"Then, one night, I was watching TV and happened to tape a documentary–it was ABC's Vietnam Requiem–about the war. When I watched it back, what struck me was how young the soldiers were: the documentary said their average age was 19. I was out having fun in pubs and clubs when I was 19, not being shoved into jungles and shot at. One line–'None of them received a hero's welcome'–really struck a chord. When the soldiers came home, people wondered what had happened to the smiling kids who went out there. What did they expect if they'd been through that shit?
I started messing around and adding music to the narrative. The main sound was electro–I was hugely into Afrika Bambaataa at the time–but I added a bit of jazz and a nice melody. I used an Emu Emulator, an early type of sampler that had a two–second limit when it came to doing samples. That's why the hook was 'N–n–n–nineteen'. It was the only bit of the narrative that made sense in two seconds."
(Interviews by Dave Simpson, The Guardian, 24 September 2012)
"Maya [Lin] unexpectedly won the design competition for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial while a Yale student, and it threw her into a huge storm of controversy. The controversy over Maya Lin's design showed the raw emotional wounds that still had not healed when it erupted in 1980, and Maya Lin's finished memorial showed the power of art to affect people and touch upon important issues of society.
Lin wanted her memorial to evoke tears in the viewers, to act as a vehicle for veterans to begin to heal from their experience. One of the most touching scenes in Freida Lee Mock's documentary is the beginning scene, watching the reaction of veterans as they look at the names of their fallen comrades in the black wall. In a particular scene, two veterans are looking at the name and one veteran exclaims, 'Look at all these names!' and he begins to cry. What most moved about these scenes was how the memorial touched these veterans, how it honoured the individuals who were killed by making them more than just a statistic. A veteran mentioned that a name may not mean much to one person, but it would mean much to another. Lin put the names in chronological, rather than alphabetical order, to help individualize the names. If the names were in alphabetical order, then a loved one would be lost in a sea of Smiths or Jones or whatever that person's last name is, and it would depersonalize that individual. It would take a person longer to look up the name and find it if the names were in chronological order, but the process would be worth it to a family member or a friend."
(Angelo Lopez, 26 May 2008)