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date: 31 March 2020

Vietnam Warlocked

  • Ray Pratt

Extract

The Vietnam War period can be dated from the establishment of the US Military Assistance Command in 1963 to the fall of Saigon to North Vietnamese forces in 1975. References to the war and reflections on its meaning in popular music began to reach a wide listenership by 1965. Because millions of Americans were drafted to serve in the US military during the war period, its impact on individuals of military age, their social peers, friends, and families was almost as widespread as that of World War II.

From Johnny Wright’s “Hello, Vietnam” (1965) to Barry Sadler’s “Ballad of the Green Berets” (1966) to Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A” (1984), the meaning of the Vietnam War has been contested in American popular music and the larger political culture. Analysis of the ways diverse and divergent publics listened to, heard, or attempted to make meaning from (or through) music of the era depends significantly on perspective and historical context. Empirical study indicates that most listeners do not correctly decipher lyrics; instead, meanings are made by the ...

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