Social And Political Implications Of American Music History Essay

The survey of United States history has been split into two major Fieldss of survey, United State history Pre World War Two and United States History Post World War Two. Similarly the survey of doctrine has a dividing line, broken into Pre and Post Kant. Named for the celebrated philosopher Immanuel Kant who tackled many of the pressing philosophical issues of the twenty-four hours and unearth jobs that we still wrestle with today. For my coevals ( coevals X and Y ) Nirvana is the spliting line in the history of protest music. For my coevals music can be divided into Pre-Nirvana Post Nirvana.

In a Pre-Nirvana universe the music universe was cluttered with Jon Bon Jovi, Michael Jackson, Rick Springfield, and Journey. Peoples were “ Populating on a Prayer ” , they “ did n’t halt believing ” . We watched Mollie Ringwald and the breakfast nine, Ferris Bueller took the twenty-four hours off and everything worked out. It was as if Holden Caulfield had been right and no affair how many errors you make, everything worked out.

However, this rose-colored mentality masked a distressing world. Crime was lifting quickly, cleft was decimating the inter metropoliss, cocaine. The United States was going less competitory on a planetary degree. We were flush with hard currency but that was a consequence of selling off valuable assets to Asian investors. Parents worked longer hours to supply great lives for their childs, the latch key kids were born and everything was great, every bit long as you did n’t truly look or truly inquire. Then came Nirvana!

Nirvana and the dirt motion screamed and shouted “ We ( young person of the state ) are non all right ” , things are non as you would wish

them to be. As one watches the music picture for Smells Like Teen Spirt you see a pep mass meeting in a typical high school scene, the Saved by The Bell scene but it becomes hurtful clear that these adolescents are merely traveling through the gestures as Kurt Cobain, lead vocalist for Nirvana screams “ here we are now entertain us ” , by the center of the vocal the pupils in the picture at moshing, in Kurt Cobain, America ‘s young person saw a troubled, hurting filled, tormented, socially uncomfortable person. Person who was non accepting of the simple follow the leader life that society had laid out before him, in Kurt Cobain America ‘s young person saw themselves.

Music has been used as a signifier of protest for 100s of old ages. Yet the signifiers of protest music has evolved, as Peter Barton pointed out in his book Not Fade Away the consequence of engineering in station World War Two America was “ we all knew the same vocals, music had become the sound path of our lives ” . Peoples who grew up in different parts of the state, many times different parts of the universe found common land in music. The significances and memoirs it conjured up possibly different but the vocals were the same. Before the rise of mass media much of music was segregated by part, while one may larn a vocal while going, like a big game of telephone, by the clip you reached home your ain manner had been added to the vocal.

The History of Protest Music:

While music may ever covey protest about a given issue it seems to lift and be etched in history when that music coincides with a clip of struggle. In an article for Reviewer Magazine entitled “ The History of Protest Music in America ” Jack Hickey discusses a few of the musical Acts of the Apostless through America ‘s history that have risen to popularity.

One such group was the Hutchinson Family Singers ( Later known as Tribe of Jesse ) who formed in 1840. Harmonizing to Gage Averill in his book Four Parts, Not Waiting: A Social History of American Babershop Harmony, clip some said the Hutchinson Family Singers were the first “ uniquely American group ” , some of the topics which

the Hutchinson Family Singers sang about were subjects such as the abolishment motion, adult females ‘s rights, and workers rights. In her book about the New York music sense during the nineteenth century Strong on Music, Vera Brodsky Lawrence stated that the Hutchinson Family Singers achieved a high degree of success but their music was non ever good received by “ high society audiences. ”

Joe Hill followed the The Hutchinson Family Singers and carried on the torch of the workers rights motion. Joe Hill joined the Industrial Workers of the World brotherhood in 1910. As Joe Hill gained term of office in the Industrial Workers of the World he began to go around the United States executing verse forms and vocals like There is Power in the Union to actuate universes in the brotherhood.

There is a great trade of confederacy or contention environing Joe Hills decease. While Joe Hill was working in Park City, Utah, a meatman store proprietor and his boy were shot and killed by an interloper. The meatman store proprietor was able to hit the interloper before being killed. That same dark Joe Hill showed up at a physician ‘s house with a slug shooting lesion. Joe Hill denied that he was the 1 that he was involved in the shot. Due to the fact that the meatman shop was non robbed it is assumed that retaliation was the motivation for the shot, the meatman store proprietor was a former constabulary officer. During Joe Hills test many outside perceivers point to Joe ‘s deficiency of motivation as grounds that he did non perpetrate the offense.

