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The Music and Sounds of the Vietnam Era

Like many other Americans, I have been tuning in to the documentary The Vietnam War by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick this past week. This 10-part series depicts the grim realities of the Vietnam War at home and abroad, and the soundtrack of the movie transports one back to the late 1960s quite perfectly.

With that period in mind, here are some selections from the Music Section that may take you back to that time.

Tunes of Bob Dylan

What retrospective of 1960s music would be complete without Bob Dylan? Such anti-war songs as “Masters of War,” “Blowin’ in the Wind,” and “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” place him as one of the most iconic musical voices of the Vietnam War protests. Many of his songs can be found in The Music of Bob Dylan (BRM35902), which has the music for guitar and voice. Some of Dylan’s songs were covered by other folk groups, including Peter, Paul, and Mary. Their songbook for the voice and recorder (BRM18810) contains two Dylan songs along with others made famous by the trio.

Vietnam War protesters near the Miami Beach Convention Center during the 1972 Democratic Convention – Miami Beach, Florida. Public Domain.

The Protest Song

Along with Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger was instrumental in the development of the anti-war protest song during the 1960s. Songs such as “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” and “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy” encapsulate the frustration and helplessness many felt during the war. We have two books that contain Pete Seeger interviews, including Protests of Pete Seeger (DBM00057) and Buffy Sainte-Marie and Pete Seeger (DBM00026). A new addition to the collection Pete Seeger Sings and Answers Questions (DBM03803) where he discusses different songs and styles of music that have inspired him over the years. In the vein of Pete Seeger, we also have Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger (DBM00096) and Bernice Reagon and Jean Ritchie (DBM00271), two books that profile these folk singers and their songs.

“A Concert for Peace”

By January 1973, the war was still going on and President Nixon was beginning his second term. On the day of his inauguration, there was a celebratory concert at the Kennedy Center. At the same time, Leonard Bernstein held “A Concert for Peace” at the National Cathedral. Former senator Eugene McCarthy, Eunice Shriver, Senator Ted Kennedy were all in attendance. Although it was not promoted as a response to President Nixon, its anti-war message was clear. Bernstein conducted Haydn’s Mass in a Time of War, which can be found in our collection at BRM35857 (vol. 1 – soprano, vol. 2 – alto, vol. 3 – tenor, vol. 4 – bass).

Nui Dat, Vietnam. 1967-12. Newly arrived members of 3rd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (3RAR), preparing their base camp for the Christmas season. Displayed Under Creative Commons License.

Songs from Vietnam

We also have some books coming soon that contain music from Vietnam. Music from North and South Vietnam (DBM03800) was recorded in 1971 and details some of the unique musical traditions from different regions of the country. An earlier recording, Music of Vietnam (DBM03801), by Vietnamese musicologist Pham Duy, presents traditional music from some Vietnamese ethnic minorities, as well as music from the ethnic Vietnamese. Lastly, Vietnam: Songs of Liberation (DBM03804) presents liberation songs from North Vietnamese sources. Lastly, Good Morning Vietnam (DBM03802) presents a collage of various soundscapes from around the war-ravaged country by photographer Claude Johner.

If you are interested in any of the above titles, please contact the NLS Music Section at [email protected] or (202) 707-0514.

We Just Keep Adding…to BARD!

One of the fun and interesting parts of working at the NLS Music Section is being able to upload files to BARD (Braille and Audio Reading Download). Our patrons are always checking to see what is new in the “Recently Added” link, and we frequently remind them that not all the NLS Music Section collection is […]

There’s No Song Like an Old Song

I’m always reminding myself how fortunate I am to live in an area that offers not only great classical music, theater and dance performances, but many popular music performers make a stop, especially during the summer. Being a child of the sixties, rock and roll concerts usually meant performances in smoky nightclubs (missed out on […]

It’s Summertime!

Now that the hockey season is officially over, there is only one major sport that is capturing the nation’s attention: baseball! I find that baseball is synonymous with summer, as it’s been played in the summer months for generations. I’m sure I’m not alone recalling warm summer evenings spent gathered around the radio listening to […]

New Titles from Bill Brown

For this week’s blog, the staff of the Music Section decided it would be a good idea to update our readers on some of our newly added titles from Bill Brown. These books are not on BARD. However, they are all available on digital cartridge. If you see something that interests you, please get in touch […]

An American Classic: Irving Berlin

We’ve discussed show-tunes, Broadway, and the Great American Songbook on the blog before, but we have yet to talk about perhaps one of the most influential composers of American standards: Irving Berlin, who happens to celebrate his 129th birthday today. Along with penning a few Broadway scores, including the score for Annie Get Your Gun, […]

Over the Rainbow, and More: Part 2

This is a continuation of my survey of songs recently added to the LOC’s National Recording Registry, indicating where they may be found in the NLS music collection. (Note that Over the Rainbow was covered in last week’s blog.) Puttin’ on the Ritz Harry Richmond’s 1929 recording of this Irving Berlin song was added to […]

Over the Rainbow, and More: Part 1

Every year, 25 recordings are added to the LOC’s National Recording registry, recordings that are considered “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.” The purpose of this blog is not to list all 25 of them, but to highlight those where the song is part of the NLS Music collection. Most of these items may be downloaded […]

Ganne, Alford, Holst, and Others: Music of World War I

This April marks the 100th anniversary of the United States’ entry into World War I. The Library of Congress is commemorating that significant anniversary with exhibits, publications, and other various activities. As part of this commemoration, the NLS Music Section was asked to provide braille music for blind visitors. While going through the collection, we […]