Objectives

Students will:

  • Explore the relationship between political events and popular culture.
  • Compare and contrast Vietnam War-era songs from different cultures.
  • Assess the place of political themes in popular music today.

Handouts

Songs of the Vietnam War Worksheet

Songs of the Vietnam War Lyrics

Online Resource

Required Reading

Students should have read “Songs of the Vietnam War Lyrics” and completed the “Songs of the Vietnam War Worksheet.” (If possible, use the links provided or the YouTube playlist to play the songs for students to hear.)

In the Classroom

1. Student Interpretations

Call on students to offer their interpretations of the songs presented. Ask students to organize the songs by themes and types. Compare and contrast the American songs with those composed by French and Vietnamese musicians.

2. Identifying Values

Call on students to identify the values in the American songs. For example, how do the values of “Lyndon Johnson Told the Nation” compare to those of “Soldier’s Last Letter”? Invite students to reflect on the connection between the songs and the public mood during the Vietnam era. To what extent do students think the songs mirrored, or shaped, public attitudes? Which segments of the public would have been most likely attracted to “The Ballad of the Green Berets”? What about “Fixin’ to Die Rag”?

3. Comparing Past and Present

Ask students to compare songs of the Vietnam War-era with popular music today. Call on them to give examples of current protest songs. How have the themes changed since the Vietnam War? How are feelings of patriotism expressed in today’s music? In what respects has the legacy of the Vietnam War influenced present-day musicians?

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