Two emails came in this morning announcing the passing of two important men.

Phạm Duy, one of the most important figures (some would say “the” most important figure) in twentieth-century Vietnamese music, and Stanley Karnow, the author of one of the most influential books in English on the Vietnam/American War, both passed away.

saigon

Phạm Duy’s life was intimately connected to many of the major events in Vietnamese history in the mid-twentieth century, and his songs were the soundtrack to countless people’s lives.

Stanley Karnow was a reporter in South Vietnam for many years during the Vietnam/American War, and his Vietnam: A History sold millions of copies.

Stanley Karnow wrote pages about the strategies and plans of generals and politicians. Phạm Duy wrote songs about, among many other things, the feelings and emotions of people who tried to live their lives in a world made difficult by generals and politicians.

Two men, both giants in their own ways, who understood and appreciated the world in different ways.

Hỡi, hỡi ôi!

Thân phận làm người.

Alas, alas!

Such is man’s fate.