Vietnam Music Monday: “Alice’s Restaurant Massacre”

Alice’s Restaurant

“Alice’s Restaurant Massacre” was released on Arlo Guthrie’s 1967 debut album Alice’s Restaurant. (Newseum collection)

Music played an important cultural role during the Vietnam War, representing the rebellious views of a young generation and the traditional values of an older, so-called “silent majority.” The Newseum selected 40 songs released between 1963 and 1973 that typified the music of the Vietnam era. The songs captured the emotions of people for and against the war and reflected the mood of an increasingly diverse country amid dramatic social and political change.

The 40 songs, part of the Newseum’s “Reporting Vietnam” exhibit, are a fraction of the hundreds of recordings that dealt with the war and civil disobedience. Each week, one song from the playlist will be featured. We encourage you to add your favorite songs of the era to the comment section!

Alice’s Restaurant Massacre (1967)

Arlo Guthrie

At 18 and a half minutes long — highly unusual at the time — “Alice’s Restaurant” was more of a monologue than a song. Arlo Guthrie, son of legendary folk singer Woody Guthrie, relates the true story of how the draft board declared him unfit for military service in Vietnam because he had once been arrested for littering. At the end, he encourages people to go to their draft board, sing a line of “Alice’s Restaurant” and walk out.

 

Can you imagine 50 people a day, I said 50 people a day
Walking in, singin’ a bar of Alice’s Restaurant and walking out
And friends, they may think it’s a movement
And that’s what it is
The Alice’s Restaurant Anti-Massacre Movement
And all you got to do to join is sing it
The next time it comes around on the guitar

Purchase “Alice’s Restaurant” on Amazon or iTunes.

“Reporting Vietnam,” a new exhibit that marks the 50th anniversary of the start of America’s first televised war, explores the dramatic stories of how journalists brought news about the war to a divided nation.

CBS News

Contributing support for the “Reporting Vietnam” exhibit is provided by CBS Corporation, in memory of CBS News correspondent Bob Simon.

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