Christina T. Rodriguez Prof. Dennis M. Simon Preparation Assignment The Music of the 1960s October 20, 2003 GOODNIGHT SAIGON The lyrics in Billy Joel’s (“Joel”) Goodnight Saigon are very powerful in that the lyrics represent material that affects one’s childhood, adulthood, friendship, victory, and ultimately one’s death. The words are very powerful in that they instill fear, loneliness, loss of reality, and the loss of one’s ability to accept what lies ahead in terms of war. I believe that Joel’s mission is a grim reminder that during a time of war, death is always inevitable. Although one can assume that war and death go hand-in-hand, the fact that we typically associate death with war is a constant reminder that we, as a people, are subordinate to our society. Joel’s music represents the final outcome of one’s life. As stated in his music, Joel portrays a life that is lost on Parris Island. This life is then tortured in that the music states that one has been placed in an asylum. The meaning behind this verse is that you are considered human before having to actually “state your non-existence” in a war, and subsequently, another person committing you to a place of inconclusiveness. Although the words in Joel’s song reference a sort of rhyme and reason, the grim fact that what we face as an individual may never be understood by others unless those others walk in our footsteps. Also, the fact that in the beginning we are part of one team and end up on opposing sides is a reflection that some individuals do not nor cannot distinguish the rights and wrongs of today’s society. It is difficult to understand how we can be very negative towards one another, yet remain faithful to others at totally different times. This is quite contradictory. Also the fact that when someone is “left behind,” we tend to make ourselves forget the past and accept its failings. As mentioned in his song, “Remember Charlie? Remember Baker?” They left their childhood on every acre,” is stated to basically instill that after time we forget the most important elements of our lives. Once forgotten, always forgotten. Joel’s lyrics definitely purport to tell the story of an individual at war and also tell how difficult life can be without the presence of family. In reading and re-reading Joel’s music, it offers the subtle ways of growing up and presenting one’s self to society. The era in which this song takes place reminds me of the Vietnam era—life and subsequently death. Joel’s music indeed stands the “test of time” in that it resembles life as whole and then life as complete death (one minute you are here, the next you are forgotten). I believe that Joel tried his best to reach out to the individuals in our society by explaining the thoughts and courage that one displays while in battle. Of course, this song is reflective of our society today—one of gloom and one of unnecessary death. Does this music reflect the 1960s? Yes, I believe it is a true account; however, the realism of death is not foreseeable if one has not been involved in war.
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