20 Songs About The Vietnam War

Songs about the Vietnam War capture the era’s turbulent emotions, offering insights into the societal impact and the collective conscience of the time. These tracks, spanning genres and decades, articulate the conflict’s complexities, hardships, and the fervent pleas for peace and understanding.

1. “Fortunate Son” by Creedence Clearwater Revival (1969)

“Fortunate Son” by Creedence Clearwater Revival became more than just a hit from 1969; it turned into a powerful protest song resonating deeply with those opposed to the Vietnam War. Its lyrics poignantly criticize the unfairness of class discrimination in the military draft, which spared the sons of the wealthy and powerful while sending the less privileged to fight.

The song’s raw energy and pointed message captured the growing societal divide, making it a rallying cry for the anti-war movement. Creedence Clearwater Revival’s gritty sound and forthright lyrics in “Fortunate Son” underscored the frustrations and inequalities of the time, cementing its status as an emblematic voice of resistance.

2. “What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye (1971)

Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” emerged in 1971 as a poignant commentary influenced directly by the experiences of his brother, who served in the Vietnam War. The song’s genesis lies in the personal impact of war’s realities, as seen through the eyes of Gaye’s family, leading to a broader plea for understanding and peace in a time of turmoil.

With its smooth, soulful melody and empathetic lyrics, “What’s Going On” reached beyond the immediate context of the Vietnam War, addressing violence and suffering on a universal scale. Marvin Gaye’s evocative voice and the song’s gentle yet powerful arrangement resonated across audiences, making it an enduring message against violence and a call for compassion.

3. “Eve of Destruction” by Barry McGuire (1965)

“Eve of Destruction” by Barry McGuire burst onto the scene in 1965 as a grim commentary on global tensions, including a pointed critique of the Vietnam War. Its lyrics reflect a world teetering on the brink, touching on issues like racial injustice, political hypocrisy, and the looming threat of nuclear war, articulating the anxieties of a generation.

With its raw delivery and haunting message, the song quickly became a protest anthem, capturing the disillusionment and fear of those living through one of the most tumultuous periods in modern history. Barry McGuire’s powerful voice and the stark imagery of the lyrics helped “Eve of Destruction” stand out as a poignant reminder of the era’s challenges, making a lasting impact on the protest music genre.

4. “War” by Edwin Starr (1970)

“War” by Edwin Starr, released in 1970, is an explosive and unambiguous denunciation of the concept of war, marked by its memorable chorus, “War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing!” The song’s direct, powerful questioning of war’s purpose captured the sentiments of a public increasingly disillusioned by the ongoing conflict in Vietnam.

Edwin Starr’s dynamic vocal delivery and the song’s compelling arrangement turned “War” into more than just a hit; it became a rallying cry for the anti-war movement. Its bold stance and catchy refrain made it a staple of protest gatherings, embodying the growing opposition to the Vietnam War and cementing its place as a defining anti-war anthem of the era.

5. “Give Peace a Chance” by Plastic Ono Band (1969)

“Give Peace a Chance” by Plastic Ono Band, penned during John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s famous bed-in for peace in 1969, emerged as a defining peace anthem of its time. Its simple, repetitive chorus made it an accessible rallying point for those advocating for an end to violence and conflict, particularly the Vietnam War.

The song’s association with the anti-war movement was immediate, as its message of peace resonated deeply with protesters around the world. “Give Peace a Chance” quickly became synonymous with anti-Vietnam War demonstrations, offering a unifying chant for peace that transcended the music scene to become emblematic of the era’s call for non-violent resistance.

6. “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” by The Animals (1965)

“We Gotta Get Out of This Place” by The Animals, released in 1965, unexpectedly struck a chord with American soldiers serving in Vietnam, becoming an unofficial anthem among the troops. The song’s themes of longing for escape and a better life resonated with GIs, reflecting their own desires to return home and the hardships they faced abroad.

The gritty voice of lead singer Eric Burdon conveyed a sense of desperation and hope that spoke directly to the soldiers’ experiences, making “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” more than just a hit song—it became a source of comfort and a vehicle for emotional expression for many serving in Vietnam.

7. “The Unknown Soldier” by The Doors (1968)

“The Unknown Soldier” by The Doors (1968) offers a haunting portrayal of a soldier’s funeral, serving as a powerful commentary on the human cost of conflict, particularly the Vietnam War. The song’s vivid imagery and somber tone invite listeners to reflect on the sacrifices made by soldiers and the impact of war on individuals and societies.

