What is war good for? Absolutely nothing. So sang Edwin Starr, as we are reminded in Gibson’s 10 Vietnam Era Rock Classics.
There was a lot of major stuff going down in the 60’s: the cold war, the space race, and civil rights to name a few. Not to mention the unrelenting march of rock music to its pre-eminent position in modern culture. All against the horrendous, inescapable backdrop of the Vietnam War. So the Vietnam War and the music of the late 60’s and early 70’s are inextricably mixed.
As the list makes clear, there weren’t many attempts to romanticize or justify that conflict. The cruelty, the futility and the stupidity are front and centre as some of the best songwriters of the time moved pop music from its innocent, puppy-love and hand-holding storytelling towards much-needed social commentary.
The songs listed are full of outrage and indignation, but also of hope. They offer an alternative, a future full of love, compassion, respect. They understood what was going on, they could see that the times were changing, and they imagined a better world.
Too bad we stopped listening.