In Philip Foner ‘s book The Case of Joe Hill claims that the jury found Joe Hill guilty in one hr, he was sentenced to decease by firing squad. Foner states that even on entreaty Joe Hill refused to devolve the beginning of his gun shooting lesion, claiming the authorities “ did non hold a right to ask about the beginning of his lesion. ” He did uncover that it was related to a difference over a adult females.

Prior to his decease Joe Hill wrote another member of the Industrial Workers of the World inquiring him to “ set up to hold my organic structure hauled to the province line to be buried… I do n’t desire to be found dead in Utah ” ,

Hills organic structure was sent to Chicago were it was greeted be 30,000 people harmonizing to Foner. In Jack Hickey ‘s article The History of Protest Music in America Hickey asserts that the authorities being frustrated by their inability to hush Joe Hill had “ developed a manner to kill him ” .

Joe Hill ‘s life and decease have been animating to many creative person throughout the old ages. In Chronicles Volume One by Bob Dylan he claimed that Joe Hill ‘s life inspired him to compose many of his protest vocals. Even the album Among the Oak & A ; Ash by Josh Joplin produced 94 old ages after Joe Hills decease included a vocal “ Joseph Hillstrom ” as a testimonial to Joe Hill.

Soon after Joe Hill ‘s decease The Great War ( World War One ) began, much of the protest music bend to the argument over the United States entryway to war. The Pacificist motion of the clip actively fought against the United States entryway into the war, among other ground many within the Pacificist motion believed the war was Europe job and the United States would be better off remaining out of the war.

Two song authors and member of the Pacificist motion, Alfred Bryan and Al Piantadosi wrote a vocal called I Did n’t Raise My Son to be a Soldier. The vocal is written from the point of view of a female parent whose boy is being sent off to war. In the wordss the female parent asks “ I raised my vocal to be my pride and joy. Who dares to put a musket on his shoulder? ” The vocal resinated with many, some still retrieve the civil war and had did non desire to travel through another war. When asked about I Did n’t Raise My Son to be a Soldier Theodore Roosevelt he remarked “ foolish people who applaud a vocal entitled I Did n’t Raise My Son to be a Soldier are merely the people who besides in their Black Marias applaud a vocal entitled I

did n’t raise my miss to be a female parent ”

Prior to World War Two the Communist party in America was deriving popular and turning, probably a consequence of a drawn-out depression. In 1936 a immature common people vocalist from New York named Pete Seeger joined

the Young Communist League ( YCL ) and by 1941 he was singing as a member of the Almanac Singers a group comprised of Woody Guthrie, Bess and Butch Lomax Hawes, Lee Hays, Cisco Houston and Millard Lampell. The Almanac Singers sang vocals recommending many of the Communist parties chief docket issues, including forcing for the integration of the military, and expostulations to the policy of a peace clip bill of exchange.

The Almanac Singers produced an album entitled Songs for John Doe, which advocated that United States stay out of World War Two, claiming it was “ bogus ” and that it was large United States corporations who were forcing for the United States to come in the war.

In a June 1941 article named The Poison in Our System in the Atlantic Monthly Carl Joachim Friedrich ( a armed forces advisor by twenty-four hours ) claimed that the album was “ purely insurgent and illegal ” even impeaching it of perchance being financed by Nazi money, and saying that it was an issue the lawyer general should look into. When President Roosevelt was given a transcript of the album to listen to he reportedly said “ really few people would hear it ” unhappily he was right.

Logically the Communist party felt a strong connexion with Russia, which at the clip was the largest Communist “ experiment ” in the universe and Russia had signed a nonaggression pact with Germany, this merely furthered Communist is the United States resistance to the war. However, on June 22nd 1941 Germany broke the nonaggression pact. This was a major blow to the noninterventionist motion and one has to believe a painful hit to the ideals of those in the Pacificist motion.

