As coverage of Ken Burns and Lynn Novick's ten-part documentary, The Vietnam War, ramps up, Doug Bradley and Craig Werner, authors of We Gotta Get Out of This Place, have been called upon to offer their perspectives on the War and its soundtrack. In a interview with Time Magazine, Bradley argues that soldiers' access to popular music was unprecedented in Vietnam, as "there was music everywhere. It was the same music that your non-soldier peers were listening to in America, so it was a shared soundtrack."
In turn, the War shaped music being produced back at home—the lyrics and the sound. Werner adds that "Nobody was separate from it; or very few. It's not like today where the war is being fought by a small number of people."
Bradley notes that on the battlefield and in the aftermath of Vietnam this had lasting effects: "Music gave soldiers a way to start making sense of experiences that didn't make a lot of sense to them."
Doug Bradley has also contributed to KCTS's "On the Record" project which launched this week, an interactive musical timeline inspired by the Burns and Novick documentary. As he notes in his introductory essay:
For the more than three million other men and women who served in Vietnam, music provided release from the uncertainty, isolation and sometimes stark terror that surrounded them. But the sounds offered more than just simple escape. Music was a lifeline connecting soldiers to their homes, families and parts of themselves they felt slipping away. It was the glue that bound the communities they formed in their hooches, base camps and lonely outposts from the Mekong Delta to the DMZ. Both in-country and “back in the world,” as the troops called the United States, music helped them make sense of situations in which, as Bob Dylan put it in a song that meant something far more disturbing and haunting in Vietnam than it did back in the USA, they felt like “they were on their own with no direction home.”
And, in an interview with the Big Ten Network, Bradley discusses how some wartime experiences continue to be overlooked and underrepresented. He was drafted as an information specialist in 1970, and recognizes that "[T]here were a lot of us in the rear fighting maybe a different war or supporting the guys who were doing the fighting and dying. And that story continues to get lost...it’s just something we ignore and, I think, overlook. That sort of diminishes our whole perspective of what war is about, if not what that war was about. Besides the killing and the dying."