[sixties-l] Obit: Trinh Cong Son, Vietnam-era Antiwar Singer

From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: Mon Apr 09 2001 - 20:54:10 EDT

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    April 5, 2001

    Trinh Cong Son, Vietnam-era Antiwar Singer



    BANGKOK, April 4 Trinh Cong Son, an antiwar singer and songwriter whose
    melancholy music stirred Vietnamese on both sides of the war, died on
    Sunday and was buried today at a Buddhist temple near Ho Chi Minh City. He
    was 62.
    His family said he had diabetes after years of periodic hospital visits.
    Residents said thousands of mourners thronged his home, piling bouquets
    around it.
    With his focus on human emotions and his refusal to conform to official
    dogma, Mr. Son suffered pressure from both the government of South
    Vietnam, where he lived during the war, and the victorious Communists, who
    sentenced him to four years of farm labor and political education when the
    war ended.
    But his popularity won out and his music endured; in the last years of his
    life he was tolerated and even embraced by the government. His songs are
    widely performed both in Vietnam and among Vietnamese overseas.
    "Crying for Trinh Cong Son," read the headline over a full-page tribute in
    the daily youth newspaper Thanh Nien this week.
    "Truth, innocence and beauty in Son's songs surpassed all hostility," the
    newspaper said.
    In his last years he took up painting as well as songwriting and was a
    fixture, with his friends and his bottle of Scotch, at a cafe in Ho Chi
    Minh City, the former Saigon.
    "Now, really, I have nothing to protest," said Mr. Son in an interview last
    April on the 25th anniversary of end of the war. "I continue to write
    songs, but they concern love, the human condition, nature. My songs have
    changed. They are more metaphysical now, because I am not young."
    Mr. Son's popularity was at its height during the war years in the 1960's
    and 1970's when his songs propelled the careers of some of the best-known
    South Vietnamese singers. He became known internationally as the Bob Dylan
    of Vietnam, singing of the sorrow of war and the longing for peace in a
    divided country.
    Almost everybody knew the words to songs like "Ngu Di Con" ("Lullaby"),
    about the pain of a mother mourning her soldier son:
    "Rest well my child, my child of the yellow race. Rock gently my child, I
    have done it twice. This body, which used to be so small, that I carried in
    my womb, that I held in my arms. Why do you rest at the age of 20 years?"
    Because of what it called "defeatist" sentiments like these, the South
    Vietnamese government tried to suppress Mr. Son's music which flourished
    underground and was also listened to clandestinely in the North.
    When the war ended in 1975, Mr. Son refused to flee like many other
    southern Vietnamese including most members of his family. Along with tens
    of thousands of other southern Vietnamese who remained, he was sentenced to
    a period of "re-education."
    Born the eldest of seven children and trained as a teacher, Mr. Son never
    married. His siblings fled to Canada and the United States after the war,
    and since the death of his mother a few years ago he has been the only one
    of his family in Vietnam.

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