Billy Joel is an American singer known for hits during the 70s and 80 like Uptown Girl, Piano Man, and Just The Way You Are. He wrote a song called Goodnight Saigon but did he serve in Vietnam?
According to Rolling Stone, Billy Joel didn’t fight during the Vietnam War. He was thinking of joining but didn’t end up getting called because he got a high number during the draft lottery. He instead wrote Goodnight Saigon to honor the soldiers’ experiences.
How did the Vietnam War begin?
Based on History, the Vietnam War began in the 1950s through the conflict in Southeast Asia but had roots in the colonization of the French during the 1800s. Countries like the United States, China, France, and Cambodia were in a battle that would last until the 1970s.
It all started with France declaring Vietnam its territory in 1887—calling it French Indochina, adding Laos in 1893. With the construction of roads and bridges, the French wanted to expand their control on the land but the Vietnamese resisted and struggled for independence.
During the Second World War, Ho Chih Minh called to his countrymen to stand up and take control of the country before the French could resume their hold of Vietnam. Then on September 2, 1945, World War II ended and Vietnam was declared independent but this would not be the end of the conflict.
In March 1947, President Harry Truman stated that the foreign policy of the U.S. is to assist any country threatened by communism.
What happened during the Vietnam War?
By 1950, Viet Minh is helped by the Soviet Union and Communist China against the French. In turn, the United States identify the Viet Minh officially as a communist threat and aids France.
Due to poor health in 1960, Ho Chi Minh is replaced by le Duan as the head of North Vietnam’s communist party. During this year, the National Liberation Front (NLF) is formed and viewed by the U.S. as the Viet Cong.
Ngo Dinh Diem became the South Vietnamese leader in 1955, backed by the Americans who would have a long conflict with the north until 1975.
During the Fall of Saigon in 1975, South Vietnam was seized by the communist forces. In their surrender, the Americans transported more than 1,000 U.S. civilians and almost 7,000 South Vietnamese refugees out of Saigon in an 18-hour evacuation.
The war ended in 1975 during the unification of North and South Vietnam as one country. Some 58,220 Americans died and about 1.1 million North Vietnamese were killed, 250,000 South Vietnamese soldiers also perished, not counting over 2 million civilians who were caught in the crossfires.
How did the Vietnam War affect Billy Joel’s music?
On the Piano Man’s YouTube Channel, he stated that he wrote a song about the soldiers, but not as a political statement. He remembered during the 60s there was a boom in political songs and wanted to avoid making anything the soldiers would hate listening to.
Many of his friends went to the war immediately after high school as teenagers. He wanted to join the war but wasn’t able to and disagreed with the political reasons for sending troops to fight during that time.
Upon the return of his friends after two years, they requested the People’s Choice Award winner to write a song but initially hesitated since he wasn’t there. They shared their experiences with the singer and let him get inspired by their stories.
Recalling other artists and authors who didn’t get first-hand experiences of those events writing about wars, he decided he could do the same.
“You don’t have to have lived it, as long as you research and understand and talk to people who were there.”
He didn’t want to write about who was wrong or right and focused on what happened to the soldiers with no intention of making an anti-war statement and that’s how the war influenced his music.
Goodnight Saigon is from Billy’s 1982 album, The Nylon Curtain. The single never became a massive hit on the American music charts but has become one of his more popular songs during concerts.