The communist motion immediately exchange place and supported the United States military bill of exchange and United States engagement in supporting their “ brothers ” in Russia. This displacement in belief led to Pete Seeger bring forthing an album in support of the president entitled Dear Mr. President which included a title-track sole by Pete Seeger. In the wordss to Dear Mr. President Seeger reveals a drastic alteration of bosom:

“ Now Mr. President, we have n’t ever agreed in the past, I know, But that ai n’t at all of import, now, What is of import is what we got to make, We got to cream Mr. Hitler, and until we do, Other things can wait ”

Seeger even suggested that he understood that workers needed to flip in to assist with the war attempt stating “ war means overtime… but we’e all willing to do forfeits ” in-fact he even said he would “ halt combat with my mother-in-law cause we need her excessively, to win the war ” while Seeger soften on some stances and relented on others, we can at the terminal of Dear Mr. President that Seeger had non lost hope but viewed winning the war as a measure toward a better America

“ non everything ‘s perfect or everything right. No merely the opposite… I ‘m contending because I want a better America with better Torahs… no more Jim Crow… .so what I want is you to give me a gun ” true to his word Pete Seeger joined the Army and was sent to the Pacific theatre.

While there were many, many other activist creative person during this period-of-time but I feel that Pete Seeger and his battles to accommodate his ideals with a quickly changing universe offer a great image of the trouble all militant faced. I think Pete Seeger put it best when he said “ We got to cream Mr. Hitler, and until we do, other things can wait ” .

1960 ‘s Vietnam War/ Civil Rights Motion:

When you ask person today what comes to mind when you think of protest music most people think of the 1960 ‘s, and the Vietnam War. The 1960 ‘s offered the perfect environment, with all the ingredients for protest music. The mass media was turning quickly, the Vietnam War was unpopular and going even less popular as it wore on.

This troubled clip led to the outgrowth and rise in popularity of creative person like Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, Jefferson Airplane, and a long list of other sets, solo creative person, and groups weight in on the issue of the clip, and Pete Seeger reemerged as one of the lead voice of the

epoch. Bob Dylan is the most recognizable of these creative person among my coevals ( helped by his boies mild success ) , among many people Bob Dylan was the voice of his coevals.

In-fact many of Dylan ‘s vocals were correlated straight to events at the clip. Many people viewed Master of War as a vocal written about the struggle in Vietnam and the wordss stuck a cord with many anti-war dissenters:

“ You fasten all the triggers for the others to fire. Then you set back and ticker, when the decease count gets higher you hide in your sign of the zodiacs. As immature blood flows out of their organic structures and is buried in the clay ”

Looking back many have see similarities in message and wordss of this vocal and “ Fortunate Son ” Creedence Clearwater Revival ‘s anti-war vocal and many people link these vocals. Voice of a coevals was a rubric which Bob Dylan was uncomfortable with, in a 1964 interview with Playboy Dylan stated “ I do n’t desire to compose for people any longer… . or be a interpreter. From now on I want to compose for me ” . Dylan went on to spread out on his defeat with being made out to be a “ spokesmen ” for coevalss and causes in a USA Today interview which was published on September 10th, 2001 ( dry day of the month ) . In the interview Dylan explains the background of Master of War which really was written prior to any major engagement in Vietnam. “ it is ( was ) supposed to be a dovish vocal against war. It ‘s non an anti-war vocal. It ‘s talking against what Eisenhower was naming a military industrial composite ” Yet, willing or non Dylan may hold been the voice the young person of the 1960 ‘s were looking for, as Malcom Gladwell negotiations about in his book Outliers Dylan may hold been a map of clip, topographic point, and endowment, with the first to many times being overlooked.

Protest music had been shown to be a utile tool in united people to a common cause ( why we have state anthems ) . Groups of organized protestors combined these powerful forces of mass media

and music. The usage of music is obliging as it helps people to experience a sense of integrity, unity that allows persons to concentrate on the grounds why they congregated a powerful tool.

Protest Music of Today:

As we have discussed there is a long and rich history of music being used as a signifier of protest but some feel that today ‘s coevals, my coevals has neglected the usage of protest music. Over the past five old ages authors have warmed up their typewriters and pushed out article after article showing their displeasure with the deficiency of protest music.

Greg Quill in his article Where have all the Protest Songs Gone? Recounts the glorification yearss of protest music and relives the experience of watching Pete Seeger play for two hours in Sydney, Australia and the spirit of integrity it created “ The crowed dispersed into the warm dark, still howling out the vocals we were convinced we were convinced we could do the universe a better topographic point. Possibly they did, for a piece ” Quill so scolds the dissenters at the recent G20 convention in Toronto saying that they would be remembered for “ their noise and rage, but likely non for vocals ” .

