Vietnam War Songs
An incomplete discography
What constitutes a Vietnam War song? To be included in the Discography it must mention Vietnam, or if released between 1962 and 1975—the so-called war years—its lyrics must deal with soldiers, fighting, patriotism and related issues. Songs that were popular with soldiers but had no direct link to the war generally are not included.
Inclusion criteria for post-war songs—1975 to the present—are somewhat different. While mention of the Vietnam War continues to find its way into song lyrics there are also new categories that qualify. By far the largest of these is songs by Vietnam veterans. Whether they are retrospective or deal with ongoing issues including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), the effects of Agent Orange or homelessness, they are considered war songs. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial (aka The Wall) is the subject of another large group of songs.
While the vast majority of songs have English lyrics, the Discography has also begun to add Vietnam War songs that were recorded in Dutch, French, German, Italian, Spanish and other languages. Appropriately titled instrumentals are also listed.
When the first [Incomplete] Discography was published in 1993 it had about 550 entries. Four years later that number had grown to over 800. C.L. Yarbrough became a co-researcher in 2002 and his internet searches helped the listing pass 2100 songs in early 2008. Frank Merrill’s collection of 55,000+ uncharted singles added approximately 1200 new Vietnam titles in 2009. By the end of 2010 the Discography listed over 4100 entries—more than 3000 unique titles—and was still growing. That same year Justin Brummer, a U.K.-based researcher, began collaborating, providing titles, images and audio for both old and newly recorded songs. With his invaluable additions the Discography had grown to over 6000 entries by the end of 2018.
It will quickly become evident that the Discography still has many gaps—missing labels and record numbers, missing dates, etc. Any reader with additions or corrections is strongly encouraged to contact Hugo Keesing at email@example.com. Your inputs will gladly be accepted.
Other significant discographies of Vietnam War recordings, including at a minimum several hundred titles, have been prepared by Lee Andresen (Battle Notes: Music of the Vietnam War, Savage Press, 2003), John McAskill (“Vietnam War Song Recordings”) and James Perrone (Songs of the Vietnam Conflict, Greenwood Press, 2001). Their contents largely has been accepted and incorporated in this document.
Recordings by Subject
As the United States began to move its combat forces out of Vietnam, Prisoners of War were seen as in danger of being forgotten and became a frequent subject of popular song.
An early icon of heroism in the war, the Green Berets were invoked in the myriad recordings "The Ballad of the Green Berets" and others as symbols of support for the war.
The killing of four students at Kent State University by National Guard Members sparked nationwide outrage and galvanized the anti-war movement inspiring protest anthems far after the war's end.
Exposure to the herbicide used by the U.S. in Vietnam has led to illness for millions. The debilitating effects of Agent Orange became a visceral image frequently invoked in song.