I could have gone to Canada
Or I could have stayed in school
But I was brought up differently
I couldn't break the rules
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Ho Chi Minh City skyline
War means different things to different people. But one aspect is the lingering effect it has on former soldiers. Some can’t handle the memories. Others battle on in peace while carrying the scars they suffered during times of battle. "Still in Saigon" is about veterans who return home but their thoughts remain at war. They are still in Saigon.
The performer of the song is recording artist Charlie Daniels, born in 1936, and an American musician who has done just about everything. He co-wrote a song recorded by Elvis and he played on albums recorded by Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen. He has written a vast range of songs, toured, written film music, has been featured in TV ads and even had a park named after him in his home town in Tennessee. He was inducted in to the Grand Ole Opry in 2008 and has been honoured with awards aplenty.
But Charlie, who has written a vast array of songs, didn’t write "Still in Saigon." That was the work of Dan Daley. Charlie Daniels was angry about what he considered was the poor treatment and lack of respect for men who had fought in Vietnam and later returned home to the United States. Daniels wanted to tell the world how he felt and was pleased when he asked some returned soldiers if they approved of the song. “And I've always been glad that I did, because it was, I guess, the first song of support for the Vietnam veterans."
Ho Chi Minh City Hall at night
(thanks, Joshua Rappeneker)
Daniels has fans all over the world, but in his country he is seen as a true patriot, a great Southern gentleman. He’s a gentle giant, too, being well over 6 feet tall. His songs are about working people, about life at the coal face, and about the finer qualities of humankind.
And the Saigon Charlie sings about is no longer the city it was in the years of the Vietnam War. For starters, it has had a name change and is now known as Ho Chi Minh City. Not that that fazes the locals, who will always call Saigon by its old name.
It’s the largest city in Vietnam and still has wonderful remnants of the French occupation many years ago. Yes, there is modern architecture, but some of the glorious French colonial buildings are a must to see and explore.
American Community School c 1960
If you are planning a trip as a first-time tourist, you should be prepared for two things – traffic and traffic-lights. Thousands of locals use motor scooters or bikes and often toss on the odd passenger and cargo. Using the pavement or sidewalk as part of a road is not unusual. Ignoring red lights and driving the wrong way on a one-way street is not unusual. Get used to it. That’s the bustling life of modern Saigon. Oh, and there are surprisingly few traffic accidents.
Charlie Daniels had never been to Vietnam, which only goes to show you can still record a brilliant song without first-hand experience.
~ Cenarth Fox
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