In 1982, ABC News produced a documentary called Vietnam Requiem. Directed by Bill Couturié and Jonas McCord, Vietnam Requiem deal with the post-traumatic stress disorder that was suffered by many veterans of the Vietnam War. During the documentary, it was stated that the average of the soldier in Vietnam was 19.
Among those who watched the documentary when it finally aired in 1984 was musician Paul Hardcastle. Struck by the contrast between his life at 19 with the lives of the soldiers in Vietnam, Harcastle created a song called 19, which heavily sampled Vietnam Requiem‘s narration, which was provided by veteran announced Peter Thomas.
The song became an unexpected hit in both the UK and the US. In fact, it was so unexpected that no one had even planned to produce a video for it. When 19 reached the top of the UK Singles charts, McCord and Couturié were asked to quickly assemble a video for it.
The majority of the video is made up of clips from Vietnam Requiem. The journalist who is seen reporting on the war is Frank Reynolds, who was the notoriously prickly anchor of ABC News from 1978 until 1983. (Reynolds is best known for shouting, “Let’s get it nailed down … somebody … let’s find out! Let’s get it straight so we can report this thing accurately!” during coverage of the attempted assassination of then-President Ronald Reagan. All in all, that’s not a bad thing for a journalist to yell.) ABC news later objected to the use of their footage in the video, claiming that being associated with MTV would “trivialize” the news. A second version of the video was produced, using public domain stock footage but ABC did allow Reynolds’s voice to continue to be heard in the song.
Now considered to be a classic one-hit wonder, 19 briefly entered the UK charts again, in 2011, when Manchester United used the song to celebrate their 19th Premier League title.