Unlike any previous wars, the war in Vietnam given its unique historical circumstances shaped very atmosphere of the era’s music. As the war divided the country, so did the music.
On the one hand, anti-war songs rising with counter-culture movement were sung across the country by college students, hippies, protesters and so on. In 1969, at the height of the anti-war period, over 400,000 young people gathered together at one of the most celebrated music festivals at Woodstock. In the unforgettable three days of the festival, anti-war artists like Joan Baez, Country Joe, Janis Joplin… gave their legendary performances helping Woodstock become a symbol of a young counter-culture generation.
This sarcastic protest song was written by Country Joe McDonald in 1965, but at the time Vanguard Records refused to release it. However, in 1967, when public opinion had dramatically changed against the war, it finally appeared on the album of the same name. Two years later, the song had its greatest moment when Country Joe performed it at Woodstock and, in the middle of the song, the whole crowd began to sing along.
2. Master of War
“Master of War” is one of the most coldest and unrelenting protest songs ever written by Bob Dylan. By using the melody from a traditional English folk song called “Nottamun Town”, he spews a torrent of bile in the military-industrial complex in America. The anger in the words is powerful and bitter as he not only wish those “masters” were dead, but he also wants to stand by their graves to make sure that they’re really gone. Bob later claimed that the death wish scared him a bit, but he could not help himself given those lines.
“War” is definitely a must-have song in any list of songs about war. First released in the album “War & Peace” of Edwin Starr in 1970, “War” is one of a few protest songs became No.1 hit records. With the intense anti-war atmosphere of the 1970, Edwin shouted it loud and clear that “war, what is it good for – absolutely nothing!” Fifteen years later, Bruce Springsteen revived the song by performed it during his “Born in the U.S.A” tour.
4. Give peace a chance
This song was written by John Lennon and first performed with Yoko Ono in their famous Bed-In in Montreal, Canada. Although the song did not mention the Vietnam War, it later became an anthem of the anti-Vietnam war movement during the late 1969 and early 1970s. In November 15, 1969, a memorable moment happened when the song was sung along by the whole crowd during the Peace Moratorium – a demonstration which involved as many as half of million people in Washington D.C.