Weeks 8 and 9: How Protest Music Helps You Understand Politics Better

Jun 13, 2020

I have been contemplating my project as a whole. I know that what I’m reading about actually happened, but it is always difficult to feel history.

Another “function” of protest music is to allow people in the future to better understand the events described in the songs. I can read about the events of the 1960s – the civil unrest and awakening of the growing calls for racial equality and the end of the Vietnam War – but personally, the words don’t supply the emotional aspect for me. What are the people going through the events described by historians feeling? 

Music fortunately fills this gap. The passion with which Nina Simone sings “Mississippi Goddam” and the desperate rasp of Barry McGuire’s voice in “Eve of Destruction” reflect the ways the political contests of the 1960s affected people. Listening to these songs in fact provide a glimpse into the decade that otherwise would not be possible. 

As my presentation discusses, it is essential to realize that history is not treated as abstract or intangible. We are constantly immersed in the effects of past events, as those in the future will be by ours. 

Amid our current political climate, I wonder if protest music will rise again to the level of popularity it had enjoyed during the sixties. My mom told me that while she was waiting in line to enter to get groceries, someone started playing “This Is America” by Childish Gambino. This song is very well known, especially considering its recent release. According to Forbes, it has skyrocketed in streams – travelling up from #79 on the Spotify charts to #2. I think the protests will be accompanied by a surge in politicized music. 

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