Today’s Doodle celebrates the life and legacy of Trịnh Công Sơn, a prolific and powerful Vietnamese musician, songwriter, poet, and painter.
Born in Đắk Lắk in Vietnam’s central highlands on this day in 1939, Sơn was raised in a Buddhist family by parents who both wrote poetry. His father was imprisoned for several years during Sơn’s youth in the capital city of Buôn Ma Thuột for his vocal resistance to the Vietnamese War. In fact, around the age of 10, Sơn spent a year living with him in Thừa Phủ Prison. Educated at the Lycée Francais school in the ancient imperial capital city of Huế, Sơn also studied philosophy at Lycée Jean Jacques Rousseau in Saigon.
Sơn first worked as a teacher before pivoting careers to become a songwriter in the 1950s. His songs protesting the Vietnam War—particularly those on the 1966 collection Songs of Golden Skin—were popular with soldiers on both sides of the conflict. After the war ended, much of his family fled their homeland, but Sơn chose to stay, writing songs about the unification of North and South Vietnam that displeased government authorities, who sent him to do forced labor in a “re-education camp.” Following his release, he continued to record music and paint throughout his life.
Widely considered one of Vietnam’s most important modern musicians, Sơn was admired by international singers such as Joan Baez. His song “Ngủ Đi Con” (Lullaby) about the mother of a fallen soldier was a hit in Japan. Today, his music is still recorded by popular Vietnamese singers, such as Hồng Nhung.
Happy Birthday, Trịnh Công Sơn!