War Anthems

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Ten songs most mentioned by Vietnam veterans in
We Gotta Get Out of This Place:

No one song defines the Vietnam War for the more than 2.5 million U.S. soldiers who served, but a new book reveals a rich playlist.

Craig Werner, a UW–Madison professor of Afro-American studies and a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s nominating committee, and Doug Bradley, a retired academic staff member and Vietnam veteran, spent ten years working on We Gotta Get Out of This Place. Rolling Stone named it the magazine’s Best Music Book of 2015.

They conducted interviews with hundreds of Vietnam veterans around the country to capture their voices and memories. The initial idea of building a list of top twenty songs multiplied into hundreds of songs and experiences. They learned that the soundtrack to the war is highly personalized.

Many veterans mentioned the song by The Animals that inspired the book’s title. While many civilians thought of it as an anti-war song, service members heard the echo of their desire to go home. A former Armed Forces Radio DJ, who served in Vietnam from 1967 to 1969, says that most soldiers regarded “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” as their “We Shall Overcome.”

At its heart, the book is about survival and healing. “There’s still an awful lot of healing that needs to be done,” Bradley wrote in a Veterans Day blog post last fall. “And we’ve become convinced that music can help.”

Published in the Spring 2016 issue

Tags: Alumni, books, Campus history, music

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