IN ORDER to get a soul record played in a bar in downtown Saigon during the Vietnam War, black soldiers would often have to engage racist white soldiers in hand to hand conflict.
This compilation contains some of the tracks they would have fought over. It charts the changing attitudes of black Americans towards the Vietnam War. It starts with songs that chart the initial excitement of war-coupled with the worry that by the time you got home your girl would have found someone new.
By 1967 talk of a quick victory had gone and the tone and lyrics changed to fear. You can hear it in the Dynamics’ superbly emotional ‘Lights Out’, where a soldier is writing a letter home in the knowledge that tomorrow he could be killed.
Worry turned to anger. Freda Payne’s ‘Bring the Boys Home’ is a powerful cry against war, and against conditions at home. What of those who made it through? They came back scarred into a society that could not reintegrate them.
Bill Withers’ ‘I Can’t Write Left Handed’, Curtis Mayfield’s ‘Back to the World’ and the devastating ‘Sam Stone’ by Swamp Dogg all tell haunting stories that some in the US would rather we all forgot.
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