Songs about Vietnam Vol. 2
To mark the 50th anniversary of the election of Lyndon B Johnson as US President, here is the second mix of anti-Vietnam songs (you can find the first mix HERE). Nixon might have sabotaged the opportunity for peace in 1968, just to win an election, and Kennedy might have started it, but Vietnam was very much LBJ’s war, as Bill Frederick noted in his 1967 song and Tom Paxton in his song two years earlier.
Soul and folk singers were in the forefront of protesting against the war, though Motown — the voice of young America — played it safe until 1970. That year Martha Reeves and the Vandellas released the first protest sing on the label, I Should Be Proud. That opened the floodgates a little. Soon Edwin Starr had a hit with War, The Temptations with Ball Of Confusion and Marvin Gaye with a large swathe of his What’s Going On LP (and long after the fact, Stevie Wonder on his blistering 1982 track Front Line, which with Do I Do marks an end to classic Stevie brilliance).
Perhaps the most touching song here is Bill Withers’ I Can’t Write Left Handed. The opening verse lands a couple of punches the way Lennon’s thesaurus-robbing Give Peace A Chance doesn’t: “I can’t write left-handed. Would you please write a letter, write a letter to my mother? Tell her to tell, tell her to tell, tell her to tell the family lawyer, trying to get, trying to get a deferment for my younger brother…”
And if it’s straight-talk you want, Gene McDaniels (who featured on Vol. 1) socks it to us via Roberta Flack in Compared To What: “The President, he’s got his war. Folks don’t know just what it’s for. Nobody gives us rhyme or reason; have one doubt, they call it treason.” Three and a half decades later, another president had his war, and his critics were called traitors.
Sensitive listeners might want to avert their ears when Country Joe McDonald does his swearwordy chant in the beginning of his Woodstock performance. He clearly isn’t impressed with the crowd’s spirited singing to his 1967 song: “Listen people, I don’t know how you expect to ever stop the war if you can’t sing any better than that. There’s about 300,000 of you fuckers out there. I want you to start singing. Come on!” With that in mind, the placing of the next song, by Pete Seeger, is no accident. Listen to it to see why.
As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes covers. PW in comments.
1. Stevie Wonder – Front Line (1982)
2. Roberta Flack – Compared To What (1969)
3. Martha Reeves and the Vandellas – I Should Be Proud (1970)
4. Freda Payne – Bring The Boys Home (1971)
5. Joe Tex – I Believe I’m Gonna Make It (1966)
6. Bill Withers – I Can’t Write Left Handed (1973)
7. Kris Kristofferson – Broken Freedom Song (1974)
8. Tom Paxton – Lyndon Johnson Told The Nation (1965)
9. Bill Frederick – Hey Hey LBJ (1967)
10. Country Joe McDonald – Feel Like I’m Fixing To Die Rag (1969)
11. Pete Seeger – Bring Them Home (1969)
12. Phil Ochs – Draft Dodger Rag (1965)
13. B.J. Thomas – Viet Nam (1966)
14. Bob Seger System – 2+2=? (1968)
15. Grand Funk Railroad – People Let’s Stop The War (1971)
16. Jimmy Cliff – Vietnam (1970)
17. Terry Callier – Ho Tsing Mee (A Song Of The Sun) (1973)
18. Marvin Gaye – What’s Happening Brother (1971)
19. Johnny King & the Fatback Band – Peace, Love Not War (1969)
20. Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band – Let’s Make Love Not War (1971)
21. The Emotions – So I Can Love You (1971)
22. Johnny & Jon – Xmas In Vietnam (1965)