Doug Bradley and Craig Werner interviewed hundreds of Vietnam vets for their book We Gotta Get Out of This Place: The Soundtrack of the Vietnam War. They talked about the songs that meant something to them while in country. The music they shared was tied to the war experiences they shared, whether because the song lyrics had meaning or the music just sounded awesome. From those responses, the authors compiled a top ten list, with explanations and videos.
6. Fortunate Son by Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR)
When asked to sum up the music of the war, Peter Bukowski, who served with the Americal Division near Chu Lai in 1968-69, responded: “Two words. Creedence Clearwater.” “They were the one thing everybody agreed on,” he told us. “Didn’t matter who you were — black, white, everyone. We’d hear that music and it brought a smile to your face.” ROTC graduate and heavy mortar platoon leader Loren Webster singled out Fortunate Son because it “pretty well summarized my feelings about serving, particularly since I had to serve in the Reserves with a whole lot of rich draft dodgers after I returned.”
5. Purple Haze by Jim Hendrix
Maybe it’s because he could have been in Vietnam that Jimi Hendrix holds so much appeal for ‘Nam vets. A member of the prestigious Screaming Eagles of the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Ky., Hendrix preferred guitar playing to soldiering, hence his early discharge in 1962. But even more than that, his guitar sounded like it belonged it Vietnam, reminding GIs of helicopters and machine guns, conjuring visions of hot landing zones and purple smoke grenades. As James “Kimo” Williams, a supply clerk near Lai Khe in 1970-71, attests: “The first time I heard Purple Haze, I said, ‘What is that sound and how do you do that?’ The white guys who were into rock liked him,” Williams continues, “and the black guys who were into soul liked him. He appealed to everyone.”