $5.00 bin and have downloaded it to my phone and added most of those songs to this list.
Ohio is a protest song and counterculture anthem written and composed by Neil Young in reaction to the Kent State shootings of May 4, 1970 after after seeing the photos of the incident in Life Magazine.
Gotta get down to it
Soldiers are gunning us down
Should have been done long ago
What if you knew her and
Found her dead on the ground?
How can you run when you know?
I have listened to this song about a 1,000 times and absolutely love it. I watched The Vietnam War Documentary film by Ken Burns a few years ago and was very touched by the segment on the Kent States Shootings and this song. Those were really turbulent times, probably very similar to our current situation, and songs like this frame up the feeling of that time very well.
Mama Told Me (Not to Come) – Three Dog Night (1970)
Not sure that this song has any real connection or theme about the Vietnam War as it is mainly about the rowdy party scene in Los Angeles during the 1960’s. But, the song is very famous and I really enjoy listening to it. I prefer the Three Dog Night cover of the song originally written by Randy Newman in 1966.
Will you have whiskey with your water
Or sugar with your tea
What are these crazy questions
That they’re asking of me
This is the craziest party
That there ever could be
Oh, don’t turn on the light
‘Cause I don’t want to seeMama told me not to come
Mama told me not to come
That ain’t the way to have fun
Sometimes a song is just good. Doesn’t necessarily have any real depth, or hidden meaning or even a purposeful message but it rocks and isn’t that what music is all about?
What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye (1971)
In my first post on this subject, someone mentioned that I didn’t have enough songs from Motown on the list as they were really popular with the troops at the time. On this part of the list, I have two included. What’s Going On is a song by recording artist Marvin Gaye, released in 1971. Originally inspired by a police brutality incident witnessed by Renaldo “Obie” Benson, the song was composed by Benson, Al Cleveland, and Gaye and produced by Gaye himself. The song marked Gaye’s departure from the Motown Sound towards more personal material.
There’s too many of you crying
Brother, brother, brother
There’s far too many of you dying
You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some lovin’ here today, eh ehFather, father
We don’t need to escalate
You see, war is not the answer
For only love can conquer hate
You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some lovin’ here today, oh oh oh
I love the rhythm of this one and the message. “War is not the answer for only love can conquer hate”. I always get a euphoric feeling after listening to this one as I just feel like I am transported away from my problems. Call me sappy but I love this one.
Riders on the Storm – The Doors (1971)
What list would be complete without something from The Doors. Riders on the Storm is a meandering journey through the musical stylings of the band and just feels like it fits in this time and space in history.
Riders on the storm
Riders on the storm
Into this house we’re born
Into this world we’re thrown
Like a dog without a bone, an actor out on loan
Riders on the storm
With all of the confusion, strife and violence of the period, I am sure that it felt like people were “riding a storm”.
Have You Ever Seen the Rain – Creedence Clearwater Revival (1971)
My brothers were really into CCR and as such I heard them a lot and grew to love their sound. I have read where it is speculated that song is referencing the Vietnam War, with the “rain” being a metaphor for bombs falling from the sky. Fogerty himself has said in interviews and prior to playing the song in concert that it is about rising tension within CCR and the imminent departure of his brother Tom from the band. In an interview, Fogerty stated that the song was written about the fact that they were on the top of the charts, and had surpassed all of their wildest expectations of fame and fortune. They were rich and famous, but somehow all of the members of the band at the time were depressed and unhappy; thus the line “Have you ever seen the rain, coming down on a sunny day?”. The band split up in October the following year after the release of the album Mardi Gras.
Someone told me long ago
There’s a calm before the storm
It’s been comin’ for some time
When it’s over, so they say
It’ll rain a sunny day
Shinin’ down like waterI want to know, have you ever seen the rain?
I want to know, have you ever seen the rain
Comin’ down on a sunny day?
I love this song and it still reminds me of my childhood in the late 1970’s.
Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress – The Hollies (1972)
I think that this is my favorite song on this list. It reminds me so much of CCR but has such a great melody and is an interesting song. It doesn’t appear to have much in it about the war or social unrest but is just a song that soldiers could sing and forget where there were.
Saturday night I was downtown
Working for the FBI
Sitting in a nest of bad men
Whiskey bottles piling highBootlegging boozer on the west side
Full of people who are doing wrong
Just about to call up the D.A. man
When I heard this woman singing a songA pair of forty fives made me open my eyes
My temperature started to riseShe was a long cool woman in a black dress
Just a 5’9″ beautiful ‘n’ tall
Just one look I was a bad mess
‘Cause that long cool woman had it all
I would think that many soldiers in Vietnam sang this one and thought about their sweethearts back home and it brought them a lot of comfort.
Superstition – Stevie Wonder (1972)
The 2nd song on this part of the list that is Motown is also a very good song. The beat simply gets the juices flowing and inspires me.
Writing’s on the wall,
Ladders bout’ to fall
Thirteen month old baby,
Broke the lookin’ glass
Seven years of bad luck,
The good things in your past
I love that this song is used near the beginning of one of my favorite Sci-fi movies 1982’s John Carpenter’s The Thing.
Smoke on the Water – Deep Purple (1973)
What a song! Smoke on the Water is one of my favorite guitar rock songs from the 70’s and just has a very iconic sound to it. When it plays, I always remember where I was in the late 70’s. The funny thing is that the band didn’t think that the song was good. The band members have said that they did not expect the song to be a hit, but the single reached number 4 on the Billboard pop singles chart in the United States during the summer of 1973, number 2 on the Canadian RPM charts, and it propelled the album to the top 10.
We all came out to Montreux
On the Lake Geneva shoreline
To make records with a mobile
We didn’t have much timeFrank Zappa and the Mothers
Were at the best place around
But some stupid with a flare gun
Burned the place to the groundSmoke on the water, fire in the sky
Smoke on the water
Cat’s in the Cradle – Harry Chapin (1974)
I loved this song as a kid. I thought a lot of my dad but he was also a very busy man and always had work adn meetings that kept him away. This heartbreaking song tells of a father and son who can’t schedule time to be with each other, and it serves as a warning against putting one’s career before family. Although dad gets the necessities of child rearing accomplished, he doesn’t allow himself to put in quality time with his son because of his career. Initially, this seems like no big deal because of his hectic and oblivious life working and paying bills.
My child arrived just the other day
He came to the world in the usual way
But there were planes to catch, and bills to pay
He learned to walk while I was away
And he was talking ‘fore I knew it, and as he grew
He’d say “I’m gonna be like you, dad”
“You know I’m gonna be like you”And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man in the moon
“When you coming home, dad?” “I don’t know when”
But we’ll get together then
You know we’ll have a good time then
When I think about this song and the Vietnam War, I think about the many fathers whose sons were in the war 5,000 miles away and who they would never see again and get to spend time with. I am sure that is a horrible feeling and this song is most likely little solace to that kind of heart break but I am sure it brought many a hurting heart back to their feelings of love. I know that loss is a part of life and many things pass us by but there are few tragedies greater than a life lost before it is lived.
Feel Like Makin’ Love – Bad Company (1975)
This last song brings back lots of memories for me. Teenage years are tough and love is an even tougher part of that experience. When I think of this song, I think of the importance of love and how our partners center us and make us whole.
Baby, when I think about you
I think about love
Darlin’, couldn’t live without you
And your loveIf I had those golden dreams of my yesterday
I would wrap you
In the heavens
And feel it dyin’ all the way
(Dyin’)I feel like makin’
Feel like makin’ love
Feel like makin’ love
Feel like makin’ love
Feel like makin’ love to you
To all soldiers who lived and loved but who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country this song is dedicated to you.
Thank you for reading this post and its first part as well. I hope that you had memory come back to you about how you felt when you heard these songs so many years ago. Music is such a powerful thing and had the ability to teleport us back to our youth. Please let me know what songs you would have included on this list.