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The Vietnam War had a musical soundtrack. Every novel and every film about Vietnam reminds us that music formed the war's backdrop, such as the attacking helicopters in Apocalypse Now playing Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries." As in earlier wars, there were songs dealing with separation from loved ones, like the Shirelles's "Soldier Boy." But more than in previous wars, the music of the 1960s shaped the very atmosphere in which the war was waged. The war, in turn, helped make the music louder and more intense. Song lyrics were laced with anti-war and sometimes pro-war sentiments, with some embraced by "hawks" and others by "doves."

There were pro-war songs, like Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler's "The Ballad of the Green Berets" and Merle Haggard's "Fighting Side of Me." There was also a host of anti-war songs, like "Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-To-Die Rag" by Country Joe and the Fish.

Many popular songs carried special meaning for soldiers, such as The Animals' "We've Got to Get Out of This Place." Many songs dealt with the Vietnam war indirectly, including Barry McGuire's "Eve of Destruction," John Lennon's "Give Peace a Chance," and Edwin Starr's "War." The implications of the war are explored in Marvin Gaye's "What's Goin' On," part of which dealt with his brother's experience in Vietnam, and Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA."