SBA/RR Challenge, Music, "The Music of Vietnam, 1970-71

I had hoped to record something that I had performed for the Music section.

Unfortunately, I got a new laptop last week with Windows 10 and I haven't been able to make a video using it.

So, here is a musical memoir of my Vietnam experience.

A recent conversation with an old friend in which she didn’t know the meaning of, and had never heard the slang term, “Jonesing”, set me to thinking about how different our life experiences were.  We knew her present husband long before they married and are friends with both.  She wanted to meet at what can only be called a Roadhouse that is about halfway between their home and ours which makes it about a fifteen minute drive for each.  It is a dive that is called "The Dive".  They have really good pizza, burgers, wings and cold beer.  When we arrived the jukebox was playing George Jones" "He Stopped Loving Her Today."  Not the same Jones, but that gives you the flavor of "The Dive".

She and her now deceased husband were neighbors in the early ‘90s.  He was several years older than I, and Em was five years younger.  She went to Columbia College, danced to “beach music” and pretty much escaped the ‘60s unscathed by the music or the protests.

I went to Vietnam.  Her brother may have been in the military, but no one went to Vietnam.

Her idea of a hard drug was a classic martini, I estimate that a quarter of our unit in Vietnam was using heroine daily.  I've seen withdrawal and overdoses, some fatal.

Ken Burns did a good job in his series about the Vietnam war not only in retrieving video footage and finding veterans – American and Vietnamese from both sides – but matching the action to the music of the time.

Good Morning Vietnam in which Robin Williams played the part of a real D.J. on Armed Forces Radio who changed the format from classical interspersed with messages from the military, to a sort of soft rock, harmless rock format attended by actual commentary on the situation was a good depiction of the radio that we all listened to in 1970.

In the year that I was there – October 1970 to October 1971 – I had three separate musical experiences.  Everywhere, in the background, coming from transistor radios that the various Vietnamese workers on our base played while they worked came music like this.  This is actually much more western sounding than most of what we heard.  The Vietnamese conversational and singing voice was about an octave higher than Americans, and singing through your nose seemed to be entirely acceptable in popular music.

Almost all, perhaps all, of the workers on the base were young women.  My “hooch maid” “Fawn” (Fong) was a beautiful young woman who was married to a lieutenant in the ARVN (Army Republic of Vietnam).  “Bea” whose real name was Be with a housetop over the e and actually pronounced something like “beh” kept our dispensary clean and neat.  They showed up on time, worked hard, took a break at noon to cook their pot of rice over a sterno burner, and went home in the evening.  They all dressed alike in black pants and white top, flip-flops, and the ever present cone shaped straw hat.

I grew to like their music.  Its pentatonic scale and the warbling vocals necessary to give meaning to words in a tonal language came to sound normal.

Armed Forces Radio during that time played “soft rock” like the Carpenters, “We’ve Only Just Begun”, and Bread’s hit, “If”.  They played it so much that much to my dismay I found myself singing along.

I’m not going to put the Carpenters up, but “If” had some meaning to a young man in his twenties with a wife and one year old child at home.

What we enjoyed more were the mainstream rock songs by bands like Three Dog Night.  This one came to mind when I was thinking about Em and her “shagging on the strand” music.

And then there was the third category of music we listened to, in the evening in our hooches, on our cassette players.  It was harder, more blues oriented, and varied with the person.  One pilot gave me a Grateful Dead bootleg cassette.  I thought it was awful and told the pilot that the band didn’t seem to be able to stay on tune or keep rhythm.  He told me that I needed to be taking the right drugs to appreciate it.

Eric Clapton had moved on to Derek and the Dominoes, but we listened to albums by Cream from a couple of years earlier.  I liked The Doors and their album with the side labeled Morrison Hotel was some of the best Doors music.  This one seemed appropriate thinking about our meeting at The Dive.

And, I can’t leave Pearl out.  Janis Joplin was spinning out of control, and some of my favorite songs were made before 1970, but she came out with “Me and Bobby McGee” at the time I was in Vietnam.  It was a big hit and I really liked it, but I have to post one of her grittier pieces.

Everything felt more real, more intense in Vietnam.  There was something ridiculously paradoxical about listening to music from back home, talking about what we wanted to do when we got back to “The World” in a setting where at any moment you might be shelled, or ambushed.

Perhaps the song that most clearly in my mind represented the disconnect in Vietnam was Credence Clearwater Revivals song, “Proud Mary”.  Every Vietnamese cover band knew it and did a really good job copying all of the licks, but could not pull it off because they said “reeber” for “river”.  “Big wheel keep on turnin’, Proud Mary keep on burnin’. Rollin’, rollin, rollin’ down the reeber.”

During the year I was in Vietnam things were changing rapidly at home.  The combination of social protest, the war, and drugs had their effect.  In the year that I was in Vietnam, Pearl, Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix all died as a result of flying too close to the sun.

Views: 250

Comment by Anna Herrington on May 17, 2018 at 7:07am

Rodney, I'd imagine there's as much variety of opinion about The Dead from fans and former fans as in anything. We know people who've run the gamut on their opinions about The Dead, only natural with such a long history and variety of fans. My husband knew some who were so on the fringe they couldn't cope at all, too. It seemed like its own world, to me, like a wandering village or town with all the varying dynamics and swings from healthy to absolutely not that humans bring.

