Kris Kristofferson – Don’t Let The Bastards Get You Down

A 1990 (dud) concept album from a country singer! Third World Warrior included this song, with Kris stating that his country kills babies, children and farmers, in the fight against communism.

It is not easy to make light of innocent civilians getting killed in wars. It certainly happens. There is often more concern for killed US soldiers, than their victims, innocent or not. The Korean and Vietnam wars apparently had enormous civilian death tolls. Today, targeted killings, such as that of Osama bin Laden, and using more precise weapons, are strategies hoped to reduce this carnage.


Bo Donaldson And The Heywoods – Billy Don’t Be A Hero

A soldier is killed in action as described in this 1974 pop song. It was a hit in Britain by Paper Lace and then again in the USA by this group. All the same, despite the 1970s release the tune is more likely about the American Civil War and not Vietnam. Horses and older forms of communication are cited as the clues to this.

It is surely one of the bounciest, bubble gum anti-war songs on record! That it was interpreted as being about Vietnam can show that sentiments for peace transcend the centuries and generations – that war is war.

Procol Harum – Conquistador

Conquistadors were like soldiers and warriors and explorers who did the colonizing for Spain and Portugal through the 15th to 17th centuries.

Apart from this, it isn’t clear what the song is about, though politically, it has been interpreted in various ways. Given the 1967 date, around the Vietnam War, the song could be an anti-war statement: once shiny armour and sharp blades seemed the way to go in centuries past, for international relations and conquests. But in modern times, such accoutrements of war are dilapidated and rested upon by symbols of death, vultures.

Related: Neil Young, Cortez The Killer

Jimmy Cliff – Vietnam

A danceable, bouncy reggae number contrasts with its own message – or conceals the pain: It is a straightforward tale of hopes raised and then absolutely dashed, as just before a soldier plans to return home, he is killed in Vietnam.

According to the National Archives, this 1969 song would still resonate with the families of  the nearly 60,000 U.S. military fatal casualties from this conflict.

Men At Work – It’s A Mistake

There are lots of songs about the Cold War. This one wonders how it will end: with standard weapons or nuclear destruction. The Cold War is in fact, albeit simplistically, assumed to have concluded without a shot being fired – a possibility not considered by these Aussie rockers back in 1983.

The ‘cold’ in Cold War itself refers to not being violent, which a ‘hot’ war would be. The term references the political tensions circa the end of the Second World War through to the 1990s, between the USA and its North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies (the Western Bloc), and the Soviet Union (the Eastern Bloc).

There were battles, such as the Vietnam War and in Korea, so perhaps more accurately the Cold War could indicate the era not having a worldwide war.

The Cold War is widely thought to have thawed and ended when the Soviet Union fell apart. To some observers today, the Cold War was fraught with anxiety, but looking back, more predictable than contemporary threats from non-state actors such as terrorist organizations.

7 O’Clock News/Silent Night – Simon And Garfunkel

Simon and Garfunkel perform a straightforward rendition of Silent Night (which with their harmonizing is still impressive). Overdubbed is a mock newscast highlighting not peace but political turbulence circa 1966. Civil rights, housing, the Vietnam War, crime and drugs (comedian Lenny Bruce, who overdosed) are the issues and events detailed. The juxtaposition of a soothing carol with the bad news is jarring.

Tom Paxton – Lyndon Johnson Told The Nation

Lyndon B. Johnson was the 37th US President, serving from 1963-1969. He assumed the position following President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. This 1965 song from folkie Tom Paxton cites a broken promise by “LBJ,” who escalated US involvement in Vietnam despite likely suggesting otherwise. This turnaround was said to have divided the Democrats, the president’s party, and helped contribute to his Republican successor, Richard Nixon, winning in 1969. Culturally, too, the anti-Vietnam war movement arose along with the broad anti-establishment outlook of many young adults of this era.