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Vietnam Protests and Popular Culture

Protest Movements

For What it's Worth Eve of Destruction Fortunate Son Okie From Muskogee The Draft Four Dead in Ohio

Classic Rock: The Sound of the 60s

1950s music gave way to the British Invasion of the 1960s led by The Beatles whose appearance of the Ed Sullivan Show rocked America.

The "culture of drugs" associated with rock and roll in the late 1960s is well-illustrated with Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit". Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and the lead singer of the Doors, Jim Morrison, all died from drug overdoses. One of Grace Slick's earliest songs, written in either late 1965 or early 1966, it draws parallels between the hallucinatory effects of psychedelic drugs and the imagery found in the fantasy works of Lewis Carroll: 1865's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and its 1871 sequel Through the Looking-Glass.

Music with a Message

What distinguished music from the mid-1960s forward was the production of songs -- rock, folk, and blues -- with a social or political message.  The music was an attempt to reflect upon the events of the time: civil rights, the growing unrest over the war in Vietnam, and the rise of feminism.  In some instances, songs received substantial airplay and became "anthems" at concerts, rallies, and demonstrations. Many of these artists played folk music. Some of the most famous include Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, Peter Paul and Mary, Joan Baez and Pete Seeger. Phil Ochs "I Ain't Marching No More" made him famous with its antiwar message.

For What It's Worth

Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth" has come to symbolize worldwide turbulence and confrontational feelings arising from events during the 1960s (particularly the Vietnam War). Its prevalent use in film, as well as common sampling and references in other media, has made it something of an icon of Vietnam-era protest songs.


Woodstock was a music and art festival, billed as An Aquarian Exposition, held at Max Yasgur's 600 acre (2.4 km²; 240 ha) dairy farm in the rural town of Bethel, New York from August 15 to August 18, 1969. Bethel, in Sullivan County, is 43 miles (69 km) southwest of the village of Woodstock, New York, in adjoining Ulster County.

The festival exemplified the counterculture of the late 1960s – early 1970s and the "hippie era". Thirty-two of the best-known musicians of the day appeared during the sometimes rainy weekend in front of nearly half a million concertgoers.

Country Joe and the Fish's biggest hit was the anti-war "I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-to-Die Rag", which debuted the same year as the band, but became best known after Country Joe's solo acoustic performance of it at Woodstock.


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