BETHANY, W.Va. – A 1969 Bethany College graduate and Vietnam veteran led a journey through America’s musical history during Homecoming weekend at the college.

Doug Bradley LectureDoug Bradley, co-author of We Gotta Get Out of this Place: The Soundtrack of the Vietnam War,” spoke Saturday, Sept. 28, to a group of alumni and guests that included several of his Bethany contemporaries and a few veterans.

In the 1970s, music was a great unifier, Bradley said.

“Radio was our Internet,” Bradley said. “You were all listening to the same music.”

His presentation resulted in a sing-along and even some dancing.

“We Gotta Get Out of this Place” examines the music that spoke to servicemen and women of the time. The book was named the top musical book of 2015 by Rolling Stone magazine.

“There is not one Vietnam story,” Bradley said. “There are 300,000.”

Bradley’s book mentions dozens of songs, and he played several during his presentation: “For What It’s Worth” by Buffalo Springfield,” “Ballad of the Green Berets” by SSgt. Barry Sadler, “What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye, “Chain of Fools” by Aretha Franklin, “Detroit City” by Bobby Bare, “Leaving on a Jet Planel” by Peter, Paul, and Mary, “I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ to Die” by Country Joe and the Fish, and “We Gotta Get Out of this Place” by the Animals.

Bradley SigningThe topics included all sorts of messages from the tension of the era to general loneliness. Regardless of the message, Bradley said music often kept soldiers in tune to home.

“Whether you went there or stayed here, whether you served or you demonstrated against the war, you were all listening to the same music,” Bradley said. He noted, however, that the message a person hear in the song could be different from person to person.

Take “Chain of Fools” as an example. He said depending on the individual, the song could be one of female empowerment, one about the military chain of command, or one about the civil rights movement.

He also discussed Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On,” which resulted from a lengthy conversation with the singer’s brother, Frankie, upon his return from Vietnam.

Bradley said even the anti-war anthems of the time had a place in the field. He said about of a third of those who served signed up because they believed strongly in the war, a third enlisted because they knew they would be drafted, and a third were drafted.

Bradley, who is a distinguished lecturer emeritus at the University of Wisconsin, said that he works with two teaching assistants who are veterans. They said that most soldiers today listen to current music privately through headphones. However, when they share music, it’s often classic rock from the Vietnam-era, Bradley said.


Bethany College, founded in 1840, is the oldest private college in West Virginia. The Bethany experience focuses on academic excellence in the area of liberal arts and prepares students for a lifetime of work and a life of significance.