On his current U.S. tour, Paul Simon, who is getting raves everywhere, has included his rendition of the venerable reggae singer Jimmy Cliff’s bouncy but blunt antiwar song “Vietnam.” Legend has it that Bob Dylan called that tune, which Cliff wrote and recorded in 1970, the best protest song he’d ever heard.
It may not be the best, but “Vietnam” certainly bangs home its anti war message. After chanting the word “Vietnam” six times, the words go: “Yesterday I got a letter/from my friend/fighting in Vietnam/and this is what he had to say:/’tell all my friends/that I’ll be coming home soon/my time ‘ll be up some time in June./don’t forget’ he said/’to tell my sweet Mary/her golden lips as sweet as cherries'”
You can more or less guess the rest. After more “Vietnam” chanting, Cliff hits us with: “It was just the next day/his mother got a telegram/it was addressed from Vietnam./Now mistress Brown she lives in the U.S.A./and this is what she wrote and said:/’Don’t be alarmed’/she told me the telegram said/’but mistress Brown/your son is dead!’/
Cliff ends the song with the plea: “Somebody please stop that war now!”
You can see Cliff doing the tune on You Tube .