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Transcript of PROTEST MUSIC
Which contemporary band produces effective protest music? and Why?
Protest music now
Is protest music a dead art?
How has Protest Music changed as a result of changes in technology and broadcasting media?
Contemporary Case Study
In the song “Crawl” by Kings of Leon they portray an America that has been beaten down, one that is now “the read and the white and abused.” Caleb Followill said in an interview with the Telegraph in 2008 that “it feel as if America has to learn how to crawl again before it can walk tall.” This statement was in relation to the series of natural disasters and foreign interventions, both of which Followill viewed as having diminished citizens’ pride in their nation.
The chorus begins with “you better learn to crawl/ Before I walk away,” signaling that the country needed to change or would lose their supporters. However, the next time through the chorus, the lyrics change to “they want to see us crawl/ Before they walk away,” switching to a desire for debilitated citizens and leaders able to abandon their people. The band composed this track during the Bush administration, a time when things were looking grim.
Tutor: Ian Miles
Tutorial: Monday 9.30-11.30
Student no. 4525929
What is the relevance of protest music?
Kings of Leon
PROTEST MUSIC & THE VIETNAM WAR
With the bombings of Gaza, the rise of school shootings and civilian planes falling from the sky, it seems that Human Rights are being violated more and more everyday, hence the result of many contemporary protest songs.
Contemporary artist Lupe Fiasco in “Words I Never Said” has created a piece that comments on political issues while maintaining a pop style which allows it to climb the music charts in spite of its controversial matter. He begins his last verse with, “I think that all the silence is worse than all the violence,” a testimony to what he wishes to motivate with this track: people defending the rights of people around the world rather than being spoon fed opinions by the media and led into silence.
This project will explain the Vietnam war through the lens of protest music and its relevance today.
The 1960's in America
The 1960's in America was a time of social and political upheaval. There were civil rights movements as Martin Luther King helped pave the way for African American civil rights throughout the 1960's. There was also a formation of student unions who protested the inequalities that faced the Cold War in America. In addition to these factors there was also a hippie movement, with many people living in a life filled with sex, drugs and rock and roll.
Why was music important during the Vietnam War?
American songwriter Joe Hill believes that - "A pamphlet, no matter how good, is never read more then once. But a song is learned by heart and repeated over and over." Cousins (2007)
It is important to take the context in which a song was written into account in order to understand and appreciate its cultural relevance. The political climate at the time a song is written can play a major role in how it is interpreted by the listener.
According to Rikard (2004) "Songs were a prominent feature of the anti-war movement and a shaping element of its associated counterculture.. and an essential part of G.I culture in Vietnam. In more subtle ways, the war exerted deep and lasting influences on the form and concept of popular music."
Key examples of Vietnam protest songs
Redgum - 'I was only 19'
Bob Dylan - 'Blowin' in the Wind'
The Plastic Ono Band- 'Give Peace a Chance'
The music of the 1960s was mainly broadcast on radio and television stations across the U.S. There were however singers such as Bob Dylan who were banned from singing there more explicit lyrics on radio stations.
Even songs produced in the early years of the Iraq War were rarely heard on the radio stations in the U.S. For example the Dixie Chicks opinions caused repercussions from their outspokenness regarding the invasion of Iraq.
In the early years of the 1960s, most protest songs were sung by folk singers strumming and picking their way through the relatively innocuous lyrics on guitars, banjos, and harmonicas. In contrast, a substantial amount of the protest music of the Iraq War has made prominent recordings of public officials and famous personalities.
There have been many significant changes in the technology used to produce and to distribute songs of protest, however, it remains the lyrics themselves that are the focus of the songs (Haynes, p.3-4)
Lupe Fiasco - 'Words I Never Said'
By and far the greatest change that society has seen since the 1960s has been in technology. Whereas radio was the main mode of broadcasting popular music during the years of the Vietnam War, today the Internet is one of the main sources for finding new music.
Songwriters and singers are now free to include virtually any lyrical material without restraint—as yet, Internet allows for a no-holds-barred approach to songwriting in terms of profanity, subject matter, and presentation (Haynes, p.3).
Australian War Memorial 2013, Australian Causalities in the Vietnam War, 1962-72, accessed 25/05/2015, https://www.awm.gov.au/encyclopedia/vietnam/statistics/
Cousins, A 2007, 'Can protest music influence social change?', Weblog post, Insider Time, 19 November, accessed 25/05/2015, http://insidetime.org/can-protest-music-influence-social-change/
Haynes, L 2008, ‘From Vietnam to Iraq: a content analysis of protest song lyrics of two war periods’, Studies in Humanities and cultures, vol. 1, pp. 1-12.
Mondak, J 1988, 'Protest music as political persuasion', Popular Music and Society, vol. 12, no. 3, pp. 25-38.
Rikard, D 2004, Patriotism, Propaganda, Parody and Protest: The Music of Three American Wars, (in) War, Literature, and the Arts, An International Journal of the Huma, vol. 16, no. 1, pp. 105-122.
Redgum – I was only 19 (A walk through the Greenlight, 10 Protest Songs, viewed 02/06/14, https://10protestsongs.wikispaces.com/Redgum+-+I+Was+Only+19+%28A+Walk+Through+The+Greenlight%29
I guarantee that this assignment is all my own work. Any information used by other sources has been cited according to one of the University's accepted referencing methods.
Past case study
Which protest song of the past has had an effect on society?
Folksongs of protest are types of propaganda songs, which were used to induce change in opinion or behavior. According to Denisoff there are six primary goals of the propaganda song: it 1) solicits outside support, 2) reinforces the value structure of supporters, 3) promotes cohesion and solidarity among followers, 4) aims to recruit individuals, 5) invokes solutions, and 6) highlights a social problem or discontent (Denisoff, 1972, p. 2-3 as referenced in Haynes, p.6).
A number of these goals can be seen in the Vietnam War protest song I Was Only Nineteen (or 'A Walk Through The Green Light'). The lead vocalist of the original song, John Schumann, is not a Vietnam veteran but decided to write the song after hearing vivid stories from friends and family members involved in the war. There is no doubt that the song aided in helping the Australian public understand the plight of Vietnam veterans and record sales indicate the message was received. It helped the public realise that anti-war and anti-conscription sentiments being expressed at the time should not have got in the way of our need to support those who were sent by the government to fight war.
"And can you tell me, doctor, why I still can't get to sleep?
And why the Channel Seven chopper chills me to my feet?
And what's this rash that comes and goes, can you tell me what it means?
God help me, I was only nineteen"
Protest music and protest songs are usually associated with a movement for social change and are therefore part of the broader category of topical songs, or songs connected to current events.
Protest music helps people realise they’re not alone in feeling a spirit of dissent against certain injustices, whether on a personal or more overarching governmental level. Protest music has a very deeply rooted history in the United States, every major movement in American history has been accompanied by its own collection of protest songs, from slave emancipation to women’s suffrage, the labour movement, civil rights, the anti-war movement, the feminist movement, the environmental movement and so on. Considerable changes have taken place in U.S. protest music over the past forty years, both in the lyrics and in the dissemination of protest songs.
However, totally new broadcast media, brought about by technological advancements, along with a growing sophistication of the audience have led to these changes (Haynes, p.1).