Oh Oh Domino (Theory)

During a news conference on April 7, 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower first invoked the use of “dominoes” in a phrase that would be used by four presidents for justifying United States involvement in Vietnam. Thus, was born the domino theory.

During the press conference, Robert Richards of Copley Press asked Pres. Eisenhower to comment “on the strategic importance of Indochina to the free world.” Eisenhower first discussed the situation’s impact on production of materials for the world and on humans being under a dictatorship. Then, he considered the broader implications:

“Finally, you have broader considerations that might follow what you would call the ‘falling domino’ principle. You have a row of dominoes set up, you knock over the first one, and what will happen to the last one is the certainty that it will go over very quickly. So you could have a beginning of a disintegration that would have the most profound influences.”

Eisenhower continued that the impact could spread to Japan, the Philippines, Australia, and New Zealand. Other questions about Indochina followed, as well as questions on other topics, such as the possible statehood of Hawaii and Alaska. But it was his comment about pieces used in a tile game that would have lasting significance. Presidents after him — John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Richard M. Nixon — would continue to grapple with the fear of not wanting to be the president who let the dominoes fall.

Sixteen years after Pres. Eisenhower’s comments, while the U.S. was still embroiled in Vietnam and while Pres. Eisenhower’s vice-president Richard Nixon now served as president, America had “Domino” on its mind in a completely different context. They were singing along with a hit song by Van Morrison.

Van Morrison’s “Domino” appeared as the opening song on his album His Band and the Street Choir. After being released as a single, it became a top-10 hit and Van Morrison’s highest charting single ever. The album is a “valentine to the R&B” music that inspired the Northern Irish singer.

The song’s title had nothing to do with fears of Communists; it was a tribute to singer Fats Domino. Instead of the “dominoes” behind the nation’s war, the Van Morrison song was an uplifting song of renewal as the singer thinks “it’s time for a change” and only asks for some rhythm and blues music.

The U.S.’s military involvement in Vietnam continued for several more years after “Domino” appeared on the charts. Pres. Eisenhower’s fears of the dominoes falling across the world, though, did not come to fruition. Fortunately, politicians no longer use dominoes to justify military force, and most kids only know “dominoes” as a game or a place to buy pizza. And we still listen to Van Morrison’s “Domino.” Lord have mercy.

What is your favorite Van Morrison song? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    One thought on “Oh Oh Domino (Theory)”

    1. I agree that “the kids are alright” without knowing too much about this political theory, which I am very tempted to comment on but probably shouldn’t. “Dominoes” also trigger memories of domino-toppling shows that were real public spectacles in the 80s (or maybe they still are?). I stumbled upon this salute to Jimmy Fallon while looking for the very first domino guru on Johnny Carson’s ‘Tonight Show’:


      And because I’m not the biggest Van Morrison fan either, “Gloria” remains my favorite song by him because it has inspired so many great covers.

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