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February is African American Heritage Month and WERS AT NIGHT is honoring one artist or one song every day this month that helped contribute to social consciousness, political responsibility, or civil rights. At WERS, we believe that these songs are always bigger than just entertainment; music can be used to drive a movement or even motivate a nation.
Tonight for Rockers we will be honoring Jimmy Cliff’s song “Vietnam.”
Jimmy Cliff is a legendary reggae artist who blew up in his acting role in the movie “The Harder They Come.” He provided music for this soundtrack and that’s what really caught the ear of record companies and reggae enthusiasts. With the large audience that Jimmy Cliff had, he often used it to address important issues going on at the time. Like Junior Murvin, Jimmy also made politically conscious music.
One of his more popular songs was “Vietnam.” As the title says, Vietnam is dedicated to the Vietnam War. In this song Jimmy tells the story of his friend that was fighting in Vietnam and was sending him letters to keep in touch. In the second verse of the song, Jimmy goes on to talk about the letter his friend’s mom got from the army saying her son had died. It’s a sad song but was accurate the family dynamic during that time.
Jimmy used his popularity to touch upon real issues at a time when people needed someone to be their voice and to cope with the loss of fathers, sons, and brothers. Many African American men were enlisting in the Vietnam War in order to make better lives for themselves when they came back but a lot of them never did.