I just had a really good semester in the classroom, the best at Pepperdine. In the first two years, I had some good classes and even three or four great ones: “great” means you cannot ask for more. But for each semester there was at least one class out of three or four (depending on the semester) that was average at best or, at least once in my first year, quite sub-par. Well, not this fall. If the third time is the charm in trying most things in life, then the third year might be my charm in full-time teaching.
There are different ways to build a top-ten list. The way I employed for this list is twofold: pick the top song, then poke around to see if I could build a sensible list leading to this song. When I first thought of this list, I knew right away which song I’ll put at the top. My decision was pretty firm. It grew firmer when I made an important discovery that, as far as I know, has never been made by anyone before.
Belief in God tends to be strong for people living amid warfare. It is hardly a surprise then that prayer finds its way into music written during war. It was surely the case with popular music in South Vietnam.
Since this is the week of Christmas, it is worth mentioning that one the most popular South Vietnamese albums is filled with prayer. It is the third album of the fine series Sơn Ca (Birdsong), and the title is simply Giáng Sinh: Tình Yêu và Hòa Bình: Christmas: Love and Peace. It features some of the biggest names in the Saigon music scene at the time: Thái Thanh, Khánh Ly, Thanh Lan, Giao Linh, Lệ Thu, Anh Khoa, etc. (A recording from Elvis Phương would have completed this A-list.)
It is not easy at all to choose a couple of songs from Trịnh Công Sơn for any list of ten songs about the Vietnam War. The first of his five albums in the Sing for the Vietnamese Country series – Hát Cho Quê Hương Việt Nam – is a masterpiece that must be listened from top to bottom. It is not a surprise that both of my selections come from that album.
Hãy Sống Giùm Tôi – Live for Me or Please Live For Me – is perhaps the simplest composition in the entire album: musically, perhaps; linguistically, definitely. It took me, what, all of six or seven minutes to translate the lyrics – half of the time on two or three lines.