For those who watched the war unfold on the evening news, the music of Vietnam blurred with the sounds rising from the streets of America during a time of momentous challenge and change. For those born after the last helicopters sank beneath the waves of the South China Sea, movies, documentaries and TV shows have repeatedly used music as a sonic background for depicting Vietnam as a tug of war between pro-war hawks and pro-peace doves. It can all feel a bit trite. More than any other American war, Vietnam had a soundtrack, and you listened to it whether you were marching in the jungle or in the streets. Music was more than just background for us.
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I first became a soldier in a war zone on Veterans Day Nov. Army tours of duty in Vietnam, which meant that Uncle Sam would send me back home exactly days later — on Nov. Needless to say, the date is etched in my mind and will always be. But I knew one thing for sure.
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The Vietnam era set a precedent for music as a public space to reflect perspectives on war, with critical perspectives being acceptable and even popular. Since the Vietnam era, music has been used to reflect a range of perspectives on war, a tradition which continues into the 21 st century. This dialogue has included reflections on the post-war experience of remembering the fallen at The Wall. The song was written after Springsteen visited the Memorial and decided to write a song in honor of his friends and fellow musicians Walter Cichon and Bart Haynes who died in the war. He was actually one of the soldiers, airmen, sailors and marines who were spat upon on his arrival home. He does not begrudge anyone their opinions, but as his wife I have lived with the aftermath of his tours over there and the carnage he saw and lives with to this day. My cousin died serving our country and protecting our freedoms. He did not live to see 21 like so many other Marines.
The Vietnam War had a soundtrack unlike any other. It fed into a myriad of social changes and upheavals that motivated artistic expression. Music was integral to the experience of Vietnam for soldiers and citizens, and certain songs had associations with the conflict that endure to this day. They transposed their own narrative onto the lyrics — it became about a man whose father was a drunken gambler. However, the song struck a chord with the troops in Vietnam and formed an indelible association with that conflict. Here he discusses his life - from his birth in Baghdad, to studying in Britain and his ongoing historical research. Watch Now. It overwhelmed me, really.