Srovnání písní Feel Like I´m Fixing to Die Rag a Good Night, Saigon – esej anglicky
My task consists in comparing of two various songs, which both deal with the war in Vietnam but each of them does it in a different style. If I consider the style of the music, special effects, that accompany the songs, lyrics and the musical instruments, I must say that I liked the first song better. It is called “Give me an… ”and further in this essay I am going to explain why I prefer this song to the other one.
I must admit that both singers sing very well and they manage to pull you in the song. The second song embodies a weak point though. It starts with a strong special effect. When I heard this, I imagined helicopters flying above the jungle. This meant an impressive beginning to me but after a while it changed into a very slow melody and gradually I got the feeling this song does not differ from the most songs we listen to on the radio every day. Personally I do not like very slow songs. Some exceptions exist but these possess specialty in some of their features, such as an extremely intelligent text or a beautiful voice of the singer. “Good Night, Saigon” does not belong to them. The slow melody relates to the serious lyrics but as I am going to show later, the text cannot be regarded as pathetic as it may seem during the first listening. We may hear an alteration in the melody in the second third of the song when the chorus joins.
On the other hand the first song starts very loudly with exclamations on the singer’s side as well as on the audience’s. The singer cooperates with the people who listen to him by spelling a word. He draws the attention to himself right in the beginning and then thanks to the loud and cheerful melody, we can say a melody you would hear in a fun land, does not let them fall asleep. The melody makes you kick up your heels with the rhythm immediately and hum the refrain that repeats fourth times. This cheerful music hides maybe more complex lyrics than the previous one.
The author of the first song wants us to feel sorry for the soldiers who had to fight in Vietnam. He describes the conditions in which they had to live and the danger that they had to face and which awaited them in the jungle in the highlands. Some people may feel sorry for the men but I do not. If we look at the last sentence of the first paragraph: “And we were so “gung-ho” to lay down our lives!“, we can see that the people joined the army freely and eagerness was driving them into the war. And when the reality contrasted to what they imagined before and when they realized someone could shoot them, then they could blame themselves for not having realized this before they had entered the army. No soldier can expect a pleasant life and if he or she cannot handle the consequences they should not have become soldiers. I do not know how the system in the American army works but when I remember Forrest Gump, the decision to join the army depended on men themselves and no one could force them. If someone let himself to be persuaded and then ended in Vietnam, he could blame no one but himself. I do not agree with the war in Vietnam anyway. I do not see the point why the United Stated sent their troops to fight in the Vietnamese jungle. The song shows a positive behavior of the men as well which originated in the atmosphere of the war. Billy Joel sings that the men in war became friends and stack together in the dangerous moments. The original naïve feeling of happiness and enthusiasm changed into fear and dependence on the others. The children, who rushed to war so enthusiastically, grew up very quickly. The text appeals very depressively but does not bring lots of suggestions to think of.
The first song might sound funny but it carries an important message. It warns precisely those people who could believe in promises of the American government to enjoy a lot of fun as American soldiers. The singers of this song really know what the war in Vietnam is like because they were there and they try to persuade the people not to go to the war and thus not support it. The song is written in an ironic style and at first sight it could sound as a propaganda song but when we listen further on, the song works against the intentions of the American government to persuade more people in favor of the war and shows what the war is really like and who profits and stands in the background of it. The song does not use direct names but hides the institutions under common known names that every American and also the majority of foreigners are familiar with, e.g. Uncle Sam stands for the American government and Commie for a communist. I guess from the first stanza that the USA finally came to the disillusionment they cannot win the war in short time or maybe they will not win in at all. Then the refrain follows, which I really liked not just for its melody but for the lyrics as well. Either it can express the indifference of the soldiers that they do not care where they go fighting, the main thing – they go fighting somewhere or that after the World War II the USA started to involve themselves in various parts of the world so why not in Vietnam. The ordinary soldier is not meant for thinking or wondering about it anyway because his only duty consists in fighting without thinking. This idea appears in both the songs but in “Good Night, Saigon” the soldier is so depressed by the Vietnamese environs, the danger and process of the war that he does not ponder over the sense of the war and whether he fights for the right side.
If someone can still regard war as a wonderful thing the end of the refrain of the first song assures him that nothing waits in the war but death.
Believe it or not someone always gains from wars and cruel conflicts, e.g. armament industry and other interest groups. Someone who is acquainted with the stock exchange can easily profit from the war.
Uncle Sam often uses his favorite argument of serving to the country and everybody should consider it as an honor to serve in the American army and possibly fall in the battle. The parents should swell with proud that their children fought in a war and fell there. I would agree with this to an extent but in case my country would be endangered. Still this argument seems to me quite exaggerated. If the enemy attacks one’s country then the people go and fight because they want to liberate their country from the usurpers but I still would not mix this duty with the emotional aspects. In the case of the Vietnamese war I do not understand how people could accede to this statement and let themselves tempt to fight for the honor of their country. The United States were not endangered and they just went to the war because the Soviet Union wanted to enlarge its influence to Vietnam and the USA rushed immediately there to free this jungle from the red influence. Furthermore I do not understand how the parents could send their own children to such a terrible war. The song says clearly how they come back. To illustrate the war a bit more we can hear at the end of the song the fire of the guns. In my opinion this is a good ending to culminate the message of the song.
I like the composition of the musical instruments in the second song. I find the combination of the piano and the drums excellent. They agree with the text and the topic of the song. Then I could hear another instrument in the background but I could not identify it. It seemed like a kind of a rattle. The composition of the musical instruments of the first song WAS even worse to identify. I could hear some squeaky and growling things together with some rattling things. I could not recognize any ordinary musical instrument. I tried to guess why the singers chose this particular style of music and I came to a conclusion that it corresponds well with the war in Vietnam, which turned out to be a crazy venture and so the music sounds crazy too.
To my mind the first song managed to BE a good protest song and can be used for other unsuccessful wars in the American history. I find the song quite topical even today with a small change in the text.