The silent soundtrack: Anti-war music from Vietnam to Iraq

Jeneve R Brooks, Fordham University


This research seeks to answer the questions: Has U.S. anti-war music's presence changed from 1963–2007? And, if so, why has it changed? Specifically, how did the periods of Vietnam and Afghanistan/Iraq compare with reference to the amount, label affiliation (major vs. independent), “cover songs,” genre, and popularity (Billboard Hot 100 and Billboard 200) of anti-war music? To answer these questions, a database of anti-war songs, commercially released from 1963–2007 in the United States, was compiled and analyzed, with emphasis placed on two time periods reflecting the Vietnam War (1963–1975) and the most recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (2001–2007). In addition, an analysis of interviews with expert informants and a review of various sources were used to supplement the database analysis. In total, 2,940 anti-war songs were included in the original database. When comparing the Afghanistan/Iraq era with the Vietnam era, the key findings are: (1) the number of anti-war songs released from the Afghanistan/Iraq era greatly outnumbered the songs released in the Vietnam era; (2) during the Afghanistan/Iraq era, independent labels released more anti-war music than did major labels; this was reversed in the Vietnam period, with major label releases outnumbering independents; (3) the anti-war songs of the Vietnam era still hold cultural significance as many of these songs were covered by artists of the Afghanistan/Iraq era; (4) folk and rock were the preferred genres used by anti-war musicians in both eras; (5) the number of anti-war songs that have made the top singles chart (Billboard Hot 100) were higher in the Vietnam era than in the era of Afghanistan/Iraq, even though the number of anti-war songs that were included on best-selling albums (Billboard Hot 200) was higher during the Afghanistan/Iraq period than in the Vietnam period. Four media factors related to the decline in collective discourse were explored to understand changes in anti-war music's popularity between the two time periods: (1) Republican dominance through winning media messages; (2) the media's marginalization of the anti-war counterculture; (3) media consolidation; and (4) media fragmentation.

Subject Area

Music|Sociology|Mass communications

Recommended Citation

Brooks, Jeneve R, "The silent soundtrack: Anti-war music from Vietnam to Iraq" (2009). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3377039.