Goodnight Saigon

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"Goodnight Saigon"
Single by Billy Joel
from the album The Nylon Curtain
Released 1983
Format CD
Recorded Spring 1982
Genre Rock
Length 7:03
Label Columbia
Writer(s) Billy Joel
Producer(s) Phil Ramone
Billy Joel singles chronology
"Allentown"
(1983)
"Goodnight Saigon"
(1983)
"Tell Her About It"
(1983)

"Goodnight Saigon" is a song written by Billy Joel, originally appearing on his 1982 album The Nylon Curtain, about the Vietnam War. It depicts the situation and attitude of United States Marines beginning with their military training on Parris Island and then into different aspects of Vietnam combat.

Lyrics and music[edit]

The lyrics of "Goodnight Saigon" are about marines in battle bonding together, fighting their fears and trying to figure out how to survive.[1] The singer, a United States Marine, sings of "we" rather than "I," emphasizing that the marines are all in the situation together.[1] In the bridge Joel sings of the darkness and the fear it induced in the marines .[1] This leads into the refrain, which has multiple voices coming together to sing that the Marines will "all go down together", emphasizing their camaraderie.[1][2] Images from the war captured in the song include reading Playboy Magazine, seeing Bob Hope, listening to The Doors, smoking from a hash pipe, praying to Jesus, remembering Charlie and John F. Baker and those who died in the fighting.[2][1] Joel has said that he "wasn't trying to make a comment on the war, but writing about the soldier as a person."[3][4] According to Rolling Stone Magazine critic Stephen Holden, "As the song unfolds, Joel's "we" becomes every American soldier, living and dead, who fought in Southeast Asia."[2]

The song begins with the sound of crickets chirping, providing the feeling of evening coming.[1] This leads into the sound of helicopters, which conjures up images of helicopters fighting in the Vietnam War or picking up wounded marines.[1][2] Then Joel plays a figure on the piano before beginning to sing.[1][2] The opening is reversed at the end of the song, as the piano figure returns, followed by the sound of helicopters, and finally the crickets, before the song comes to an end.[1]

Critical reception[edit]

Holden describes the song as possibly "the ultimate pop-music epitaph to the Vietnam War."[2] He also praises the way Joel's voice captures the emotions of a nineteen year old soldier.[2] However, fellow Rolling Stone critic Dave Marsh considers it bordering on "obscenity" that the song "refuses to take sides."[5] Allmusic critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine considers it part of a suite on side one of The Nylon Curtain that represents "layered, successful, mature pop that brings Joel tantalizingly close to his ultimate goal of sophisticated pop/rock for mature audiences."[6] Musician Garth Brooks has identified "Goodnight Saigon" as his favorite Billy Joel song.[4] Producer Phil Ramone has stated that the song's symbolism "resonates with many people—especially musicians."[4]

Other appearances[edit]

"Goodnight Saigon" regularly featured in Joel's concerts and was included on the live albums Концерт, 12 Gardens Live and Live at Shea Stadium: The Concert.[7] It has also been included on several compilation albums, including Greatest Hits, Souvenir: The Ultimate Collection, The Ultimate Collection, The Essential Billy Joel, Piano Man: The Very Best of Billy Joel and My Lives.[7]

A shortened version of "Goodnight Saigon" was sung by Will Ferrell in a Saturday Night Live sketch, on May 16, 2009, a sketch that also featured cameos by Green Day, Norm McDonald, Maya Rudolph, Amy Poehler, Tom Hanks, Phil Rudd, Artie Lange, and Anne Hathaway as background musicians.

"Goodnight Saigon" was included in the play Movin' Out in a scene where one of the characters has a nightmare of his experiences fighting in Vietnam.[8]

"Goodnight Saigon" was also covered by country superstar Garth Brooks on the classic rock CD in his boxed set, "Blame it All on My Roots", (released in 2013) which covers his musical influences. Capitol Records released a very moving rendition of "Goodnight Saigon" sung by Joan Baez in 1991 on a compilation album called "Brothers In Arms".

Chart positions[edit]

Chart (1983) Peak
position
Belgian Singles Chart (Flanders)[9] 1
Dutch Singles Chart[10] 1
Irish Singles Chart 19
UK Singles Chart 29
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 56
Preceded by
"Save Your Love" by Renée and Renato
Belgian Singles Chart (Flanders)
26 February 1983 (2 weeks)
Succeeded by
"Billie Jean" by Michael Jackson
Preceded by
"You Can't Hurry Love" by Phil Collins
Dutch Singles Chart
22 January 1983 (4 weeks)
Succeeded by
"Fame" by Irene Cara

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Bielen, K. (2011). The Words and Music of Billy Joel. ABC-CLIO. pp. 59–60. ISBN 9780313380167. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Holden, S. (October 14, 1982). "The Nylon Curtain". Rolling Stone Magazine. Retrieved 2014-03-30. 
  3. ^ Bordowitz, H. (2006). Billy Joel: The Life & Times of an Angry Young Man. Random House. pp. 143–145. ISBN 9780823082483. 
  4. ^ a b c Ramone, P. & Granata, C.L. (2007). Making Records: The Scenes Behind the Music. Hyperion. p. 218. ISBN 9780786868599. 
  5. ^ Marsh, D. (1983). Marsh, D. & Swenson, J., ed. The New Rolling Stone Record Guide. Rolling Stone Press. p. 260. ISBN 0394721071. 
  6. ^ Erlewine, S.T.. "The Nylon Curtain". Allmusic. Retrieved 2014-04-01. 
  7. ^ a b "Goodnight Saigon". Allmusic. Retrieved 2014-04-01. 
  8. ^ Shearer, B.F. (2007). Home Front Heroes: A Biographical Dictionary of Americans During Wartime, Volume 2. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 444. ISBN 9780313334221. 
  9. ^ http://www.ultratop.be/nl/showitem.asp?interpret=Billy+Joel&titel=Goodnight+Saigon&cat=s (Retrieved September 17, 2012)
  10. ^ "De Nederlandse Top 40, week 5, 1983". Retrieved 2009-07-24. 

External links[edit]