Vietnam War: Peace, Protest, & Anti-War Songs

A collection of peace, protest, and anti-war songs referencing the Vietnam War

Songs in this section contain expressions of peace, opposition to government or military policies, solidarity with the anti-war movement, and songs protesting the contemporary environment.

Early 60s protest songs, part of a minority movement, often expressed a moral objection to war and the use of American military power. However, between 1968 and 1969, general public support for withdrawal from Vietnam increased from 19% to 55%, with an increasing number of songs, which emphasised the war’s length, military failures, and increasing death rate.

The early 1960s saw an explosion of teen & garage rock bands, contemporary folk singers, the blues revival, and new music movements on South American, and the Caribbean, which coincided with the beginning of the Vietnam War. By the end of 1965, 200,000 US troops were in South East Asia, which increased to 500,000 by 1967. The "Rolling Thunder" bombing campaign was in full swing, viewed on television throughout the world. With the threat of being drafted, the breaking down of cultural / generational barriers, and the politicalization of youth, musicians started to play a role in the growing anti-war movement in the United States. Musicians in Asia, Vietnam, Australian & New Zealand, Europe, the Caribbean, and Central & South America also protested against the Vietnam War and war in general. The protest movement were particularly vocal and put major domestic pressure on the White House and Congress. However, despite the well attended anti-war demonstrations, mass public opinion largely supported presidential policy in Vietnam throughout much of the war.


  • Pro-Peace / Anti-Hawk:
    Expressions of peace, support for the anti-war movement, and opposition to supporters of the war. May reference opposition to hawks, warmongers, conservatives etc; support for doves, peace, progressives, disarmament, demonstrators, call to action etc. May reference opposition to death, destruction, and negative-effects of war on both sides.

  • Change of Policy / Anti-Government:
    Expressions calling for an end to the war in Vietnam, criticism of specific government policy / actions, such as bombing campaigns, the draft, the use of napalm, Agent Orange, and other weapons. Reference to specific politicians, either for or against the war.

  • Anti-Soldier or Militarism:
    Criticism of the role of soldiers or military, reference to military leadership; the economics of war, or military-industrial complex.

  • Pro-Reform / Anti-System:
    Protest: capitalism, elitism, corruption, imperialism etc. Need: reform, revolution etc.

  • Movements:
    Civil Rights: African-American Civil Rights Movement in the US (1950s-60s). Songs may discuss inequality in the draft system, and racial mistreatment at home or in Vietnam. May also reference the lack of rights at home despite fighting for their country alongside US white citizens. Typically found in the genres of soul, gospel, funk, and the blues, and performed by African-Americans. May reference Martin Luther King Jr.

    Voting Rights: Movement to lower the voting age from 21 to 18, a prevalent issue in the Vietnam era due to young soldiers drafted unable to vote in elections (see Draft Inequality). Voting age lowered by 26th Amendment in 1971, applied during the 1972 Presidential Election.

    Counter-Culture / Hippies: Reference to values and norms presented as different from contemporary mainstream society. In the 1960s, this is often related to hippie [or hippy] culture. Often presented as a youth movement, related to psychedelic music, drugs use (e.g. LSD and marijuana), long hair (both men & women), jeans, flairs, pop art, free love (sex, love-in), travelling, spirituality etc.

  • Events:
    Kent State: Songs referencing the Kent State shootings ("May 4 massacre" or the "Kent State massacre"). The Kent State Shootings (or "Massacre") took place on 4 May 1970, in Ohio, where members of the Ohio State Guard shot and killed four students.

    Jackson State: Two students were subsequently killed by Mississippi state and Jackson city police, at Jackson State college ("Jackson State Killings") on 15 May 1970.

    Chicago ’68 / Chicago Seven: Democratic National Convention in Chicago in August 1968. Originally 8 people stood trial - Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Rennie Davis, David Dellinger, Tom Hayden, and Black Panther leader Bobby Seale. Seale later tried separately (“Chicago 7”).

    March on Washington: Multiple demonstrations called "March on Washington" in the 1960s – both dealing with the Vietnam War and Civil Rights.

    March on Pentagon: Anti-war march held on 21 October 1967, from Washington D.C. to the Pentagon. Attended by famous and high profile figures, such as the Fugs, Phil Ochs, Allen Ginsburg, Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin. Portrayed in the Norman Mailer book “Armies of the Night”. Organised by National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam (“Mobe”).

    Moratorium: "Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam", a massive demonstration across the US on 15 October 1969, followed up by a march on Washington on 15 November 1969.


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