Pre-’75 Music

Several weeks ago I came home from work and my fiancee excitedly turned on some music that she had discovered on a Vietnamese music website, nhaccuatui.com.  The music was a number of songs recorded by Vietnamese artists before 1975, and most of these particular songs used the same melodies as classic songs mostly from the States.

I don’t know who saved, digitalized and uploaded the music to this particular website, but I am thankful.  Saigon and indeed the nation itself are quickly losing a lot of their history in the rapid run of development, and it is vital that culture be preserved for the future.

Here’s a song called Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the ‘Ol Oak Tree, sung in English by a singer listed as Thuy Ha Tu, but I’m positive that the order of her name is wrong and I also don’t know the tone markings.

Or here’s a song called Tinh Ban sung to the melody of James Taylor’s You’ve Got a Friend by a signer noted as Cathy Hue.  As far as I can tell, the Vietnamese lyrics are very similar to the English words.

Another song was this one, titled Mong Phieu Du and sung by a singer named Tuan Dung that borrows the melody from Cecilia by Simon and Garfunkel.

And I simply had to mention this song titled Loi Cho Co Hippie Bui Doi sung by a band called CBC and to the tune of Ticket to Ride by the Beatles.

Listening to these songs  and looking at the titles, I finally understood why a lot of middle-aged friends of mine in Long Xuyen know all of these songs, or at least the melodies, by heart: They listened to them while they were growing up in what was then South Vietnam.  Nowadays, I doubt that any young people in Ho Chi Minh City, or for that matter anywhere in the country would know about this music.  I have a friend who told me that his parents destroyed all of their records and record players after 1975 so there would be no problems with the new government.  Sadly, because of precautions like that, so much culture was lost.

Luckily, some of this classic rock style music has made it to YouTube, such as CBC singing People Let’s Stop the War originally by Grand Funk Railroad at a place called Sherwood Forest in Saigon.

Here’s another link to a YouTube video, again of the band CBC, singing a Vietnamese song.  I didn’t know that this type of music ever existed here.

So the next time you’re in a cafe and going crazy with the Vietnamese muzak, or when your eardrums are getting pierced with some contemporary crappy pop, think back to this music and believe that it can happen again here.

Finally, there is one more thing, also on YouTube, that is very interesting: A four-part audio slide show of bands from Saigon in the 60s and 70s.  It’s very moving to see their faces and hear the great music they created that has now been nearly forgotten.

Part 1,Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.

Enjoy and ask all your Vietnamese friends about this music; see what they know.

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16 thoughts on “Pre-’75 Music”

  1. Sherwood Forest was seemingly a very hip place back in the day. It was on the corner of Nguyen Du and Thu Khoa Huan. Sadly there’s an apartment complex where it once stood and no part of it left. I imagine local musicians got a lot of influence from the bands brought in to entertain the US/Aussie troops as the place most of them were put up in Saigon was the Meyerkord just across the street from Sherwood (you can still see that building today). Here’s a video of the Club, the guy who posted it has a lot of good videos besides that as well: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gajFA4rW218

    1. I had forgotten about the Meyerkord Hotel — it housed enlisted U.S. military personnel. I drove by it many times during year I was in Saigon, on the way to our officers’ quarters on what is now Nam Quốc Cang Street just off Nguyễn Trãi Street in District One. That is why I was not exposed to this music — my fellow officers were mostly senior to me and tended to listen to jazz on our roof terrace. I regret not getting out enough with Vietnamese at the time (although I did get married to one).

  2. Having lived in Saigon for a year in 1971 and 1972, I don’t know how I missed this phenomenon, but I did. But listening to Armed Forces Radio certainly gave a very narrow view of the music world at that time. Meanwhile the eclectic Vietnamese picked it up from the radio and improved it and adapted it for their language.
    The second photo in your posting appears to have been taken in some American college city, which brings up the point that much of this imported music culture probably came from the many Vietnamese university students returning to Saigon.

  3. Tyler,

    So this Meyerkord is now across from Sherwood on Pasteur? I’ve never even looked across the street. Was it a hotel back in the day? Or a guesthouse or what?

    Hi Mel,

    The second picture in the posting is of the band CBC that I mentioned. The band left the country in 1974 and eventually ended up in Houston, Texas. The photo could have been taken there in the 70s. Thanks for your input and I’ve love to hear more about the time you spent in Saigon during ’71-’72.

  4. Sorry, my post was a bit confusing in reference to the Sherwood. I mean the Sherwood Forest. So the Meyerkord is still there on Nguyen Du street (just before you get to Galaxy Cinema). It’s looking a bit rundown and I always wonder when it’ll go for another more modern office building.

    Mel, did your quarters have a name? I’d be interested to know if they are still around too.

  5. HI,

    A bit of a shot in the dark here, but if any service personnel were in vietnam in 70-71, is there any chance that you saw an Australian band performing in places like Cam Ranh Bay, Nui Dat or Vung Tau? My mother was the lead singer of that band called “the Action” and I am trying to chronicle her days during the war.

    Thank you

  6. Thuy Ha Tu is actually the 3 individual names, brother Tu and the 2 sisters Thuy Anh and Khanh Ha. Later on they became The Uptight.
    The first picture is of the band named The Forty-Six as members were born of the year.
    Mong Phieu Du was performed by May Trang Group, which consisted of Tuan Dung, Trung Hanh, Cao Giang.

  7. I understand how you feel, that youth nowadays might not even know of this music, like most of my friends don’t. Also, after 1975, circulating the pre-75 music around is sometimes not recommended at all.

    The links above were mostly what they called “Youth Music”, featuring a lot of covers and pop/rock songs/bands.

  8. Thank you! I really enjoy reading your blog and the links that you shared. From the links I found several songs that I have been searching for a while. Again, thank you.

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