Writing for the Metro Silicon Valley in April of 2002 Jeff Chang tackled the same inquiry in his article entitled Is Protest Music Dead? Chang even questioned the actions of the some of the legendary creative person who have made their grade as anti-war militant. “ For old ages U2 led crowds in chants of “ No more War! ” during their concerts ” but there was no reference of the war when U2 played the halftime show at the 2002 Superbowl.

Chang does indicate out that an creative person has to work really difficult to get the better of corporate censorings, something which Chang agrees may hold gotten worse. A point echoed by Craig Sanders composing for Suite in his November 4th, 2008 article Where Have All the Pete Seegers Gone? Sanders argues that a alteration in media has

pushed militant to other signifiers of protest like “ harangues Youtube and viral pictures. Indeed a good Youtube picture can be every bit traveling as the best version of “ Waist Deep in the Big Muddy ” .

Another signifier of protest that has developed as competition to protest music is comedy. It is impossible to deny to consequence and success of Jon Stewart ‘s Daily Show, Bill Maher, or Matt Stone and Trey Parkers South Park, all have efficaciously used comedy to convey political activism.

Recent surveies have found that The Daily Show has a greater consequence on electors under the age of 30 old ages old so all other intelligence organisations combined. A survey by two professors at the East Carolina University Jody Baumgartner and Jonathan Morris attempted to mensurate the consequence of watching a show like The Daily Show and the implicit in feelings among its viewing audiences. What they found was that viewing audiences of The Daily Show were more misanthropic about and frustrated with campaigners, runs, and the electoral system so spectator of the “ every night intelligence ” plans. Baumgartner and Morris asserted that this displayed a bad tendency that was hurtful to political relations and bad for our democratic system.

Cynical, frustrated, untrusting, these are all words that could be used to depict the protest music of past. Marty Kaplan a professor at the University of Southern California disputes this point in this article The Real “ Daily Show Effect ” . Kaplan points out that if you review the interviews that Baumgartner and Morris conducted you find that “ Stewart fans trust their ain cognition of political relations more than make web spectators. They blame elites who run political system for the muss were and experience that they can alter it. They trust themselves more so web intelligence viewing audiences ”

In fact in their ain survey Baumgartner and Morris admit that viewing audiences of The Daily Show are more likely so non-viewers their ain age to take part in the political system. Is this non the end of every militant? Motivate your audience to action? This confirms the success of

comedy as a signifier of protest and similar to music singing together and express joying together seem to hold a consolidative consequence.

While broadcast companies may be more controlled by corporations with political docket ‘s so of all time, and more mediums and signifiers of protest have may hold taken clasp and grown in popularity, that still does non reply the question- Where has protest music gone or has it left? Or is it right in forepart of us and we fail

to acknowledge it ‘s new signifier and concentrate?

This brings us full circle and back to Kurt Cobain. Is at that place more so one signifier of protest music? The authoritative signifier stretching all the manner back to The Hutchinson Singers and Joe Hill was to place an issue ( workers rights, adult females ‘s motion, etc ) and sing against it or sing about a solution. Pink Floyds vocal Bring the Boys Back Home is a simple and straightforward conflict call.

What happens when it is non one issue but the full form of society? The force per unit areas, demands, and outlooks that you want to protest? What happens when all of society is built around stating you are everything is great and the biggest issues immature people should be confronting is “ boy meets universe ” and should I snog the girlaˆ¦

In the mid-to-late 1980 ‘s conspicuous ingestion was reasonably new and in full swing. There was no job that could non be fix by merely holding more. Ronald Reagan had introduced “ Reaganomoics ” and he was traveling to repair a drooping economic system by cutting revenue enhancements, raising the national debt and promoting public disbursement, personal debt increased at rates ne’er before seen. It was non who you were or what you could make or lend that affair, it was what you had and how much you paid for it.

The United States had turned the corner and was now winning the Cold War, the manner the United States was traveling to crush the Russians? We were traveling to outspend them, we were traveling to pass more money on our military so they could. The argument became non who

could support themselves but who had the power to destruct the full universes civilisation more times so the other, the United States stated atomic weaponries policy was called MAD ( Mutual Assured Destruction ) and we bragged about it, speak about the ultimate signifier of conspicuous ingestion! The Berlin wall fell, the United States had won, and we were the lone world power.


