Still in Saigon: The Origin of a Song

Music often reflects the times in which it is written. One song in particular stands out in my mind, Still in Saigon by the Charlie Daniels band. The song was released in 1982 and reached #22 on the Billboard Charts in the United States (SongFacts). Still in Saigon came out at a time when attitudes in America regarding veterans on the Vietnam War were beginning to change. Issues such as PTSD (the subject of this song) and the lingering health effects were starting to be handled in a more appropriate fashion.

The song was written by Dan Daley in mid-1981 and is considered to be an authentic narrative of what the experience in Vietnam was like for many American soldiers (Pollock). Daley wrote the song based on the accounts of war given to him by people he personally knew that had served overseas, including his cousin (Pollock). The song was very politically charged and touched on a sensitive issue of the times. As a result very few artists made sense to produce it as a single. Still in Saigon was offered to both Bruce Springsteen and Charlie Daniels, and both initially passed up on the song (Pollock). Daniels later reconsidered and decided to publish it as a single.

The song was both encouraged and supported after its release by large population of Vietnam veterans. The group Vietnam Veterans of America encouraged Daniels to record the song (SongFacts). Daniels also spoke to many veterans he knew or encountered prior to the song’s recording to ask their opinion (SongFacts). The response was overwhelmingly in favor of its recording. Daley also saw this support; after the release of the song he began to receive letters from many veterans who wanted to tell their story (Pollock). This vast support by veterans is evidence of the credibility to the song. While it was not the only pro veteran song to be released around this time, it was one of the first. However, it specifically gave recognition to the veterans suffering from PTSD, who until that time had felt outcast. This newfound acceptance allowed the vets to experience less shame which, many still felt, even a decade later.

Charlie Daniels Band. “Still in Saigon.” Windows. By Dan Daley. 1982. Compact Disc.

Pollock, Bruce. Dan Daley-“Still in Saigon”. 9 January 2014. 8 September 2014. <;.

SongFacts. Still in Saigon. 2014. 7 September 2014. <;.

One thought on “Still in Saigon: The Origin of a Song

  1. Zach, This is a very solid post. I’d look for these articles and then start looking for books on PTSD.
    -Pleading PTSD, Time, May 26, 1980
    -The Troubled Vietnam Vet, Newsweek, March 30, 1981, at 23.
    -Time, July 13, 1981
    -Time, April 15, 1985.

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