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Social and Political Commentary

L3 Unit 19: Music and Society

Andrew Rae

on 4 October 2018

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Transcript of Social and Political Commentary

Unit 19: Music in Society
The Function of Music in Society
Social and Political Commentary

Pussy Riot "A Punk Prayer"
Closer To Home: Badgers!
The UK Coalition government agreed a cull of the badger population in order to stop the transmission of Bovine TB into cattle. Queen guitarist Brian May teamed up with Internet sensation Mr. Webl to produce a special version of The Badger Song with the proceeds going to the fighting fund against the cull.
Modern Pop Goes Political
On February 21st 2012 three members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot walked into the Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow and performed their “Punk Prayer”, a song with the aim of highlighting the close relationship between the Orthodox Church and the Russian president Vladimir Putin. This was to express their outrage at recent actions of the Putin regime.

Social and Political Commentary
The use of music to discuss and bring attention to social and political issues has a long tradition. Artists have used their work to advocate for issues that are important to them, bring attention to social issues, protest against the misuse of authority or to simply “stick it to the man.”

The Blues
Blues music grew out of the social changes which followed the American Civil War. Many ex-slaves took to the road to try their luck and with this lifestyle came a new musical tradition of solo song towards the end of the nineteenth century; the blues.
The lyrics tell of injustice, unemployment and hopelessness, lost love and drunkeness and are sung with soul and passion.
One early song tells of the boll weevil, a cotton-eating insect which devastated crops.
Strange Fruit
Arguably the first modern protest song, Billie Holiday recorded Strange Fruit in 1939. The song speaks of KKK lynchings in the south; the strange fruit being "black bodies swinging in the breeze."
At the time, Time Magazine denounced the song as "a prime piece of musical propaganda" a statement that has haunted the magazine in the years since.
Bob Dylan
The Sixties
Hip Hop
21st Century Wars
Folk music has long been the music of the people. Bob Dylan became the voice of a generation in the sixties, continuing the oral storytelling tradition of folk artists from throughout the decades (and centuries).
Dylan's work is a combination of desperate, antagonistic feelings, commentary on social injustice and visionary poetic imagery.
The sixties were a time of teenage rebellion, commentary on the Vietnam War and a period of sexual liberation. The era is perhaps best summed up by Woodstock with its most famous moment being Jimi Hendrix's bastardised version of the Star Spangled Banner.
Punk was heavily influenced by US artists such as the Stooges. The DIY ethic and rebellious nature created some politically-fueled anthems, from the more astute The Clash to the provocative Sex Pistols.
The birth of Rap in the 80's brought forth a new medium for artists to vent their anger. The profane lyrics brought about he introduction of the Parental Advisory sticker from the PMRC. Ironically, the largest consumers of hip hop are white middle-class males.
The most prominent protest band of the last two decades is Rage Against The machine. Be it the economy, racism or war, RATM have a vociferous opinion. Assisted by the ground-breaking guitar of Tom Morello, Rage have shut down Wall Street, crashed the MTV VMA's , screamed "fuck you I won't do what you tell me" on prime time Radio 1 and beat an X-Factor hopeful to the UK Christmas number one.
The recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have proved rich pickings for artists such as System of a Down, The Dixie Chicks, Metallica and a newly-political Green Day.
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