Protest Songs

“Draft Dodger Rag” is a satirical anti-war song by Phil Ochs, a U.S. protest singer from the 1960s known for being a harsh critic of the American military industrial complex. Released in 1965, “Draft Dodger Rag” quickly became an anthem of the anti-Vietnam War movement. Ochs wrote “Draft Dodger Rag” as American involvement in the Vietnam War was beginning to grow. The song is sung from the perspective of a gung-ho young man who has been drafted. When he reports for duty, however, the young man recites a list of reasons why he can’t serve, including poor vision, flat feet, a ruptured spleen, allergies and asthma, back pain, addiction to multiple drugs, his college enrollment, his disabled aunt, and the fact that he carries a purse. As the song ends, the young man tells the sergeant that he’ll be the first to volunteer for “a war without blood or gore”

Tom Waits has covered increasingly political subject matter since the advent of the Iraq war. In “The Day After Tomorrow,” Waits adopts the persona of a soldier writing home that he is disillusioned with war and thankful to be leaving. The song does not mention the Iraq war specifically, and, as Tom Moon writes, “it could be the voice of a Civil War soldier singing a lonesome late-night dirge.” Waits himself does describe the song as something of an “elliptical” protest song about the Iraqi invasion, however.


Dear America, Sincerely Unhappy American


This song is called “American Woman,” by a Candadian band, The Guess Who. It was released in February 1970 during the Vietnam War.  The “American woman” described in the song is actually referring to America. In the opening of the song, the lyrics are “American woman, stay away from me…” At the time, America was encouraging Canada to implement nuclear missles. This song is a protest to America because Canada does not want to be a part of the nuclear arms race. It is telling America to stay away and leave Canada alone. Suggested by the lyrics, “I got more important things to do…,” it indicates that Canada has their own issues to deal with and do not want to be bothered by America’s affairs.

This song is called “Dear Mr. President,” by Pink. This song was released on December 21, 2006. This is a protest song because it is about how dissatisfied P!nk is with former President George W. Bush’s policies. In the lyrics, she asks the president, “What do you feel when you see all the homeless on the street, who do you pray for at night before you go to sleep..” Pink implies that the pervasive problem of homelessness is in some effect the president’s fault. She also expresses her disapproval of his “No Child Left Behind” policy because children are not dumb or blind. She does not believe this policy would ensure opportunities for all children. In essence, this song is a protest of the actions President Bush enacted.

In comparing the two songs, I believe social protests have not changed much. In the 1960s and 2000s, people still voiced out their concerns and opinions through various mediums such as music and art. However, I do think that the social protests of the 1960s were more together and collaborative. There are many acts of social protests nowadays but they lack the power and focus of the 1960s.


Student’s Against Vietnam

During the 1960’s there was an increasing rise of students in America going to college. With that, students became more focused in other areas of society such as politics. They created the “New Left” which they wanted to make America a true democracy. They questioned and compared the drastic differences between American ideals and America’s reality. As a result, they became actively involved and protested against the Vietnam War.

The Vietnam War started in the 1950’s in which America feared Vietnam would fall into the domino effect and fall into communism. Vietnam was separated between the communistic North and  democratic South. Although America slowly regretted entering into this war, Johnson and Kennedy feared they would not be forgiven for “losing” Vietnam. This led to students strongly protesting against the war and demanding a recall of U.S. involvement on the war.  Ultimately, U.S. lost the war in Vietnam.


The Anti-war movement

The War in Vietnam and the Cold War foreign policy eventually brought the Anti-war movement in the U.S. in 1960s. More than half a million American troops were sent to Vietnam and about 60,000 were dead when U.S. exited the war. Since more and more Americans, specially the young, against to be sent to fight in a foreign country, the anti-war movement was getting strong.  The leader of SDS(Students for a Democartic Society) openly chanlleged the idea of  Cold War thinking and linked Vietnam to a critique of American interventions in Guatemala and Iran. “Martin Luther King Jr. condemned the administration’s Vietnam policy as an unconscionable  use of violence” declared Foner.

Below is the speech of Martin Luther King Jr. “Why I am opposed to the war in Vietnam”


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The 50’s experienced the outbreak of rock music. Like we all know, music, or any kind of art for that matter, is a reflection of reality. Music in particular does a great job of reflecting the views of society and in the 50s Rock-n-Roll took off. The content of the music contained 2 central themes. One theme was a reflection on politics the other adressed women whos role was rappidly c h anging in the times. This time period has seen outrage over the Vietnam War and a controlling theme in rock was fighting back against the man. Also u can see withtin the females referenced in songs a shift in the role of women. They were having a much expanded role in the 50’s. Rock also served to break down the racial divide, another societal theme during the 50s. Crowds repetately integrated themselves during Little Richard concerts and black performers began to perform at white venues.


During the Vietnam War about 58,000 were killed as a result of the war.

The Vietnam War cost American taxpayers about $150 billion (historic). Over 2 million men and women served during the war and about 58,000 were killed as a result of the war. Many soldiers came home disabled for life, some lost limbs and some were poisoned by chemicals like Agent Orange. Others returned from the war addicted to drugs and many suffered mental problems as a result of their participation in the war.