Songwriter and journalist Dan Daley wrote the song “Still in Saigon.” The song tackles the miseries faced by a Vietnam veteran a decade after returning from the war. In an interview, Daley shared the story behind the writing of the song. It’s interesting to note that the songwriter has never served in the military. But, he has a deep connection with Bobby Muller, founder of the organization Vietnam Veterans of America.
“The more I learned about what people go through in wars and what people in the Vietnam War, in particular, went through, really underscored how I could not speak for them,” Daley stated.
“I could maybe create a voice in the form of a song, and that’s exactly what happened. There was no way I could put myself out there and say, ‘This is how a Vietnam veteran feels.’ I didn’t have the bona fides for that. It’s one thing to make a work of art and interpret what you think someone has gone through, but to put yourself out there and to say, ‘I’m speaking for them,’ no, you can’t do that. They have to speak for themselves. That’s why someone like a Bobby Muller was so important.”
Daley started performing the song around New York City after he wrote it. He later made a demo and pitched it to Charlie Daniels and Bruce Springsteen. Eventually, Daniels and his band recorded it on their 1982 album Windows.
The Veteran’s Story
The song, which is a narrative, starts in a place where the lyrics would have a perfect fitting – San Francisco. Apparently, it ended upon the war veteran’s return. As the song’s title suggests, the story happened in Saigon, now known as Ho Chi Minh City. It served as the South Vietnamese capital during the Vietnam War where Daniels, the protagonist was drafted. For thirteen months and fifteen days, Daniels remained in the military. The latter part of his military service has been traumatic for him. Yet, his emotional struggles only got worse when he returned home. A bitter and broken family welcomed him. His war-protesting younger brother labels him a “killer” while his father calls him a “vet”. Apart from that, he began to experience the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which he developed from his military service.
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