Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.



Committee Chair

Makris, Mary

Author's Keywords

Vietnam War; Lyrics as poetry; Music/lyrics; Vietnam War music; American culture; Cultural historiography


Popular music--Social aspects--History--20th century; Popular music--Political aspects--History--20th century; Protest songs--20th century--History and criticism; Songs--Texts--History and criticism; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Influence


This dissertation analyzes song lyrics written in the United States during the country’s involvement in the Vietnam War (1945-1975) by using social, historical, political, philosophical, and cultural criticisms. The majority of this dissertation focuses on Anti-Vietnam War protest lyrics, but neutral and pro-Vietnam War stances are also recognized. This work aims to primarily discuss music written in the United States during the Vietnam War era, but does recognize greater spheres of social protest against the war that occurred abroad. This dissertation asserts that the Anti-Vietnam War movement was on to something – an ideology that war was not the answer, and that, given a chance, peace could work. The Anti-Vietnam War movement brought the United States to a previously unseen cultural crossroads, yet those against the Vietnam War were ultimately unable to pronounce the movement as victorious. The horrors of war in Vietnam – depicted in this dissertation through Vietnam Veterans’ memoirs as well as through literary, philosophical and multi-media historical artifacts – and the angry cries against it – seen through historical and philosophical artifacts along with song lyrics from the era – present a portrait of the United States of America in a state of crisis. By combining a close reading of song lyrics with history, literature, philosophy, and other art forms of the era, we can ultimately see that the United States’ decision to enter the Vietnam War was a choice, but the option chosen was incorrect according to many American voices.