The Vietnam War and Rock N’ Roll Music

In December of 1969 the first draft lottery since World War II commenced in the United States. The Vietnam war was underway and young men across the nation were faced with the choice of Vietnam, Jail, or Canada. This war, which was the first in our history to be viewable through a television screen, impacted the United States in a multitude of ways; one of those being, a shift in Rock N’ Roll music.

When Rock N’ Roll first began in the 1950’s, it was representative of an ideal way of life in the USA. Dances, first loves, and long day at school encompassed many of the most successful tunes of that era. This notion continued into the early 1960’s and began to dissipate as more artists explored their sense of creativity and understanding of the world around them. Rock N’ Roll went from being an expression of the body, to an articulation of the mind. Many contribute the start of this change to the thoughtful lyrics being produced by Bob Dylan.

Dylan began challenging people’s thoughts and opinions about some of the United States most serious issues. Without ever expelling his beliefs into full, elaborate sentences, Dylan generated poetic lyrics that attested to his perspective. This quiet, yet influential protest erupted a tidal wave of followers that led to what we now call, the anti-war movement.

Alongside the Vietnam War, The United States endured the Civil Rights movement and mourning the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and social activist, Martin Luther King Jr. With such serious issues taking place in the U.S., it is no surprise that an outbreak of musicians speaking their minds became somewhat of a trend. A few of these significant tunes included, “For What It’s Worth” by Buffalo Springfield, “Fortunate Son” by Creedence Clearwater Revival, “Blowing in the Wind” by Bob Dylan, and “Imagine” by John Lennon.

This mutual frustration and swelling of creativity encouraged one of the world’s most iconic music and art festivals, Woodstock. Set in the summer of 1969, Woodstock became the hub for peace and love movement and provided a platform for the music being produced during this time. Woodstock took the new wave of 1960’s Rock N’ Roll to an entirely untouched and elevated level. With a turnout of 400,000 people, the music and message being delivered was far from unheard. One of the most memorable and patriotic tunes played during this weekend was Jimi Hendrix’s 9 a.m. wake up call where he electrified the audience with a distorted, yet chillingly raw version of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

The music from the 1960’s and early 1970’s has transformed into a playlist for an era, a time filled with conflict and commotion but inlaied with an overwhelming sense of unity. The apparent shift in Rock N’ Roll exposed a deeper form of expression from the fairly new genre of music. This musical alteration alludes to the constant that is change and to the power, meaning, and historical significance behind Rock N’ Roll music.

–Victoria Shaffer

Hopkins, Alexander E. “Protest and Rock n’ Roll During the Vietnam War.” Inquiries Journal, Inquiries Journal, 1 Nov. 2012,
“Vietnam: the First Rock and Roll War.” Stars and Stripes,

13 thoughts on “The Vietnam War and Rock N’ Roll Music

  1. Great post, especially with Ken Burns documentary series on Vietnam just about to roll out. Some of the best moments of “Good Morning, Vietnam” with Robin Williams is the music he plays.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Another great dissection of rock and roll history! That era of protest and idealism will always be my favorite chapter in rock. I theorize that if it had an “official” end, it came at the hands of the Manson Family who collectively represented the dark underbelly of the subculture.


  3. Rock and roll in the 50’s was already coming from left field. ” Deliver me from the days of old” said Chuck Berry. People were singing accapello on street corners. There was also an established folk tradition of protest songs. Still, the sixties and seventies was a special time, as you say.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Absolutely! I believe that these folk/rock songs that were used as protest were finally hitting the commercial mainstream. So much so that these songs have remained in our conscious and on our radios. During the late 60’s and 70’s was when we began to note this happening and the following behind this music grow. Which makes much more of an impact. Thanks for the read!

      Liked by 1 person

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