The blues had fallen out of popularity in the 1950s, but found a new audience amongst the Woodstock generation, who shared its anti-war, Civil Rights, and messages of social change, which are found in its lyrics.
In the 1960s many blues singers turned their attention to the Vietnam conflict. Historically, blues musicians often sang about topical events, such as economic depression, war, and presidential politics. Many of the songs expressed a deep anxiety about their friends and family being drafted, as well as concern for domestic social issues, such as the connection between civil rights and the role played by African-Americans in the army.
This forms part of the larger Vietnam War Song Project, an interpretive examination of over 6,000 Vietnam War songs identified, revealing how the war's significance is represented through music. The project also collects spoken-word recordings about the conflict. The goals of the project are: (1) to critically analyse the song lyrics, searching for historical, social, and cultural themes, and collecting data on the genre, location, ethnicity, nationality, language, and time period of the recordings; (2) to learn about the Vietnam War, and the music and artists associated with it; (3) to preserve the physical records for the future, as artifacts of the 20th century. This unique collection of voices advances scholarship by providing insights into people’s views about the war over time as represented in music, looking at diverse communities and vibrant music scenes. It is crucial in developing our knowledge of the war and the humanities, through the use of a digital research platform.
Hugo Keesing, Wouter Keesing, C.L. Yarbrough, Justin Brummer
University of Maryland, Modern Songs of War and Conflict: Keesing Collection on Popular Music and Culture, 2023