Analyze the Evidence
What are the various sentiments of opposition to war or specifically the Vietnam War contained in the lyrics of protest songs of the 1960s?
Identify 4 sentiments of opposition to the war and cite phrases from the lyrics of these songs. (Note: It will be helpful to you if you locate these songs on YouTube and listen to the music as you read the lyrics.)
Concept and Evidence Chart
Sentiments of Opposition Lyric Citations
In the United States, music has been a vehicle for protest going back to the 18th century. The American folk music tradition is replete with songs that have criticized and spoken up against powerful men, women, and institutions in American politics. In the 1920s and 30s, the blues music tradition joined folk music as a major conduit for protest and commentary on American society. Labor and social activism were the causes that inspired the protest music of the 1930s into the early 1950s.
In the later 1950s much of this protest focused on two phenomena — the growing civil rights movement and the anti-nuclear war movement. But increasingly, the object of protest in the 1960s was the Vietnam War. As President Kennedy sent “advisors” to Vietnam in the early 1960s and President Johnson escalated the war in 1964, the protest tradition found a new music genre–rock music.
The pivotal figure was probably Bob Dylan, who wrote several anti-war songs in about a 20-month period from late 1962 to early 1964, including a song called “Masters of War.” “Masters of War” was clearly in the folk tradition, as Dylan wrote for the acoustic guitar at the time. But many of his folk standards were being played by rock bands. Also, Dylan viewed “Masters of War” as a protest of the “military-industrial complex” that President Eisenhower talked about at the end of his presidency, not the Vietnam War. Nevertheless, the public perceived “Masters of War” and other anti-war songs as anti-Vietnam War songs.
The year 1966 was a key year since Johnson’s escalation of the Vietnam War was beginning to be felt at home in the debate about the war, the draft, and the country’s national debt. Numerous rock bands and songwriters began to question aspects of the war. The number of protest songs increased significantly in the following years, but the messages had many different calls to action or expression of sentiments about Vietnam.
Source 1: Bob Dylan, “Masters of War” (1963)
Come you masters of warYou that build all the gunsYou that build the death planesYou that build all the bombsYou that hide behind wallsYou that hide behind desksI just want you to knowI can see through your masks.
You that never done nothin’But build to destroyYou play with my worldLike it’s your little toyYou put a gun in my handAnd you hide from my eyesAnd you turn and run fartherWhen the fast bullets fly.
Like Judas of oldYou lie and deceiveA world war can be wonYou want me to believeBut I see through your eyesAnd I see through your brainLike I see through the waterThat runs down my drain.
You fasten all the triggersFor the others to fireThen you set back and watchWhen the death count gets higherYou hide in your mansion’As young people’s bloodFlows out of their bodiesAnd is buried in the mud.
You’ve thrown the worst fearThat can ever be hurledFear to bring childrenInto the worldFor threatening my babyUnborn and unnamedYou ain’t worth the bloodThat runs in your veins.
How much do I knowTo talk out of turnYou might say that I’m youngYou might say I’m unlearnedBut there’s one thing I knowThough I’m younger than youThat even Jesus would neverForgive what you do.
Let me ask you one questionIs your money that goodWill it buy you forgivenessDo you think that it couldI think you will findWhen your death takes its tollAll the money you madeWill never buy back your soul.
And I hope that you dieAnd your death’ll come soonI will follow your casketIn the pale afternoonAnd I’ll watch while you’re loweredDown to your deathbedAnd I’ll stand over your grave ‘Til I’m sure that you’re dead.
Source 2: Paul Simon, “Scarborough Fair” (1966)
Are you going to Scarborough Fair?Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thymeRemember me to one who lives thereShe once was a true love of mine.
Tell her to make me a cambric shirt(On the side of a hill in the deep forest green)Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme(Tracing a sparrow on snow-crested ground)Without no seams nor needlework(Blankets and bedclothes the child of the mountain)Then she’ll be a true love of mine(Sleeps unaware of the clarion call).
Tell her to find me an acre of land(On the side of a hill, a sprinkling of leaves)Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme(Washes the ground with so many tears)Between the salt water and the sea strand(A soldier cleans and polishes a gun)Then she’ll be a true love of mine.
Tell her to reap it in a sickle of leather(War bellows, blazing in scarlet battalions)Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme(Generals order their soldiers to kill)And to gather it all in a bunch of heather(And to fight for a cause they’ve long ago forgotten)Then she’ll be a true love of mine.