Then apparently out of nowhere Nirvana and Kurt Cobain appeared, an wholly different signifier of music, an wholly different position of life, a group shouting we are non ok. Everything is non all right. Nirvana showed a hatred for everything, and everyone, including themselves. They viewed themselves as a merchandise of this system and they did non like what they saw and had become, that struck a cord with the young person of America, Come As You Are.

“ Come as you, as you were, as you wanted to beaˆ¦ . The pick is your, do n’t be lateaˆ¦ and I swear I do n’t hold a gun ”

Nirvana ushered in a new signifier of music or at least came to stand for that new signifier of music, music that focused on pragmatism and paved the manner for a rubric moving ridge of new sets that hit the American music scene.

These new sets included Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins, Alice in Chains, My Chemical Romance, and The Foo Fighters. Nirvana exemplified Grunge music, which gave manner to Alternative Punk/Rock. Rarely did you hear these sets talk about relationships with the opposite sex, that was fiddling, and if you did it was non “ Can I keep you manus ” or “ I ca n’t acquire no satisfaction ” it was I ‘m screwed up, we are screwed up. The focal point became was non rose-colored positions of life but looks of frusteration. The Smashing Pumpkins in their 1995 knock hit Bullet with Butterfly Wings said:

“ The universe is a lamia, sent to run out, secrets destroy, hold you up to the fires and what do I acquire for all my hurting? … .despite all my fury I

am still merely a rat in a coop ”

Karl Marx argued that the defect of capitalist economy is that it disassociates the labourer from his work, that he becomes worthless and a pawn. He put it this manner:

“ Capital is dead labour, which VAMPIRE-LIKE, lives merely by sucking labour, and lives more, and more ” ( rat in a coop? )

New Jersey born alternate hood stone set My Chemical Romance produced an album called Welcome to the Black Parade in 2006. In an interview with a local wireless station the lead vocalist Garard Way said that the authorship of the rubric path was inspired by working for a big bank in downtown New York “ I would ever get early and look down from the high rise and ticker people walk into the edifices. They were non alive ; these people had no inspiration in them. They got in line and waited to decease, it looked like a black parade ”

Is it just to fault the signers of today for non concentrating on wars when they feel they are deceasing already? The anti-war vocalists of the 1960 ‘s American ginseng because they hated the war but besides because they did non desire to decease. In Not Fade Away Barton says “ no 1 talked about it at the anti war rallies non there was a small spot of self involvement. I did n’t similar war but I truly did n’t like the thought of acquiring shooting at ” Since the Iraq war started over 2,000 soldiers have died, in that same clip 90,000 people have been murdered in the United States.

The music of today that critics may see as ego abhorrence and complaining may a rebellion and protest against society, a new focal point of protest music.

With the benefit of position I can look back and see that Nirvana and Kurt Cobain were non the greatest set to of all time populate and may non hold had the full consciousness to understand what they were contending, or the consequence they would hold on others, they merely knew that they did non like anything they saw in themselves.

There is a societal inclination to laud those who die immature ; John F Kennedy probably was non view as the universe modifier alive he is remembered for in decease. The same is likely true of Kurt Cobain nevertheless possibly like Dylan he was the perfect mixture of clip, topographic point, and endowment. No 1 knows if the first bomb dropped on Pearl Harbor was a absolutely aimed shooting but we will ever be remembered, it split American history in two. Progressive as he was Kurt Cobain split the history of protest music in American, He smelled like the spirit of America ‘s teens!


Dylan is positively on top of his game By Edna Gundersen, USA Today 9/10/2001

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Where have all the Protest Songs Gone? Greg Quill June 25th 2010

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The History of Protest Music in America By Jack Hickey Reviewer Magazine

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The Daily Show Effect Jody Baumgartner and Jonathan Morris

East Carolina University May 2006

The Case of Joe Hill By Philp Sheldon Foner

International Publishers January 2004

The Real “ Daily Show Effect ” Marty Kaplan June 23rd, 2006

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Not Fade Away Laurence Shames and Peter Barton

HarperCollins September 2004

Strong on Music By Vera Brodsky Lawrence

University of Chicago Press February 1999

Outliers Malcolm Gladwell

Little, Brown & A ; Company November 2008

Cobain Unseen Charles Cross

Little, Brown & A ; Company October 2008

Four Partss, No Waiting: A Social History of American Barbershop Quartet

By Gage Averill Oxford University Press

Where have All the Pete Seeger ‘s gone? Craig Sanders Suite

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Playboy Interview: Bob Dylan Playboy February 1964

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