Protest Songs

We all know that “every action has an equal or greater reaction”, and as we take a look back at the past we see that anything significant enough to be spoken about 20, 30, 50, or even over 100 years later was more than likely a reaction that clearly stems either directly from a particular act or event.

The 1960s and 1970s are widely considered to be some of the most turbulent and radical times in history, so it should come as no surprise that the arts (music in particular) would reflect that. Wikipedia labels some particular eras of protest music under the following categories:

  1. 1940s- 1950s; The labor movement vs McCarthyism; Anti-Nuclear songs
  2. The 1960s: The Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, and Peace and Revolution
  3. 1970s: The Vietnam War, Soul Music
  4. In the Twenty-First Century: The Iraq War and the Revival of the Protest Song

I think that  we should consider those basic differences but more importantly the fact that, like we spoke about in class, today it seems like the message needs to be much more blunt to be noticed as ‘radical’ in any way. I’m posting here a song from 2001 called “In All Rwanda’s Glory” by Rx Bandits – if you listen to the lyrics, its very clear that the author is frustrated with the government’s response to human rights issues and is referencing the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

To contrast that song’s clear message, I’m also linking Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in The USA”. The song was released in 1984, but I think it takes on more of a 1970’s message in that it was written in response to the Vietnam war, but contrary to popular belief it isn’t the patriotic song that people think it is, it’s actually  a song depicting the horrors that were faced by returning vets.

-C. Salama