Are you going to Scarborough Fair?Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thymeRemember me to one who lives thereShe once was a true love of mine
Source 3: Country Joe McDonald and the Fish, “I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixing-To-Die Rag” (1966)
Well, come on all of you, big strong men,Uncle Sam needs your help again.Yeah, he’s got himself in a terrible jamWay down yonder in VietnamSo put down your books and pick up a gun,Gonna have a whole lotta fun.
And it’s one, two, three,What are we fighting for ?Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn,Next stop is Vietnam;And it’s five, six, seven,Open up the pearly gates,Well there ain’t no time to wonder why,Whoopee! we’re all gonna die.
Yeah, come on Wall Street, don’t be slow,Why man, this is war au-go-goThere’s plenty good money to be madeBy supplying the Army with the tools of its trade,Just hope and pray that if they drop the bomb,They drop it on the Viet Cong.
And it’s one, two, three,What are we fighting for ?Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn,Next stop is Vietnam.And it’s five, six, seven,Open up the pearly gates,Well there ain’t no time to wonder whyWhoopee! we’re all gonna die.
Well, come on generals, let’s move fast;Your big chance has come at last.Now you can go out and get those reds‘Cause the only good commie is the one that’s deadAnd you know that peace can only be wonWhen we’ve blown ’em all to kingdom come.
And it’s one, two, three,What are we fighting for?Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn,Next stop is Vietnam;And it’s five, six, seven,Open up the pearly gates,Well there ain’t no time to wonder whyWhoopee! we’re all gonna die.
Come on mothers throughout the land,Pack your boys off to Vietnam.Come on fathers, and don’t hesitateTo send your sons off before it’s too late.You can be the first ones in your blockTo have your boy come home in a box.
And it’s one, two, threeWhat are we fighting for?Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn,Next stop is Vietnam.And it’s five, six, seven,Open up the pearly gates,Well there ain’t no time to wonder why,Whoopee! we’re all gonna die.
Source 4: Buffalo Springfield, “For What Its Worth” (1966)
There’s somethin’ happenin’ hereWhat it is ain’t exactly clearThere’s a man with a gun over thereA tellin’ me, I got to beware.I think it’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound?Everybody look what’s going down
There’s battle lines being drawnNobody’s right if everybody’s wrongYoung people speakin’ their mindsA gettin’ so much resistance from behind.Time we stop, hey, what’s that sound?Everybody look what’s going down.
What a field day for the heatA thousand people in the streetSinging songs and they carrying signsMostly say, hooray for our sideIt’s time we stop, hey, what’s that sound?Everybody look what’s going down.
Paranoia strikes deepInto your life it will creepIt starts when you’re always afraidStep out of line, the man come and take you awayWe better stop, hey, what’s that sound? Everybody look what’s going down.
Source 5: Jefferson Airplane, “Volunteers” (1969)
Look what’s happening out in the streetsGot a revolution, got to revolutionHey, I’m dancing down the streetsGot a revolution, got to revolutionAin’t it amazing all the people I meet?Got a revolution, got to revolution
One generation got oldOne generation got soulThis generation got no destination to holdPick up the cry
Hey, now it’s time for you and meGot a revolution, got to revolutionCome on, now we’re marching to the seaGot a revolution, got to revolution
Who will take it from you?We will and who are we?
We are volunteers of AmericaVolunteers of AmericaVolunteers of AmericaVolunteers of America
Got a revolution Whoa, got a revolution
Source 6: Creedence Clearwater Revival, “Fortunate Son” (1969)
Some folks are born made to wave the flagOoh, they’re red, white and blueAnd when the band plays “Hail to the Chief”Oh, they point the cannon at you, Lord.
It ain’t me, it ain’t meI ain’t no Senator’s sonIt ain’t me, it ain’t meI ain’t no fortunate one, no.
Some folks are born silver spoon in handLord, don’t they help themselves, ohBut when the tax men come to the doorLord, the house look a like a rummage sale, yes.
It ain’t me, it ain’t meI ain’t no millionaire’s son, no, noIt ain’t me, it ain’t meI ain’t no fortunate one, no.
Yeah, some folks inherit star spangled eyesOoh, they send you down to war, LordAnd when you ask them, “How much should we give?”Oh, they only answer, more, more, more, oh.
It ain’t me, it ain’t meI ain’t no military sonIt ain’t me, it ain’t meI ain’t no fortunate one.
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