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Music's Role During the War

Suggested Level

Suggested Applications

Middle and High School History, Language Arts, Music

Student will:
• Identify theme, tone, imagery used in past and current war songs.
• Describe effects of war on community consensus.
• Draw conclusions about public perception based on war songs.
• Identify author’s purpose in song lyrics.
• Infer how an individual is inspired to take action through song.
• Evaluate the changing tone in music between the Vietnam War and the Middle East conflict.

Medal of Honor Focus: Michael E. Thornton, Petty Officer, U.S. Navy, Navy Advisory Group / Vietnam War

For the Teacher:
Before class, display the following quotation in the classroom for a concluding activity: “I think everybody
has to sacrifice for something great. Nothing is given to you; you have to work for it.”—Michael E. Thornton, Vietnam

Introductory Activity:
Respond to the following journal prompt: “Have you ever fought for or stood up for something you strongly
believed in when most people thought you were wrong?” Explain this incident and how it made you feel.

Whole Group Activity:
Students will watch the vignette about Michael Thornton and list moments that stood out as noble or heroic.
The teacher will conduct a discussion after viewing. Ask students if they could imagine that those who served
in the Vietnam War, even Thornton himself, were scorned by the majority of the public. The signs of the times
are usually depicted in the music of that era. Never has this been more evident than during the Vietnam War era.

Listen to the songs, “War” by Edwin Starr and “Fortunate Son” by Creedence Clearwater Revival, written during
the Vietnam War. Discuss how the artists' feelings about war are reflected in these songs. Listen to the songs
“Courtesy of the Red White and Blue” by Toby Keith & “Iraq and Roll” by Clint Black, written during the Middle East
conflict. Discuss how these songs portray different perceptions about the two conflicts.

Small Group/Individual Activity:
Divide students into small groups. Distribute lyrics from the song list that reflect a variety of opinions on different wars.
Students will identify tone, theme, imagery, and author’s purpose for each song. They will infer when the song was written
and why. Each group is responsible for recording their responses.

Whole Group Activity:
Student groups will share their thoughts and findings with the class and point out connections and common literary
devices in the songs. Song excerpts may be played.

Concluding Activity:
Refer to initial quotation and inferences about lyrics. As a group, students will reflect how their own thoughts about
the quotations relate to the group consensus about war.

Discussion, student work on tone, theme, imagery, and author's purpose, reflection

Medal of Honor: Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty. NY: Artisan, 2006.

Song List and Lyrics
“War” by Edwin Starr; “Fortunate Son” by Creedence Clearwater; “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue” by
   Toby Keith; “Iraq & Roll” by Clint Black

Revolutionary War
“Yankee Doodle” by Richard Shuckburgh

Civil War
"Battle Hymn of the Republic" by Julia Howe
"When Johnny Comes Marching Home" by Patrick S. Gilmore, Union Army bandmaster
"Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!" by Julia Howe
"Dixie War Song" by Dan Emmett
“Follow the Drinking Gourd” slave song sung in Underground Railroad

War of 1812
"Star Spangled Banner" by Sir Francis Scott Key

World War I
"America" ("My Country 'Tis of Thee") by Samuel Francis Smith
"Over There" by George Cohan
"The Old Grey Mare" by Unknown
"Hail! Hail! The Gang's All Here" by D.A. Estron

World War II
"God Bless America" by Irving Berlin

Vietnam War
"The Times They Are A 'Changin'" by Bob Dylan
"Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" by Pete Seeger
"For What It's Worth" by Stephen Stills
"Fortunate Son" by Creedence Clearwater Revival
"Joy to the World" by Three Dog Night
"Give Peace a Chance" by John Lennon
"We Gotta Get Out of This Place" by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil
"Star Spangled Banner" by (Jimmy Hendrix Guitar Rendition)
"Imagine" by John Lennon
“Eve of Destruction” by Barry McGuire

Enduring Freedom/Iraq War
"Whatever Happened to Peace on Earth" by Willie Nelson
"The Final Straw" by REM
"In a World Gone Mad" by The Beastie Boys
"Independence Day" by Martina McBride
"Have You Forgotten" by Darryl Worley

Quote: "Mediocrity and failure result from choice, not chance. Success is born of courage alone and God has made this marvelous gift
            infinitely available to all who ask for it."
- Patrick H. Brady, Army-Vietnam War

In Their Own Words