Over 30 years after it was released, Good Morning Vietnam, the touching, funny drama starring Robin Williams as an irreverent but popular US Army DJ in Vietnam during the mid-’60s, is still as fresh as ever. Williams’ consummate performance makes the film, but it’s impossible to overlook the importance of the soundtrack, a hugely enjoyable collection of oldies like James Brown’s I Got You (I Feel Good) and Martha & the Vandellas’ Nowhere to Run that evoke the spirit of the times perfectly. Here’s how we rank all the songs on the Good Morning Vietnam soundtrack.
12. The Castaways – Liar, Liar
The Castaways never made it big (they didn’t even release an album until their 1999 Greatest Hits) but on the one occasion they did trouble the charts – namely, with the 1965 top 20 hit Liar, Liar – it was sensational.
11. The Marvelettes – Danger Heartbreak Dead Ahead
Back in 1965, The Marvelettes earned a top 20 R&B hit with the sublimely soulful Danger Heartbreak Dead Ahead.
10. The Rivieras – California Sun
Although first a hit for Joe Jones back in 1961, the most successful version of California Sun was recorded by The Rivieras, who climbed to number 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 with it in 1964.
9. The Vogues – Five O’Clock World
In 2021, broadcaster Simon Mayo introduced every episode of his radio drive show with The Vogues’ Five O’Clock World. The fact his show starts at 5 may have been the motive, but it also helps that it’s a standout tune.
8. Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders – The Game of Love
Today, The Mindbenders are best known for two hits – A Groovy Kind of Love and The Game of Love, which reached number 1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and No. 2 on the UK Singles Chart in 1965.
7. The Searchers – Sugar and Spice
Back in the early ’60s, Merseybeat band The Searchers made a big impression on the charts with Sugar and Spice, a song that borrowed from the template of the Drifters’ Sweets for My Sweet (a song with which the Searchers had already enjoyed huge success) and the nursery rhyme What Are Little Boys Made Of?. Released in 1963, it took the band to number 2 on the UK charts and number 44 in the US.
6. Them – Baby, Please Don’t Go
Big Joe Williams kickstarted his career in 1935 with his recording of Baby, Please Don’t Go. Three decades later, Irish rock band Them introduced its charms to a new generation with the help of a very young Jimmy Page on guitar and an even younger Van Morrisson on vocals.
5. The Beach Boys – I Get Around
Back in May 1964, the Beach Boys earned the first number one of their career with I Get Around, an “exciting, tailored-for-teen- tastes hot rod stomper.” (at least according to Cash Box) elevated to greatness by Brian Wilson’s typically superb songwriting. After becoming one of their most recognizable hits, it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2017.
4. The Beach Boys – The Warmth of the Sun
The Beach Boys made two contributions to the Good Morning Vietnam soundtrack, one of which was with The Warmth of the Sun, a smooth, incredibly moving ballad written by Brian Wilson and Mike Love in response to the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Speaking about it in his 2016 autobiography I Am Brian Wilson, Wilson explained: ‘When the shooting happened, It was all over the TV and on every kind of news. It seemed like something we had to think about, and songs were the way I thought about things. In a half-hour, we had The Warmth of the Sun. It was a personal response. But it got bigger over time because of the history.’ Blessed with irresistibly lovely vocals and sublime songwriting, the song made it to number eight in the US and number twenty-four in the UK on its release in 1964.
3. Louis Armstrong – What a Wonderful World
Head of ABC Records, Larry Newton, took a dislike to What a Wonderful World and refused to promote it, leading it to flop in the US when it was first released in 1967. Twenty years later, it was re-released as a single after appearing in Good Morning Vietnam, this time making it into the top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100.
2. Martha Reeves & The Vandellas – Nowhere to Run
Described by Cash Box as “a hard-driving, fast-moving, raunchy bluesy stomper with a contagious beat,” Nowhere to Run gave Martha Reeves & The Vandellas one of the biggest hits of their career back in 1965, reaching number eight on the Billboard Pop Singles chart and number five on the Billboard R&B Singles chart. It’s since been ranked as one of Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
1. James Brown – I Got You (I Feel Good)
James Brown bought all of his strut, swagger, and sauce to this classic recording from 1965, a top-five hit and arguably the most famous song in his canon. A funky, seductive earworm, I Got You (I Feel Good) rocketed to the top of the Billboard Rhythm and Blues Singles chart and stayed there for a full five weeks (three fewer weeks than his biggest hit Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag, but still very impressive anyway). It’s since been included on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. As well as Good Morning Vietnam, i’s also appeared in The Big Chill, The Nutty Professor; Paddington, Big Eyes, K-9; Garfield: The Movie, and Dr. Dolittle.