We Gotta Get Out Of This Place

The Soundtrack of the Vietnam War

Doug Bradley and Craig Werner

For a Kentucky rifleman who spent his tour trudging through Vietnam’s Central Highlands, it was Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’.” For a “tunnel rat” who blew smoke into the Viet Cong’s underground tunnels, it was Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze.” For a black marine distraught over the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., it was Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools.” And for countless other Vietnam vets, it was “I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ to Die,” “Who’ll Stop the Rain,” or the song that gives this book its title.

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  • “Intimate and deeply informative, with a scope that encompasses both the war itself and the way that music has helped raise awareness of veterans’ issues long after its end.”

  • “A sentence from We Gotta Get Out of This Place: The Soundtrack of the Vietnam War, by Doug Bradley and Craig Werner jumped out of the page and hit me: “The music of the Sixties somehow bridged that gap for a generation that was being torn apart by Vietnam.” I never imagined that my song “I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ To Die Rag” would reach soldiers in Vietnam fighting the war. It just popped into my head one day. Song writing helped me to cope with life and I now know that listening to music helped those fighting the war to cope.
    Now that we live in a world of forever war and terrorism it must be hard for a younger generation to imagine a war that had a beginning and an end. But history can sweep you up and alter or end your life even today. This book has no axe to grind and does not romanticize or glorify the war but allows veterans to talk about the war and the music they listened to. In spite of the politics of both sides music crept into the lives of the soldiers and allowed them to function in the insanity and horror of a war that could not justify itself in any way. An easy read. We all love popular music and we all love soldiers. Don’t we? Give em a moment of your time. You, the tax payers of America, paid for this. All we have left is memories. Maybe there is something to learn from this book, from their experiences, from the music. God, I hope so.”

    Country Joe McDonald
  • “A compelling work of historical writing, We Got to Get out of This Place isn’t so much about the music of the time of the Vietnam War, but about the people who listened to the music and how the music affected their lives. As you would expect of any fine work of music history, it provides a clear and interesting analysis of how the culture and events of the time shaped the music of the time. However, the book goes beyond this. It also explores how music shaped the culture and events, probably like it did in no other time in our nation’s history. It also provides an important aspect of that very complicated and still controversial time which is largely absent from the usual histories: what it felt like. Music is all about feeling. If you want to understand what it felt like, outside of combat itself, to live through and be part of the Vietnam War, read this book. Then, go listen to the music. I did both and I urge you to do the same.”

    Karl Marlantes
    author of "Matterhorn" and "What It Is Like To Go To War"
  • “When you realize the average age of a combat soldier in Vietnam was 19, you can better appreciate how music would be indelibly written into the experiences of that powerfully formative time.  We were the “counter-culture” generation that fought and rock and roll was our music.  Our music was totally connected to the whole Vietnam experience.. the war, protests, and aftermath.  This amazing book does justice to conveying the power and emotional impact of music throughout that era.”

    Bobby Muller
    Bobby Muller, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines, Vietnam 1968-69 Founder and President, Vietnam Veterans of America
  • We Gotta Get Out of This Place is chock full of materials that present multi-voiced memories of how popular music related to the experiences of American GIs in and after the Vietnam War. The book will appeal to veterans, and in many ways is written by, for, and to them. But students and fans of popular music history, the history of the 1960s, and the history of war will also find it an engaging and worthwhile read.”

    Michael J. Kramer
    author of "The Republic of Rock: Music" and "Citizenship in the Sixties Counterculture"
  • “Of the many ways to relate the story of the Vietnam war, few are more vibrant and accessible than the way Doug Bradley and Craig Werner tell it in We Gotta Get Out of This Place. Music is the universal language, but to the soldiers in Vietnam, the songs of the sixties carried a special weight that both defined their existence and helped them survive. I devoured this book.”

    David Maraniss
    author of "They Marched into Sunlight, War and Peace, Vietnam and America, October 1967"
  • On its surface, We Gotta Get Out of this Place is a history of the music of the Vietnam generation. But Doug Bradley and Craig Werner do much more than that. They give us an innovative glimpse into the experiences of U.S. servicemen at war and a vivid example of the powerful role music played in their lives. Through the testimonies they collect we see, first hand, how music provides a window into the war and tensions over generation, region, and race. Music becomes much more than an artifact of culture; it is the stuff of memory and part of the complex ways we all make meaning.

    Tomás F. Summers Sandoval, Jr.
    author of "Latinos at the Golden Gate"
  • Craig Werner and Doug Bradley are not the first to share some some significant insights about the centrality of music to the U.S. soldiers in Vietnam, before they left, while they were there, and when they came home. But what Bradley and Werner do that is new and important for understanding — not only Vietnam’s 1000-year firght for freedom but also the similarities between today’s numerous wars and soldiers  is to show how absolutely crucial music was for survival and inspiration. Inspiration to fight harder, sometimes, sure, but also the inspiration to resist, to endure, to remember in a situation that all but shot them down for not forgetting. The authors understand more kinds of music, more songs, and more troops of more kinds than anyone else who’s written about the American military experience in Vietnam. Whether you read it because you are interested in the war, the music, the politics, or because you’re still trying to figure out what hell was going on, We Gotta Get Out of This Place will be a revelation.”

    Dave Marsh
    author, "The Heart of Rock and Soul" and "Bruce Springsteen: Two Hearts"

In We Gotta Get Out of This Place, Doug Bradley and Craig Werner place popular music at the heart of the American experience in Vietnam. They explore how and why U.S. troops turned to music as a way of connecting to each other and the World back home and of coping with the complexities of the war they had been sent to fight. They also demonstrate that music was important for every group of Vietnam veterans—black and white, Latino and Native American, men and women, officers and “grunts”—whose personal reflections drive the book’s narrative. Many of the voices are those of ordinary soldiers, airmen, seamen, and marines. But there are also “solo” pieces by veterans whose writings have shaped our understanding of the war—Karl Marlantes, Alfredo Vea, Yusef Komunyakaa, Bill Ehrhart, Arthur Flowers—as well as songwriters and performers whose music influenced soldiers’ lives, including Eric Burdon, James Brown, Bruce Springsteen, Country Joe McDonald, and John Fogerty. Together their testimony taps into memories—individual and cultural—that capture a central if often overlooked component of the American war in Vietnam.

Get Your Copy Now!

wggootp_book

A volume in the series Culture, Politics, and the Cold War

University of Massachusetts Press
Amherst & Boston www.umass.edu/umpress
240 pp., $26.95 paper, ISBN: 978-1-62534-162-4

Doug Bradley, a Vietnam veteran, teaches a course on the war with Craig Werner, professor of Afro-American studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and author of Higher Ground: Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Curtis Mayfield, and the Rise and Fall of American Soul.