December 12, 2001
Music is one of the most prevalent elements of our lives. For some people, music is the ultimate outlet. During times of turmoil, people rely on music to keep them in touch with reality and what is really important. Throughout history there have been times when musicians have used their talents to give a voice to the masses and help them to cope with tragedies and turmoil. Never was it more prevalent than in the 1960’s during the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement. Many of the songwriters of that time chose to voice their opinions about the war and the condition of the African Americans through their music. Events such as Woodstock and the televised James Brown concert in Boston were two instances of this. The abundance of music that was listened to by the soldiers through the Armed Forces radio station in Vietnam showed the importance of music during this time as well. The recent concerts that were held in response to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 are another example of this. By these musicians coming together, it set an example for our nation at a time when we most needed it.
The main source of most of the music heard in Vietnam was from the Armed Forces Radio (AFVN). AFVN was centered in Los Angeles, California. It played basic Top-40 songs and ran various programs such as Bob Kingsley and Chris Noel. (Fish) Soldiers listened to this music as frequently as they could. “ I remember Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, and I think the Armed Forces radio played Judy Blue-Eyes…I remember a little Credence Clearwater Revival, ‘Bad Moon Rising’…I remember ‘We Gotta Get Out of This Place’. (Sabis) These were just a few artists and songs that one soldier heard during his time over in Vietnam. Although these artists are classified as rock ‘n’ roll artists, and many of the soldiers did prefer this kind of music, Sergeant Eugene Lenyk said, “I’m not sure anything was ‘typical’ of guys over there.” (Sabis) The AFVN supplied the soldiers with a great deal of music that helped them to find some enjoyment in the harsh conditions that they were forced to deal with. This music did more than just provide a bit of entertainment though.
The type of music that the soldiers listened to often categorized them. Bringing the War Home, written by John Helmer in 1974, put troops into four different categories. There were lifers, brownnosers, juicers, and heads. The last group, the heads, was the men that did not support the war. They were usually younger, and were characterized by “ a strong attachment to rock ‘n’ roll” (Sabis). The lines were set by their ideology, but they were made stronger by the music that they listened to. Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, Frank Zappa, and The Grateful Dead were just a few of the artists that these men listened to. This music unified the heads, and divided them even further from the men that did support the...