Singer Joan Baez (with the guitar on her back) visits prisoners of war in Hanoi during December 1972 Christmas bombings (Press AP AAA wire photograph).

Joan Baez at Thong Nhat Hotel (Hotel Metropole today) in Hanoi

Hotel Metropole Hanoi book coverParallel with her career as a singer-songwriter, Joan Baez has been a human rights activist and anti-war campaigner. In December 1972, at the height of the Vietnam conflict, she spent thirteen days in North Vietnam and returned home with fifteen hours of tapes. According to Charles J. Fuss in Joan Baez: A Bio-Bibliography, Baez herself referred to the resulting project as a record company’s nightmare.
“Where Are You Now, My Son?”, the title track of the album, runs to twenty-two minutes, taking up the whole of side two. It refers to the repeated uttering of a mother who was looking for her son after one of the dreadful attacks of the so-called “Christmas Bombing” in December 1972, eleven days of continued bombardments of North Vietnam and Hanoi. Joan Baez survived these days at the Hotel Metropole, then called Thong Nhat. She spent many hours in the hotel’s shelter.
“Where are you now my son?” is more than a song, is spoken as well as sung, and includes actual recordings of the war, from the massive Christmas bombing raids on Hanoi. It was produced by Baez and Norbert Putnam.

The cover of the album Where Are You Now My Son?

The cover of the record reads (in Mrs Baez personal hand writing):
Side two of this album, „Where Are You My Son?”, is a ballad written, spoken, and sung by myself about the eleven days of bombing I experienced in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Christmas of 1972. Interspersed with and superimposed upon it are sounds recorded on my portable tape machine – children laughing, sirens blaring, bomb falling, women singing – some moments shared inside our hotel bomb shelter with Indians, Poles, Cubans, French, Vietnamese – a matter of fact discussion about fear and death with Monti, a Cuban sailor whose ship was stuck in the mined Haiphong harbor – a dazing segment of the press conference of six American pilots shot down during the first night of bombing – a service that Mike Allen and I gave Christmas Eve in our hotel lobby which was interrupted by a bomb blast and then a raid… There were over sixty bombing raids in eleven days, in what turned out to be the heaviest bombing in the history of the world.
Mike Allen, Episcopal minister travelling with our party of four Americans, also carried a cassette machine, so the male narrative voice is his. Much of the loud bomb and jet sounds, anti-aircraft, etc was taped by him from the balcony of the third floor of our hotel – the living quarters of Jean Thoroval of Agence France Press and his wife Marie Claud(sic.), and their friends. Bless them all for the courage they gave me.

I am passing on to you, as clearly and powerfully as I can, the gift which was extended to me by the sheer chance of being somewhere at the right time in history and living through it.

The war in Indochina is not yet over, and the war against violence has barely begun.
Joan Baez

Links to Christmas bombing


Here is the text (from

(Words and Music by Joan Baez)

It’s walking to the battleground that always makes me cry
I’ve met so few folks in my time who weren’t afraid to die
But dawn bleeds with the people here and morning skies are red
As young girls load up bicycles with flowers for the dead
An aging woman picks along the craters and the rubble
A piece of cloth, a bit of shoe, a whole lifetime of trouble
A sobbing chant comes from her throat and splits the morning air
The single son she had last night is buried under her
They say that the war is done
Where are you now, my son?
An old man with unsteady gait and beard of ancient white
Bent to the ground with arms outstretched faltering in his plight
I took his hand to steady him, he stood and did not turn
But smiled and wept and bowed and mumbled softly, “Danke schoen”
The children on the roadsides of the villages and towns
Would stand around us laughing as we stood like giant clowns
The mourning bands told whom they’d lost by last night’s phantom messenger
And they spoke their only words in English, “Johnson, Nixon, Kissinger”
Now that the war’s being won
Where are you now, my son?
The siren gives a running break to those who live in town
Take the children and the blankets to the concrete underground
Sometimes we’d sing and joke and paint bright pictures on the wall
And wonder if we would die well and if we’d loved at all
The helmetless defiant ones sit on the curb and stare
At tracers flashing through the sky and planes bursting in air
But way out in the villages no warning comes before a blast
That means a sleeping child will never make it to the door
The days of our youth were fun
Where are you now, my son?
From the distant cabins in the sky where no man hears the sound
Of death on earth from his own bombs, six pilots were shot down
Next day six hulking bandaged men were dazzled by a room
Of newsmen. Sally keep the faith, let’s hope this war ends soon
In a damaged prison camp where they no longer had command
They shook their heads, what irony, we thought peace was at hand
The preacher read a Christmas prayer and the men kneeled on the ground
Then sheepishly asked me to sing “They Drove Old Dixie Down”
Yours was the righteous gun
Where are you now, my son?
We gathered in the lobby celebrating Christmas Eve
The French, the Poles, the Indians, Cubans and Vietnamese
The tiny tree our host had fixed sweetened familiar psalms
But the most sacred of Christmas prayers was shattered by the bombs
So back into the shelter where two lovely women rose
And with a brilliance and a fierceness and a gentleness which froze
The rest of us to silence as their voices soared with joy
Outshining every bomb that fell that night upon Hanoi
With bravery we have sung
But where are you now, my son?
Oh people of the shelters what a gift you’ve given me
To smile at me and quietly let me share your agony
And I can only bow in utter humbleness and ask
Forgiveness and forgiveness for the things we’ve brought to pass
The black pyjama’d culture that we tried to kill with pellet holes
And rows of tiny coffins we’ve paid for with our souls
Have built a spirit seldom seen in women and in men
And the white flower of Bac Mai will surely blossom once again
I’ve heard that the war is done
Then where are you now, my son?

© 1973 Chandos Music (ASCAP)