WARSOUL: Veterans Day Special – Soul Music, The Sound of Vietnam
Today (November 12, 2012) marks Veteran’s Day in the United States.
Here at RareSoul.com, we will salute the veterans by taking a look at soul music’s impact on the soldiers during the Vietnam War.
While America had been involved in the conflict in Vietnam as early as the 1950s, it wasn’t until the mid-1960s that American involvement began to escalate and soldiers were drafted.
By the time the last draftee was sent to Vietnam in 1973, over 1,700,000 men and women had been shipped off to the war.
According to “Writing The War: My 10 Months in the Jungles, Streets and Paddies of South Vietnam, 1968,” by Stephen E Atkins, PhD., the Vietnam war was the first “Rock & Roll” war.
“Almost every soldier in the field had a portable transistor radio by the summer of 1968,” Dr. Atkins said. “Armed Forces Radio played a steady diet of Rock ‘n Roll music. Soul music was particularly popular with James Brown the most popular soul singer. Consequently, my unit could be heard from a distance of several hundred meters as we walked along on patrol. It gave the Viet Cong warning we were coming, but we did not give a damn.”
James Brown had visited the troops as early as 1967, when he began working with the USO.
James Brown, who was influential at calming racial tensions in the black community in the mid-1960s, was called upon by Washington D.C. to visit the troops.
In the summer of 1968, James Brown canceled $100,000 worth of bookings and took his full orchestra on a two-week tour of duty of Vietnam.
James Brown performed the day after the Viet Cong had launched a rocket attack on Saigon.
It did not stop James Brown from performing at the Tan Son Nhut Air Base, which was hit by 10 rockets in the morning.
In May 1970, Gloria O. Smith, a.k.a. “Miss Black America, 1969,” took a tour of Vietnam to entertain the troops.
Also along with her was singer Moses Dillard, who entertained the troops with soul music sponsored by USO.
Record labels in the United States catered to the soldiers, with a variety of tunes.
Motown hit big with Edwin Starr’s single “War,” Chicago soul group The Players had a minor hit with “He’ll Be Back,” and Bill Wither’s dropped the poignant “I Can’t Write Left-Handed,” about a one-armed veteran.
Archie Bell and The Drell’s dropped “A Soldier’s Prayer 1967,” while Joe Tex offered up some humor to the troops with “I Can’t See You No More (When Johnny Comes Marching Home).”
Check out some Vietnam soul songs below: