Yellow River — a Vietnam War classic


JEFF Christie wrote Yellow River based on the US civil war, but because the song was released at the same time as US troops were being sent to Vietnam, its lyrics struck a chord with many draftees, who found they could easily relate to the words.
  Nevertheless, the song has come to be regarded as a classic Vietnam era song.
  Many US servicemen today still consider Yellow River among their favourite songs of the time.

Bob Sullivan, Maryland, USA, wrote:

YELLOW River came out as I was being released from active duty in the US Navy. It brings to mind exactly how I felt as I was set free,some 36 years later (plus or minus) ... it remains my favorite song of all time. Thanks for the memories, Mr Christie.

Dave Wilkinson, USA, wrote:

MY name is Dave Wilkinson. I'm a Vietnam Vet and my unit, Whiskey Battery 1st Battalion 12th Marine Regiment, are in the process of putting a website together.
  We hope to use Yellow River for the background music on our site. GREAT SONG !!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ross Tuttle, Texas, USA, wrote:

I HAVE been a BIG fan of Jeff and the group since I first heard Yellow River in 1970. That song is still my all time favorite after all these years.
  I carried Yellow River with me as I traveled in the Army and Navy for 30 years!
  How can I get compilations of your songs? The music stores that I shop here in Dallas do not have anything.
  This geriatric rocker is still hangin' in...

Boondogle, Florida, USA, wrote:

YELLOW River was unlike any other anti-war song. While others had strong messages, they were couched in equally grim and gritty melodies, like the anthemic War by Edwin Starr, or Eric Burdon's Skypilot.
  But Yellow River was bright and bouncy and echoed the feeling of happiness we had when we knew our tour of duty was over. It remains a song that continues to bring back so many fond memories for me .. the joy of going home.
  It should have been the first song featured on the Good Morning Vietnam soundtrack.

Ob Bop, Nebraska, USA, wrote:

ON Christie's first album was a song for the times. Vietnam was still going strong and a lot of vets coming back from overseas related to Yellow River.

"So long, boy, you can take my place
I got my papers, I got my pay
So pack my bags and I'll be on my way . . . to Yellow River "

  Discharge papers from the military and back pay in pocket ... the vet walks into the civilian world.

"Yellow River, Yellow River . . . is in my mind and in my eyes
Yellow River, Yellow River . . . is in my blood, it's the place that I love
Got no time for explanations, got no time to lose
Tomorrow night you'll find me sleepin' underneath the moon, and Yellow River"

  Above is the chorus that sets the time and place ... the warrior is home now and that which he longed for most is now at hand.

"Put my gun down, the war is won
Fill my glass high, the time has come
I'm goin' back to the place that I love ... Yellow River"

  The war was won on a personal level. In-country Vietnam troops rotated in and out individually, not by unit. This guy's war is over but 400,000+ are still in The Nam.

"Cannon fire lingers in my mind
I'm so glad I'm still alive
And I've been gone for such a long time ... from Yellow River"

  The memories linger, never to disappear. But, there's that pretty girl with him at Yellow River. Sigh ...

"I remember the nights were cool
I can still see the water pool
And I remember the girl that I knew . . . from Yellow River"

  The above concludes the song. Has the couple split? I don't know. Perhaps a purposeful question is left ... just like our commitment to Vietnam still raises questions.

Yellow River had a great impact on me when it hit the air in 1970.
  I was drawing closer to the age when the draft would affect me personally. I saw returning vets grooving on the song .. a rockin' song with basic drums, guitar and vocals.
  A basic lead guitar riff bounces in and out but never dominates. The main power is in the words ... words that affect me and others to this day.
  When that plane dropped me off in San Francisco after bringing me back from southeast Asia, the kin were there with the pick-up I had left in storage.
  As I left to go visit Berkeley as a civilian, looking for a pretty hippy chick to welcome me back ... I threw Yellow River into the cassette deck. Sigh ...
  If you want to perhaps envision what the guys of that time were thinking as they returned from overseas ... give Yellow River a try and, as you listen to the lyrics ... visualise returning to a fond time and place you have been away from.
  Yellow River is one of my personal top 25 songs of all times, even after all these years.

Larry Matthews, California, USA, wrote:

I ALWAYS really liked Yellow River, especially the guitar work.
  It's a good illustration of the rotation situation in Vietnam. Individual soldiers served for a year (or in the case of marines, 13 months) and then were rotated back to the states — unlike other wars where you were stuck in combat for the duration of the conflict.
    I can guarantee the song certainly is NOT about the Yellow River in China. That is one place Americans were definetely not welcome at that time.
  But it could have been either of the Yellow River areas in either Georgia or Iowa.
  All I know is that it is a great song and, like Galveston, it shows that most soldiers were more than ready to do their time and go home.

Glen Keenan, USA, wrote:

THERE'S a group of us who go on an annual campout at Yellow River National Forest in the northeast corner of the state of Iowa here in the US.
  We know of your song Yellow River and wondered what inspired it. As far as we know, there are only two Yellow Rivers in the world — the Yellow River in Iowa, and the Yellow River (Huang He) in China.
  Is there another Yellow River that you know about? Are you familiar with the Yellow River in Iowa?

Jeff answers:
  Probably two things inspired me to write Yellow River: the first being some raggedy, faded, old pulp fiction Cowboy novel by Hank Janson, the title of which escapes me, but the colour was yellow, in some market stall downtown Leeds, circa 1960. To a young boy fascinated by Americana, the West, Native Americans, and the civil war, the evocative imagery of this lodged itself into my mind’s computer for later usage.
The second was a Jim Webb song called Galveston, recorded by Glenn Campbell in 1968/9 that I just loved, and wished that I could have written. So I guess Yellow River became my Galveston!
  I didn’t know about the Iowa YR, are you sure they didn’t name it after the song? Just kidding, but I was told by Scott Mackenzie (San Francisco, another great song) that YR was the name of some Army Transit camp in the Vietnam war and one of the reasons why the song was thought by many in the US to be a "Vietnam song", which just goes to prove how people put their own interpretations onto songs. It was in fact written with the civil war in mind.
  Incidentally I recently read that the 4th Armoured Division that liberated Baghdad is called The Iron Horse, which just happens to be the title of my third hit over here in the UK, and Europe - bizarre, huh?
  Lastly but not leastly I’m not familiar with the YR National Forest, but there are more than a few Chinese restaurants with the same name. People are such copycats!