Trinh Cong Son (February 28, 1939-April 1, 2001), Vietnamese musician

Son was an enormously popular and important protest singer who was dubbed "the Bob Dylan of Vietnam" by Joan Baez and a target of persecution by both North and South Vietnam.

Son was born in the Dac Lac province and grew up in the city of Hue. He studied to be a teacher, but became a well known singer beginning in 1957 with his first hit, "Uot Mi" ("Crying Eyes"). During the Vietnam War, Son played to huge audiences protesting against the puppet government of South Vietnam. His songs of protest were immensely popular, especially his best-known song "Ngu Di Con" ("Sleep, My Son"), a lament of a mother for her son killed in combat, which was even a hit in Japan. The huge crowds at his performances protected him for arrest on charges of draft dodging, and while not performing he lived in hiding. An intense campaign of harassment and persecution by the secret police culminated in the banning of his performances and recordings.

When Saigon fell in 1975, initially it seemed that Son would be embraced by the North Vietnamese government. His song "Noi Vong Tay Lon" ("Joining Hands for Solidarity") was played so incessantly by the captured Radio Saigon that it became known as 'The Song of Liberation Day". But communism and the artist are like oil and water, and Son soon fell into disfavor was sent to a reeducation camp to till the soil for a number of years.

When Son was released, he began recording again. This time, however, he abandoned politics for love songs, leading many to believe that it was a condition of his release. Son once again became a popular musician, gaining many young fans who had absolutely no idea about his political past. Many young Vietnamese pop stars have recorded his love songs.

Throughout his life, he refused to flee Vietnam, despite the fact that all his family (except for his mother) and many other political activists left. Son died of a combination of problems compounded by drinking. He was buried in a Buddhist pagoda outside what is now Ho Chi Minh City.

Sources include: http://www.salon.com/people/feature/2001/08/03/cong_son/index.html; http://www.comp.nus.edu.sg/~nguyenvu/Artists/VT_Music_artists.htm

An English translation of the lyrics to one of his songs, "Nguoi Con Gai Viet Nam Da Vang", swiped from http://www.cycling-sulawesi.com/songs.html:

Girl, so young, with skin like gold,
Home you love like fields of grain,
Girl, so young, with skin like gold,
On your face fall tears like rain.

Girl, so young, with skin like gold,
Home you love, so do love the weak.
Seated there in dreams of peace,
Proud of home as of your womanhood.

You've never known our land in peace.
You've never known Olden Viet Nam.
You've never sung our village songs.
All you have is an angry heart.

Passing by the village gate,
In the night with guns booming low,
Girl so young, you clutch your heart.
On soft skin a bleeding wound grows.

Girl, so young, with skin like gold,
Home you love like fields of grain,
Girl, so young, with skin like gold,
You love home which is no more.

O! Unfeeling and heartless death.
Dark our land a thousand years.
Home, my sister, you've come alone.
And I, alone, still search for you.

Girl, so young, with skin like gold
Girl, so young, with skin like gold
Girl, so young, with skin like gold…

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