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Most Memorable Vietnam War Songs

You don't need to be a Vietnam Vet to enjoy the most memorable Vietnam War songs of the 60s.

By Buddy BrownPublished 6 years ago 4 min read

Vietnam was, in many ways, the last serious culturally impactful war that America had seen. The Vietnam War was an unfairly waged war that involved drafting innocent teens to fight an enemy that should never have been approached.

The hippie movement was mostly about reacting to the cruelty of war being broadcast on TV as well as the unfair draft that happened during the war. One of the most common ways that people would protest the war was using songs as a way to show disapproval of legislation.

Throughout the Vietnam War era, songwriters' protest music ended up becoming the voice of a generation—and a loud rallying cry against war. Here are some of the most memorable Vietnam War songs of the era and the meaning behind them.

The Animals are most commonly known for their cover of "House of the Rising Sun" these days, but back in the day, they were known for one of the most memorable Vietnam War songs to be made in the 60s.

Currently, most Vietnam vets claim that this song is the one that brings them back to the days of the war. Perhaps it's because it's telling people that they have to get out of "this place," or because it was a hit in the 60s. Either way, it stuck in veterans' minds long after the war.

At first, the meaning is pretty concealed. It doesn't really talk about war, but the hints are there and the entire song is about a man telling a local girl from Vietnam that she would likely die from the war if they didn't both run away together.

"Green Green Grass of Home" is one of the most memorable Vietnam War songs dealing with life after the military and returning to civilization they know as home. The lyrics alone were all about how life would be better once they are back home, where they can get to see friends and family again.

Porter's song ends sadly, talking about how he woke up realizing that he was still at war—surrounded by four "dark walls." He then mentions how he will be so happy when "they lay me down in the green, green grass of home."

If that doesn't break your heart a little, we don't know what would.

"Fortunate Son" is one of the most iconic and therefore memorable Vietnam War songs ever made. It's been used in the best war movies, in military parades, and has become one of the best examples of the kind of protest songs that lampooned the double standards that allowed some to dodge the draft while others had to die.

The lyrics speak for themselves:

"Some folks are born made to wave the flagOoh, they're red, white and blueAnd when the band plays "Hail to the chief"Ooh, they point the cannon at you, LordIt ain't me, it ain't me, I ain't no senator's son, sonIt ain't me, it ain't me, I ain't no fortunate one, no"

No one wanted to go to war; some were just forced.

Perhaps one of the most memorable Vietnam War songs in the country genre was Bobby Bare's "Detroit City." This song was a favorite among those who were veterans that felt homesick, alone, and wished to go home before it was too late.

There's a certain palpable sadness in his voice and eyes when Bare performed this song—and that melancholy, wistful vibe is one that many people in the military could identify with. Perhaps that's why so many vets say this song brings them back to 'nam?

Without a doubt, one of the most powerful protest songs that was meant to describe the Vietnam War was Jimi Hendrix's rendition of our national anthem. "The Star Spangled Banner" was his real magnum opus, and while it had no lyrics, the message was clear as a bell.

The guitar riffs Hendrix did was supposed to mimic the sounds of war. That's why the guitars "scream," why there are drum sections that sound like machine guns, and why you literally can hear bomb-like bass drums in the background.

At points, you can even hear Hendrix make his guitar scream "NO! NO!" as a way to sound like women and children dying. It's horrifying, surreal, and powerful—a true portrait of the American spirit amongst the turmoils of war.

Soft rock, anyone? Peter, Paul and Mary were a trio of hippies who really knew how to bring out the sadness of having to leave for war. To show the sadness that gripped the times, they wrote "Leaving on a Jet Plane" as an accurate illustration of scenes that happened throughout the country.

It's surprising how many people remember this now-obscure song as one of the most memorable Vietnam War songs out there because of its lyrics. Haunting, isn't it?

In terms of mainstream consciousness, Buffalo Springfield's song definitely remains one of the most memorable Vietnam Wars songs in history. This track is so deeply tied to the war and PTSD-suffering veterans, it's even mentioned in history books and top war documentaries about Vietnam.

How iconic is it, you ask? You don't have to be from the 60s to recognize the lines "Stop! Children, what's that sound? Everybody look what's going down!"

This song is both a Vietnam War song and a reaction to the police shooting peaceful protesters at Kent State in Ohio. This protest song was done in memory for the four students who died at the hands of the Ohio National Guard sent out to quell the protest.

The lyrics wrote:

"Gotta get down to itSoldiers are gunning us downShould have been done long agoWhat if you knew her andFound her dead on the ground?How can you run when you know?"

After the song's release in reaction to the Kent State shootings, many students helped shut down universities in anti-establishment protests. The protests led to massive reforms and caused cultural shockwaves throughout the US.

“I Feel Like I’m Fixin to Die” almost sounds like a comedy track when you first hear it—but it's actually one of the most memorable Vietnam War songs ever made. This psychedelic band was infamous for making the hit protest song that added humor to it.

The circus-like music is supposed to show what a circus the political scene was, and how the US government didn't take the peoples' desires for peace seriously when they joined the war.

The lyrics were not shy about showing how much they hated the government for drafting kids into the war:

"And it's one, two, three,What are we fighting for?Don't ask me, I don't give a damn,Next stop is Vietnam;And it's five, six, seven,Open up the pearly gates,Well there ain't no time to wonder why,Whoopee! We're all gonna die."
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About the Creator

Buddy Brown

Detroit-born Buddy Brown is a 80s hair metal fan who loves cars, games, and sports. When he’s not drinking PBR while listening to Downtown Brown, he’s playing Grand Theft Auto or working on his El Camino.

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