My husband laughs at the use of the word 'cult,' not from your daughters, but it's been said by a few over the years, depending on their history with the band (or not) and who with and where they hung out and how often...and how embarrassed or whatever the person might be now about who they were then. I think there's some truth to that observance.  He's always said, "It's all up to your own experience, how you feel about The Dead now." I guess that's true about most things.

Comment by Rodney Roe on May 17, 2018 at 4:24pm

Anna, I think that the experience of being "on tour" with the Dead for 2 years put both back about ten years in terms of a career.  It may be that the same things about their personalities that caused them to "climb on the bus" are the ones that set them back. They are both in a good situation now, but they have both had pretty rough lives as adults.

Neither of them listens to Dead music or wants to talk about that period now.

Comment by Rodney Roe on May 17, 2018 at 4:26pm

Isn't it funny the way threads go someplace you didn't expect.

Comment by Steel Breeze on May 18, 2018 at 5:21am

RR,a little story bout tours....a guy i grew up with was drafted and went over the same time as day i get a letter from him and the return address is special services...i write back Holy Shit! you a Green Beret or what? he writes me "no dumbass,'Special Services' not 'Special Forces'"...he was a printer on Stars and Stripes....never fired a round........heh,never was any good on Army designations.....

Comment by Rodney Roe on May 18, 2018 at 6:34am

I was in the USO building in Saigon once.  What a different reality those people had from mine, and what a different experience I had from the guys in the bush.  Our helicopters landed in areas sprayed with Agent Orange, but we didn't crawl around in it like some did.  My wife's twenty-something cousin was a grunt in VN before I went and came back with bad PTSD and then died in 2-3 years from a bizarre cancer that was later linked to Agent Orange exposure.

Our dispensary had a "free range" six foot long boa constrictor that we kept around to keep the rats under control.  I don't imagine that the USO had one.

Comment by Steel Breeze on May 18, 2018 at 6:42am

yah,no one ever really 'paid' for that AO shit...was everywhere....believe it was the reason my 3rd was stillborn,but,cant prove what it is...

Comment by J.P. Hart on May 18, 2018 at 8:30am

otr with two journeymen printers listening to S&G's Concert in Central Parknort toward Eagle River WISCONSIN
Nine Down.
Sipro Agnew! Have we forgotten Spiro Agnew!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!oward

Comment by Anna Herrington on May 18, 2018 at 9:06am

Rodney, I'm glad to know your daughters are doing well today.

Agent Orange. Monsanto is definitely still up to their dirty tricks, now merged with Bayer, and now RoundUp is labeled as cancerous in California where Monsanto has tried and tried to beat back the accurate label...

And now that the entire EU has banned glyphosate and set to ban all synthetic pesticides, plus the Trump gang is all about big business, ruinous products for humans or not, the USA market more and more is a focus for their poisons.

India's farmers, too, have had a terrible amount of suffering, damage, death, thanks to Monsanto. Evil bastards.

Comment by Safe Bet's Amy on May 18, 2018 at 9:32am

Anaa, when you tie it all together it scares the hell out of me...

Bill Gates owns a LOT of Monsanto stock...  Monsanto was a HUUUUGE campaign contributor to Hillary...  Monsanto, the producer of Round-Up and Agent Orange, has now been acquired by Bayer... Bayer was part of a conglomerate that, during WWII used slave labor and developed Zyklon B used to gas prisoners during the Holocaust....  

You have an evil corporation now owned by an even more evil corporation who is funded by the evil uber rich who are manipulating politics by sponsoring politicians who are evil.  The common tie?  Evil.

Comment by Anna Herrington on May 18, 2018 at 9:53am

Yep. It is incredibly scary, their power and ruthlessness. They were behind the rider in the TPP that gave power to corporations over governments - that will pop up in another form if it hasn't already.... and they literally have the power to seize your land if your crops are found to be GMO - which is as easy to contaminate as pollen blowing in the wind.

They've illegally introduced GMO crops in various places, India, and Oregon! to name two. The situation in India is incredible to learn about - and terrifying. And we think Flint is bad... (which it is). We must keep pushing back. It's our global and local food supply and of course the poor and small farmers - and any organic farmer - will suffer most. I say that, but really, anyone who eats food will suffer. Hard to stop widespread pollen contamination - and the punishment goes to those who've been contaminated, not the corporation responsible.

RoundUP is considered to be in 98% of the U.S. population's urine. Cancer-causing RoundUp.

And that link of RoundUP to GMOs is those GMOs are so unhardy they must have heavy pesticides to even make it to harvest. And the 'studies' that GMO crops will feed the world and thrive beyond natural plants has been debunked over and over as past the five year mark especially, crops and soil fail badly, some desertifying beyond ability to produce any plant life at all without heavy reparation when possible. Organic crops have opposite effect over years, building up soil and heartier crops with higher nutritional content by far than heavy sprayed foods.... so depressing. And infuriating. And Monsanto and DuPont have infiltrated organic boards so heavily in attempts to water down what organic means that it gets harder and harder to be able to trust food at all. Life sustaining food.

What is wrong with us that we take our food and water situations so casually??

Disease, polluted land, ruined livelihoods, crop and land seizures, human health and defects, wildlife disease and defects, the planet.... Yes. Evil.

I could go on for hours/days/years.

(and have ; ))

(speaking of threads wandering...)


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