Through its symbolic questioning of war’s toll, “The Unknown Soldier” challenges listeners to consider the realities of war beyond the abstract political and ideological battles. The Doors skillfully blend music and message, making this track a poignant reminder of the personal losses that are often overshadowed by larger national narratives.

8. “Masters of War” by Bob Dylan (1963)

“Masters of War” by Bob Dylan, released in 1963, stands out as a scathing critique of the military-industrial complex and those who profit from war. Dylan’s incisive lyrics and stark acoustic arrangement underscore the moral outrage felt by many towards the architects of conflict, particularly in the context of the Vietnam War era.

Though written and released before the Vietnam War escalated, the song’s relevance only grew as the conflict unfolded. Bob Dylan’s bold condemnation of war profiteering resonated deeply with the anti-war movement, highlighting the song’s timeless message against the backdrop of one of America’s most controversial wars.

9. “Ohio” by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (1970)

“Ohio” by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, penned in response to the 1970 Kent State shootings, is a raw, powerful protest song that captures the national turmoil and division over the Vietnam War. The tragedy of four students killed by the National Guard during an anti-war protest is immortalized in the lyrics and urgent harmony of the song, underscoring the deep societal rifts of the time.

This track became an anthem of resistance and a poignant reminder of the era’s intense conflicts and the high stakes of dissent. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s rapid release of “Ohio” following the shootings demonstrated music’s ability to comment on and influence public discourse, turning a national tragedy into a rallying call for peace and change.

10. “Saigon Bride” by Joan Baez (1967)

“Saigon Bride” by Joan Baez, released in 1967, utilizes a poignant personal narrative to explore the far-reaching impacts of the Vietnam War. The song tells the heart-wrenching story of a bride left behind, painting a vivid picture of the personal losses and emotional toll exacted by the conflict.

Joan Baez’s emotive delivery and the song’s lyrical depth connect listeners to the human side of war, highlighting the individual stories often overshadowed by political and military narratives. “Saigon Bride” stands out for its ability to humanize the war, making Baez’s message both deeply moving and universally relevant.

11. “I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die Rag” by Country Joe and the Fish (1967)

“I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die Rag” by Country Joe and the Fish, released in 1967, takes a satirical jab at the draft process for the Vietnam War, mixing dark humor with a catchy, sing-along melody. This approach provided a stark contrast to the era’s heavier protest songs, using satire to critique the war and the draft system that sent young Americans to fight.

The song’s iconic performance at Woodstock in 1969 amplified its message, as lead singer Country Joe McDonald led a crowd of half a million in a rousing rendition. This moment highlighted the widespread discontent with the war among the youth, making “I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die Rag” an enduring symbol of protest and a hallmark of the anti-war movement.

12. “Bring ‘Em Home” by Pete Seeger (1966)

“Bring ‘Em Home” by Pete Seeger (1966) serves as a direct call to action, urging the return of American troops from Vietnam. Seeger’s approach, with its repetitive chorus and folk melody, turns the song into a communal plea, embodying the folk tradition’s power to rally people together around a cause.

The song’s folk influence makes it accessible and singable for audiences, reinforcing the message’s urgency and Seeger’s position as a central figure in the protest movement. “Bring ‘Em Home” highlights not only Seeger’s commitment to peace but also the folk genre’s significant role in voicing public dissent during the Vietnam War era.

13. “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” by Arlo Guthrie (1967)

“Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” by Arlo Guthrie (1967) is a comical yet poignant narrative song that became an anthem of draft resistance during the Vietnam War era. Its lengthy, storytelling format weaves a tale that ultimately connects to Guthrie’s own experience with the draft, using humor to critique the absurdities of the system.

The song’s refrain, “You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant,” became a symbol of the anti-draft movement, demonstrating the power of satire to challenge and critique societal norms. Arlo Guthrie’s unique approach to addressing serious issues through humor made “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” a memorable and influential piece in the soundtrack of Vietnam War protest.

14. “For What It’s Worth” by Buffalo Springfield (1966)

“For What It’s Worth” by Buffalo Springfield (1966), initially inspired by youth and police clashes on Los Angeles’ Sunset Strip, transcended its origins to become emblematic of the broader protest movement against the Vietnam War. Its haunting refrain, “Stop, hey, what’s that sound,” evolved into a rallying cry for peace and reflection amid growing national unrest.

