Sat Eye Candy: Vietnam War


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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[Published on: 9/6/08]

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snappy Sat 9/6/2008 10:35AM
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Look up, dear reader. Your wish is our command. Good call on The Doors.

EVILFUNK starstarstarstarstar Sun 9/7/2008 07:39AM
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About two or three years ago I was was sitting in downtown SF at a cafe a few blocks up Jones St. from the Tenderloin (a big crack neighborhood in SF) when i heard what sounded a bit like someone hitting a parking meter with a sledgehammer a few blocks away ~ i heard it agan closer down the block a moment later ~ than again even closer when i realized it was this young kid ~ suburban ~ hemp necklace and a few months scruff but not really too shaggy ~ lookd like a college kid who might turn up bonneroo but not your averege Tenderloin person at all ~ he was walking through SF kicking parking meters VERRY HARD like he had some serious millatary training while this older cat walkd behind him ~ clearly a crackhead& new friend of the kids ~ barking orders like a drill sargent. As the kid passed i askd him if he was ok. the kid turned to me and asked me if id heard any news from the Iraq war. I supposed so.

I didnt think I could be moved any more than I was by Cash doing Sam Stone than I saw the images John Galt edited onto Paradise. wow. deep shit. Anyone who thinks Bob Dylan is half as great as people say he is (and he is) should check out John Prine. Nobody can politely stick it to the man in song like Prine! I Also loved the Steevie clip from '75 & those dudes doing Compared to What (add reverb). how about a live clip of the GDs My Brother Eassau for the kid walking around sf kicking parking meters?

groovatronics Sun 9/7/2008 07:05PM
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badass stevie wonder vid.and that band grand pianoramax sounds really tight.

rjd999 Mon 9/8/2008 11:42AM
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i second evilfunk on the john prine praise. that was a great version johnny cash sang there. i remember going on a road trip with my dad when i was like 10 years old, and he had just recently found his old john prine tape stash, and we listened to like 3 or 4 of them on the way home from ohio. sam stone, even at a young age, hit me really hard, what an outstanding song.

theguykeator Mon 9/8/2008 09:30PM
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CTA all the way baby!!!!!!!

theguykeator Mon 9/8/2008 09:32PM
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Terry Kath had so much more to give this world, RIP.