Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Following on from last week’s discussion on 1980s music, I have posted another Billy Joel video. This is his 1983 song “Goodnight Saigon” which is a moving tribute to friends of Joel who fought in the Vietnam War. Whilst I don’t see this as a protest song, following on from watching “We didn’t start the fire” last week, Joel seems to be able to use his song writing skills to draw attention to issues he feels strongly about. I also see a thinly veiled criticism, both in terms of American involvement in the war initially and the treatment of veterans on their return. The lyrics of one line of the song “They left their childhood on every acre” refers to the young age of the soldiers that fought and died, as another 1980’s song by Paul Hardcastle shows, the average age of those going to Vietnam was “Nineteen”.
The video uses a live performance of the song interspersed with images of soldiers, helicopters and guns together with backing vocals provided by a group of Vietnam veterans which also suggests to me that Joel was highlighting the plight of those coming back from fighting and feeling alienated from society. The song was released at a time when American society was beginning to become much more aware of the plight of the veterans, many of whom had been badly neglected on their return from war.
I found lots of comment on this song – some critical as Joel never served in the military and others, some veterans, who appreciate the sentiments he is trying to portray. Personally, I found the song to be a genuine expression of Joel’s thoughts on the conflict but as with any song, it is open to individual interpretation.