The song’s ambiguous yet poignant commentary allowed it to resonate with a wide audience, capturing the spirit of dissent and the call for change that defined the era. Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth” remains a powerful testament to the way music can encapsulate the mood of a generation and influence the direction of social and political movements.

15. “All Along the Watchtower” by Jimi Hendrix (1968)

“All Along the Watchtower” by Jimi Hendrix (1968) stands as a seminal Vietnam-related reinterpretation of Bob Dylan’s original song. Hendrix’s electrifying guitar work and the song’s cryptic lyrics took on new layers of meaning against the backdrop of the war, encapsulating the frustration, chaos, and desire for escape felt by many.

This reinterpretation by Hendrix transformed “All Along the Watchtower” into a poignant commentary on the Vietnam War, solidifying its impact on the era’s cultural legacy. The song’s enduring relevance is a testament to Hendrix’s genius in capturing the zeitgeist of the times and the transformative power of music to reflect on and challenge societal issues.

16. “Gimme Shelter” by The Rolling Stones (1969)

“Gimme Shelter” by The Rolling Stones (1969) chillingly captures the fear and desperation brought about by war, with its harrowing depiction resonating deeply during the Vietnam War era. The song’s lyrics and haunting melody evoke a sense of impending doom, mirroring the anxiety and turmoil felt by those living through the conflict.

Its connection to the Vietnam War, while not explicitly mentioned, is palpable through the portrayal of war’s terror and the call for shelter from the storm of violence. The Rolling Stones managed to create a powerful and enduring critique of war’s devastation, making “Gimme Shelter” a monumental track that transcended music to become a symbol of the era’s struggle for peace and sanity.

17. “Imagine” by John Lennon (1971)

“Imagine” by John Lennon (1971) emerged as a global peace anthem, resonating profoundly in the context of the Vietnam War with its evocative call for a world without conflict, borders, or divisions. Its simple yet profound lyrics invite listeners to envision a united world, appealing to the universal desire for peace and harmony.

Lennon’s peace advocacy, through the serene and hopeful melody of “Imagine,” offered a stark contrast to the violence and discord of the time, drawing a vivid picture of an alternative reality free from war. The song’s enduring popularity underscores its powerful message and its role in defining a generation’s aspirations for a peaceful future, making “Imagine” an iconic symbol of the anti-Vietnam War sentiment and beyond.

18. “Blowin’ in the Wind” by Bob Dylan (1963)

“Blowin’ in the Wind” by Bob Dylan (1963) offers a series of poignant questions about war, peace, and freedom, capturing the essence of the anti-Vietnam War sentiment through its reflective lyrics. Its gentle melody belies the depth of its inquiry, questioning the reasons behind conflict and the price of silence.

The song’s timeless queries resonated with those opposed to the Vietnam War, becoming an anthem for the movement advocating for peace. Bob Dylan’s ability to articulate the frustrations and desires of a generation through “Blowin’ in the Wind” solidified its place in the annals of protest music, echoing the quest for a just and peaceful world.

19. “The Times They Are A-Changin’” by Bob Dylan (1964)

“The Times They Are A-Changin’” by Bob Dylan (1964) serves as a clarion call for social change, capturing the spirit of transformation that characterized the early 1960s. This song’s urgent plea for adaptation and understanding amid rapidly shifting societal norms spoke directly to the evolving sentiments toward the Vietnam War.

As the war progressed and public opinion shifted, Dylan’s anthem remained relevant, embodying the desire for a new direction in both domestic and foreign policies. The song’s emphasis on change resonated with those who sought an end to the conflict, becoming synonymous with the era’s broader movements for peace and justice.

20. “Singing in Vietnam Talking Blues” by Johnny Cash (1971)

“Singing in Vietnam Talking Blues” by Johnny Cash (1971), a lesser-known track, stands out as a heartfelt tribute to those who served in Vietnam, reflecting Cash’s personal musings on the war and its impact. Through this song, Cash offers a somber yet respectful homage to the soldiers, acknowledging both their sacrifice and the poignant beauty of the country they served in.

Cash’s deep, resonant voice carries a sense of reverence and sorrow, bridging the gap between the home front and the battlefront. “Singing in Vietnam Talking Blues” captures a moment in time, offering listeners a window into Cash’s reflections on the complexities and tragedies of the Vietnam War, while paying respect to the individuals who faced its realities head-on.