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The History of Protest songs in the US

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Sue-z Yonker

on 2 December 2013

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Transcript of The History of Protest songs in the US

Edited by
Susan Yonker

The History of Protest Songs in the United States
The tradition of protest songs in the United States is a long one that dates back to the 18th
and colonial period, the American Revolutionary War and its aftermath.
19th-century protest songs dealt for the most part, with three key issues:
Nineteenth Century
In the 20th century,
the Great Depression,
the Civil Rights movement, and
the war in
(see Vietnam War protests)
Twentieth Century
Reagan administration
was also coming in for its fair share of criticism, with many
protest songs attacking his policies, such as Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A."
Anti-Reagan protest songs
In the 19th century topical subjects for protest in song included
abolition, slavery, poverty
, and the Civil War amongst other subjects
In the 21st century the long tradition continues…
, and the Civil War in particular
"Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye"
The abolition of slavery
"Song of the Abolitionist"
"No More Auction Block for Me"
"Oh Freedom"
Perhaps the most famous voices of protest at the time, at least in America, were the Hutchinson Family Singers. Their songs support abolition.
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all inspired protest songs...
Labor Movement, Class Struggle, and The Great War
The advent of The
Great War
(1914–1918) resulted in a great number of songs concerning the 20th's most popular recipient of
: war; songs against the war in general, and specifically in America against the

decision to enter the
war started to become widespread and popular.
One of the most successful of these protest songs to capture t
he widespread American skepticism about joining in the European wa
r was "I Didn't Raise My Boy to Be a Soldier," (1915) by lyricist Alfred Bryan
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Anti-Nuclear songs
1940s- 1950s;
Protest songs continued to increase their
over this period, and an
number of artists appeared who were to have an enduring influence on the protest
After the Atomic bombings of
on August 6 and 9, 1945, many people the world over feared
warfare, and many protest songs were written against this new danger.
The most immediately successful of these post-war anti-nuclear protest songs was Vern Partlow's "Old Man Atom" (1945)
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Civil Rights
Movement, the Vietnam War, and
especially with the rise of the Civil Rights movement,
the ascendency of counterculture groups such as "
the New
of the War in Vietnam.
The 1960s was a
era for the genre,
One of the key figures of the 1960s protest movement was Bob Dylan, who produced a number of landmark protest songs. Dylan often sang against injustice
Phil Ochs, one of the leading protest singers of the decade, performed at many political events, including anti-Vietnam War and civil rights rallies.
protesters used their
as an opportunity to write protest songs. These songs were carried across the country by
Riders, and many of these became Civil Rights anthems
Many soul singers of the period, such as
Otis Redding
Aretha Franklin
James Brown
wrote and performed many protest songs which addressed the ever-increasing demand for equal rights for
Americans during the American civil rights movement.
The Vietnam War, soul music
Kent State
shootings of May 4, 1970 amplified sentiment that was portrayed by the United States'
of Cambodia and the Vietnam War in general, and protest songs about The Vietnam War continued to grow in popularity and frequency.
Reagan came under significant criticism for the
Affair, in which it was discovered that his administration was selling
to the radical
regime in Iran and using proceeds from the sales to
fund the
, a guerilla/terrorist group in
A number of songs were written in protest of this scandal. "All She Wants to Do Is Dance", (1984) by Don Henley, protested against the U.S. involvement with the Contras in Nicaragua, while chastising Americans for only wanting to dance.
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Twenty-First Century
The Iraq War and the revival of the protest song
In the 20th century civil liberties,
rights, women's rights,
injustice, politics, and war were among the popular subjects for protest in
Women's suffrage, both for and against in both Britain and the U.S.
After the '90s, the protest song found
popularity around the world after the turn of both the century and the "Third Millennium" as a result of the
attacks in America, and the
wars in the Middle East, with America's former president George W. Bush facing the majority of the criticism.
Many famous protest singers of yesteryear, such as Neil Young, Patti Smith, Tom Waits, Jake Holmes and Bruce Springsteen, have returned to the public eye with new protest songs for the new war.
"Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue is the title of a song written and recorded by American country music artist Toby Keith. The song was inspired by Keith's father's death in March 2001, as well as the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States later that year. It’s a song about his father’s patriotism and faith in the USA. It only took him 20 minutes to write the song. At first, Keith refused to record the song and only sang it live at his concerts for military personnel.
The reaction was so strong that the Commandant of the Marine Corps James L. Jones told Keith it was his duty as an American citizen to record the song. "It's your job as an entertainer to lift the morale of the troops," Jones said to Keith. "If you want to serve, that is what you can do." It was number 1 on the country charts over the weekend of July 4.
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Not just Bush Obama has his Protesters too
“Lupe Fiasco just got thrown off stage here at the Hamilton Live after he went on an anti-Obama diatribe mid set.
So Lupe played one anti-war song for 30 min and said he didn’t vote for Obama and eventually was told to move on to the next song.
Lupe refused to move to the next song so a team of security guards came on stage and told him to go.”
The show’s organizers have claimed that Lupe was turfed off for reasons of taste, rather than because of any political bad blood…

Protest Song Project

My learning goal: I can understand and analyze the elements of a Historical and or biographical/autobiographical account and analyze how figurative language impacts the text
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