The Vietnam War left a deep and lasting impact on the lives of millions, and its influence can still be seen and felt today.
Many of the most powerful and lasting reminders of the war have come in the form of songs about the Vietnam War, with artists and musicians finding unique ways to capture the experiences of those who lived and fought during this tumultuous period.
In this blog post, we’ll take a look at the 15 best Vietnam War songs and explore how they’ve helped shape our understanding of this difficult time in history.
1. “Fortunate Son” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son” is one of the most popular Vietnam-era songs.
Written in 1969, the lyrics convey a powerful message about the harsh realities of war and its unequal effects on different classes of people.
The title references the privileged sons of the wealthy who are exempt from being drafted, while poor young men of the same age are sent off to fight.
2. “For What It’s Worth” by Buffalo Springfield
The song was released as a single in December 1966 and became a hit in early 1967, reaching number seven on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
The song is an anthem of protest, inspired by the Sunset Strip curfew riots in Hollywood in November 1966.
The lyrics of the song speak to the feelings of frustration and powerlessness that many young people felt during the Vietnam War era.
3. “We Gotta Get Out Of This Place” by The Animals
Released in 1965, the song was the band’s biggest hit in the United States and a classic Vietnam War flashback tune for many American soldiers fighting in the war.
Although there is no mention of Vietnam specifically, the song captured the sentiments of many soldiers during the Vietnam War with its lyrics about wanting to escape and “break free” from the hardships of the war.
4. “War” by Edwin Starr
A protest song against the war in Vietnam, the lyrics express a strong and anti-war message.
It was a big hit upon release and still remains one of the best Vietnam Era songs ever written.
It truly stands out amongst all other Vietnam War songs as a timeless classic.
5. “Leaving on a Jet Plane” by Peter, Paul, and Mary
“Leaving on a Jet Plane” is a song written by John Denver and performed by the American folk music trio Peter, Paul, and Mary.
Denver wrote the song in 1967, but it was first recorded by the folk band Spanky and Our Gang in 1968.
Peter, Paul, and Mary then recorded it in 1969.
The song is a ballad about a man saying goodbye to his lover as he leaves for a trip on a jet plane.
6. “Vietnam” by Jimmy Cliff
The song was released in 1969 and is a protest song against the Vietnam War with a message of peace and unity.
The song was included on Jimmy Cliff’s album Jimmy Cliff, which was released in 1969.
It was a hit in Jamaica and the U.K. as it reached number 36 on the UK Singles Chart.
7. “The Unknown Soldier” by The Doors
Written as a tribute to the soldiers killed in the Vietnam War, “The Unknown Soldier” has become an iconic Vietnam-era song.
It was a major hit, reaching #12 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and was awarded a gold disc.
The powerful lyrics explore the impact of war on those who serve and the confusion of a generation.
It captures the despair and hopelessness felt by soldiers of the Vietnam era and remains an amazing Vietnam song about the war.
8. “Eve Of Destruction” by Barry McGuire
This is a protest song that reflects the anxieties and fears of the time, with lyrics that touch on themes such as nuclear war, civil rights, and political unrest.
The song’s message is anti-war and anti-establishment.
The song was recorded by Barry McGuire and included on his album, Eve of Destruction, which was released in 1965.
The song was well received by the public and it became a number-one hit in the United States, Canada, and Australia.
9. “House Of The Rising Sun” by The Animals
The Animals released “House of the Rising Sun” in 1964 and it quickly became a famous Vietnam War song.
It was a huge hit in the United Kingdom, reaching the number-one spot on the singles chart and becoming one of the first songs to define the sound of British rock in the 1960s.
This classic Vietnam-era song is also an anthem of disillusionment and regret, making it an appropriate soundtrack for the Vietnam War.
10. “Lyndon Johnson Told the Nation” by Tom Paxton
This song, released in 1965, is against the Vietnam War and the policies of President Lyndon B. Johnson.
The lyrics of the song are a satirical commentary on the escalating conflict in Vietnam and the government’s handling of the war.
The song’s message is anti-war and critical of the government’s actions.
The song was included on Tom Paxton’s album Ain’t That News in 1965.
11. “Bring The Boys Home” by Freda Payne
The song was included in Freda Payne’s album Contact which was released in 1971.
It was loved by the public and it became a popular Vietnam war anthem of the era.
This song is a reminder of the human toll of war, and the longing and heartache of loved ones left behind.
“Bring The Boys Home” reached number 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the United States.
The song was also successful in the UK, reaching number 36 on the UK Singles Chart.
12. “19” by Paul Hardcastle
Released in 1985, this track from his album Paul Hardcastle, quickly became a successful song about the Vietnam war.
“19” peaked at number one in the UK singles chart and won the award for Best British Single at the 1986 Brit Awards.
Lyrically, the song was inspired by a documentary about the Vietnam War and addresses the physical and psychological effects of war on young soldiers.
13. “Give Peace a Chance” by Plastic Ono Band
“Give Peace a Chance” is a song written and performed by John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Plastic Ono Band.
The song was released as a single in 1969 and it reached number 14 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the United States.
It was also successful in the UK, reaching number 2 on the UK Singles Chart.
14. “The Letter” by The Box Tops
The Box Tops released “The Letter” as a single in 1967 and it quickly rose to the top of the Billboard Hot 100.
The song gained immense popularity during the Vietnam War era.
It reached number one on the charts and was awarded a gold record by the Recording Industry Association of America.
The song was released on their album, The Letter / Neon Rainbow.
“The Letter” is a Vietnam flashback song that is still widely loved today among those who experienced the Vietnam War.
15. “Vietnam Blues” by Kris Kristofferson
The lyrics of this song are reflective and contemplative, describing the emotional toll of the war on soldiers and civilians.
This war song speaks about the feelings of confusion, pain, and loss that are associated with the war.
It was included on Kris Kristofferson’s album Jesus Was a Capricorn which was released in 1972.
Vietnam War Songs – Final Thoughts
The Vietnam War has been an integral part of American history, with many memorable songs being born from the experience.
Vietnam War songs have proven to be timeless classics, remaining popular over the years and helping to keep the memories of the Vietnam era alive.
From Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son” to Edwin Starr’s “War”, these songs have stood the test of time and continue to evoke powerful emotions when heard today.