THE "POLICE ACTION" WE'RE STILL LIVING OUT
39 years yesterday, U.S. Army Lt. William Calley was charged with six specifications of premeditated murder for the death of 109 Vietnamese civilians in what became known as the My Lai Massacre, and at the Republican National Convention this week almost every speaker evoked John McCain's military service and particularly his P.O.W. status during the Vietnam War. In much the same way as John Kerry's service in that war became a centerpiece of the 2004 presidential campaign, we are forced once again to ponder this conflict. Outside of abortion rights and immigration, there's not much that will make people in the U.S. line up against one another and hold firm to their positions like the Vietnam War.
Few events in the past 50 years have been more influential on popular culture and we offer this selection of musical riffs to accompany your own ruminating on this difficult, complex event in world history. Each of these songs was inspired in some way by the conflict in Vietnam and reflect both the diversity and intensity of people's perspectives on the war.
We begin with Stevie Wonder's "You Haven't Done Nothin'" at the 1975 Grammy Awards.
SSGT. Barry Sadler's "Ballad of the Green Berets" offers up a little "red meat" for pro-military folks.
Grand Pianoramax - Mike Ladd (vocals), Leo Tardin (keys), Dominik Burkhalter (drums)- tackle Eugene Daniels' immortal "Compared To What" at Jazzfestival Schaffhausen in Switzerland this past May.
There's not many more poignant dissections of addiction and the pain many soldiers carry home with them than John Prine's "Sam Stone." Here's Johnny Cash sinking into Prine's words from Cash's '70s TV show.
Pardon the running time code but Chicago's live take on "It Better End Soon" more than makes up for it! Captured July 21, 1970, this is the late, great guitarist-singer Terry Kath at his best.
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band unfurl a sad, sad tale about a soldier's return home in this harrowing, fantastic live take.
Here's a young Black Sabbath doing "War Pigs" in Paris in 1970.
It's hard to imagine any daytime talk show today allowing something this pointed but here's Jimi Hendrix doing "Machine Gun" on the Dick Cavett Show.
Jeanie C. Riley lets us know "we don't burn our draft cards on Main Street" in her version of Merle Haggard's "Okie From Muskogee"
Here's a swinging, angry vintage promo film for "Volunteers" by Jefferson Airplane.
By reader suggestion, The Doors offer us "Unknown Soldier." Dig the patriotic stage set used on the 1968 European tour.
We conclude with "Let The Sunshine In" from the film musical Hair as one George Berger marches off to war.
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