I just finished reading Michael Herr’s Dispatches, his book about the year or so he spent in Vietnam during the war as a correspondent for Esquire. I read the book at least once per year, often twice. To me, it’s the best book ever written, about war or anything else (although if you haven’t read Jack Murphy’s Murphy’s Law, I highly encourage you to do so).

I often try to match Herr’s style of writing, and almost always fail. It’s un-copyable, although this book served as an inspiration for filmmakers Francis Ford Coppola and Stanley Kubrick.

Herr discusses several aspects of his time in Vietnam. He describes combat, the weather, the people he met, the food he ate and the drugs he smoked. He also mentions several times the music and songs that served as the soundtrack to different battles. The Animals, The Mothers of Invention, and Jimi Hendrix all played as central of a role in Herr’s experience as the Vietcong did.

I thought it would be interesting to see which songs were the most popular every year the U.S. troops fought in Vietnam. Although our military personnel had a role in the country before 1961, I’m starting the list there for brevity. As for what constitutes “the most popular song,” I decided to use Billboard Magazine’s Year-End Hot 100 singles for each year. There are probably other metrics and lists, and if you don’t agree with my list, please tell me in the comments!

Artist: Bobby Lewis
Song: “Tossin’ and Turnin'”

Artist: Acker Bilk
Song: “Stranger on the Shore”

Artist: The Beach Boys
Song: “Surfin’ U.S.A.”

Artist: The Beatles
Song: “I Want to Hold Your Hand”