Doug Bradley and Craig Werner are working on a book about rock music and the Vietnam War. A few years ago Werner published an outstanding work, A Change Is Gonna Come : Music, Race, and the Soul of America followed in 2004 by Higher Ground : Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Curtis Mayfield, and the Rise and Fall of American Soul
From Sunday's Wisconsin State Journal:
When Madison's Doug Bradley hears the Animals' vintage hit "We Gotta Get Out of This Place," he's back in Vietnam, reliving his war experiences...
.."Music becomes most important in stressful times and the most stressful period of my life was when I was in Vietnam," said Bradley, who is now director of communications for the UW System. He served in Long Binh, Vietnam, in 1970 and 1971 as an information specialist.
Bradley and Craig Werner, music historian and chair of the Afro-American studies department at UW, are exploring the connection between Vietnam veterans and music. They have interviewed hundreds of veterans to find what songs resonate the most for a forthcoming book.
Werner says that 1960s rock music was different than music of previous generations because it reflected larger social trends toward freedom of expression and the willingness to challenge authority.
Later in the article is the list of the most popular songs from their interviews with Vietnam veterans. I took the liberty of inserting the year of release and some comments:
from the State Journal article: "..is the most consistently mentioned song. 'Across the board,' said Werner, 'black or white, early in the war or later in the war, it doesn't matter - everyone responds to that song.'"
A tribute to the universality of Eric Burton. The theme resonated with high school and college students as well as soldiers, sailors, prisoners, and lovers trapped in small towns.
Not Motown but ATCO. The most popular black soul singer of the 1960's to cross over without the Detroit formula; the most creative and original. Only Gladys Knight could match Aretha. (Tina Turner was in a league of her own.)
An uncompromising blue collar band who were not interested in the poetry of a Lennon or a Dylan, but just wanted to play rock n' roll. Some snobs found them pedestrian. CCR was always fun.
Dock of the Bay was not given any play until after Redding's death in December, 1967, when the plane carrying him and the Bar-Kays crashed into Madison's Lake Monona.
5. "These Boots Are Made for Walking," Nancy Sinatra 1966
If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all. One of only three songs on the list that were released prior to 1967. More a left-over from the 1950's than part of the 1960's.
The only song on the list that was really written to inspire Americans and to support the troops.
The only song on the list by a black artist that was written to question the Vietnam War as well as the other torments of the day.
The kind of music that made parents scream to their kids, "Turn that stuff down." Whites were now starting to listen to the black sound. And it didn't make any difference if they were for or against the war, rich or poor.
Another anthem that transcended all of the divisions within America, except for John Wayne and Nancy Sinatra's daddy. The most explicitly anti-war song of the bunch.
We can argue about the meaning of the purple haze, but a Hendrix recording was the last thing you would expect in a television commercial, even for Pepsi; "'Scuse me while I kiss the sky" or "kiss this guy" or whatever. The album, "Are You Experienced?" had two other great songs, "Hey Joe," and "The Wind Cries Mary," and was ranked the 15th greatest rock album by Rolling Stone.
If this book is half as good as Werner's previous two, it's mandatory reading for anyone with an interest in the real culture of the 1960's.