Table of Contents
The tradition of using music relating to particular events and movements in the world has a long history that can be dated back to the colonial period, especially during the 18th Century. In the 20th Century, the topical issues that could lead to protest by application of songs included civil rights, economic injustice, rights of women, civil liberties, politics, and war among other issues (Marable, 2015). Eventually, the long history still continues in the 21st Century. Besides, these songs have personified or represented a particular mood of several decades depending on the occurrence of high-profile events or movements.
During the period between the 1960s and 2010s, many events and movements have happened. For instance, Vietnam War and the civil rights movements are some of the happenings that were witnessed in the period of five decades. In fact, these occurrences were accompanied by some songs that were either supporting or opposing them. The songs were used to help in the expression of the feelings towards some ills in the society (Waldfogel, 2016). For example, most of the Americans still remember the song “Oh Freedom” which was sung at Odetta’s performance at the March civil rights movement on Washington DC in 1963. Intrinsically, most of these songs were used as the anthems that were frequently utilized in a particular decade. For instance, the song “Lift every Voice and Sing” was considered as the Negro National Anthem and it served as the anthems of most of the influential civil rights movements in the 20th Century. Eventually, the songs had common threads that would give a relationship with events and movements of different decades since the movements in 19th and 20th Centuries were based on similar topical issues (Andrews & Caren, 2010). Therefore, the relationship of music with the happenings of different decades should be explored since it is important in finding impacts of the historical events.
Events and Movements from 1960 to 2010 and Songs composed
The decade of 1960 – 1970 was composed of an age of music, particularly to the rising of Civil Rights Movements. During this period, there was the emergence of some groups such as hippies and the new left as well as the escalation of Vietnam War. Indeed, songs during that period were all about the incorporation of equal rights and promotion of peace. Other events and movements which occurred during this period include the Twenty-third Amendment, which was composed owing to decision ruled for the District of Columbia to vote for president in 1961, the assassination of John F Kennedy in 1963, peace movement in 1967, Vietnamization, and Cambodian invasion in 1970 among other events (Marable, 2015).
The song of the decade is “Only a Pawn in Their Game” which was sung by Dylan in 1964. Indeed, it was a protest song that had many connections to the political injustices. The song influenced many Americans by making them radical about their civil rights. The song engaged people on this issue of nuclear arms race that is coupled with poverty, war, and racism. In consequence, Dylan sang this song to protest against injustice that could be witnessed in the murder of Medgar, who was a Civil Rights Movement activist and the killing of Hattie Caroll, who was African American barmaid. Besides, the injustices which were sung by Dylan were not based on the issues of civil rights or race, but issues touching on many misfortunes. For instance, the killing of boxer Davey Moore that occurred in 1964 and collapse of mining and farming communities in the North County (Andrews & Caren, 2010). As a consequence, this song is strictly related to the song of North County Blues, which became prominent and could even be sung in rallies such as the Civil rights March on Washington in 1963.
The decade of 1970 – 1980 is composed of several events and movements such as the Intensive bombing of North Vietnam in 1972, which was characterized by the invasion of the United States in Vietnam against the wish of ordinary people. Other examples include Watergate tapes in 1974, ratification of Panama Canal treaties in 1978, and the invasion of USSR in Afghanistan (McAdam, 2010). In addition, some of these happenings are represented by songs.
The song of this decade (1970 – 1980) is “Machine Gun” which was written by Jimi Hendrix and recorded by Gypsys Band in 1970. It is a song that was sung on the protest of the Vietnam War and giving comments on the conflict which resulted in the war. The Kent State shootings, which took place in May 1970 and was portrayed as to have amplified the invasion of the United States to Cambodia and the Vietnam War (Andrews & Caren, 2010). Indeed, this song was protesting about the continued growth in the popularity and frequency of the Vietnam War. Since this war dominated the minds of people, the song became popular and could be sung in every protest (Marable, 2015). In addition, this song could be used as the anthem of the women’s liberation movement, before they changed to the song of ‘I Am Woman’ in 1972.
Subsequently, the decade of 1980 -1990 consisted of some events and movements such as the death of Equal rights amendment in 1982, the invasion of the United States in Grenada in 1983, military aid to Contras was barred by Congress in 1984, opening of Berlin wall in 1989, and invasion of Kuwait by Iraq (McAdam, 2010).
The song of the decade (1970 – 1980) is “My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down” which was sung by The Ramones in 1984. Intrinsically, the song was sung to protest the administration of Reagan because of the policies which favored dictatorship type of leadership. Besides, the song has some sentiments that were echoed by the song like God Bless the USA, sang by Lee Greenwood (Andrews & Caren, 2010). It was used in the protesting of the decline and demise of the manufacturing industries in the United States during the reign of Reagan. Similarly, the song also emphasized by preaching peace to some extent as the reign of Reagan allowed the selling of weapons to the radical Muslims. As a result, it exposed the major scandals such as sales of drugs and guns illegally under the watch of Reagan administration. Moreover, the song was used as the anthem during the launch of the Stop the Violence Movement in 1988. Actually, this movement was based on protesting against the discrimination by the police and poverty among the people of the United States.
Moreover, the decade of 1990 – 2000 has some events and movements including declaration for the Soviet Republics as independent in 1991, election of Bill Clinton as the United State’ President in 1992, and bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993 (McAdam, 2010).
The song of the decade (1990 – 2000) is “Lift every Voice and Sing” which was sung by Melba Moore. Indeed, this song was considered as the Negro National Anthem and served as the anthems of most of the influential civil rights movements in the 20th Century. In addition, the song was nicely recorded and it entered into the Record of Congressional as one of the African -American national hymns in the United States in 1991. At the same time, the song was written and fused with some unique musical styles and themes that have lyrics of hip-hop and punk (Marable, 2015). Besides, it was used to rally support to oppose the corporate America, government oppression, and government imperialism. As a result, it was a music tool for social activists and sang together with the song “Rage against the Machine” with a lead singer Zack De Rocha by espousing that music has the high power of crossing borders, breaking sieges of the military, and establishing real dialogue. It is believed that this song had led to pro women’s rights movements such as the Third-wave feminism movement in the 1990s.
Third-wave feminism movement was in protest against sexual abuse, homophobia, poverty as well as racism (McAdam, 2010). In effect, the movement was objectively based on abortion at that time since they were with the assertion that women had the right to make a decision about abortion without being subjected to what they termed as unnecessary judgment. It enhanced the popularity of some protest songs in the media and public consciousness.
Likewise, the decade of 2000 – 2010 has some events and movements including signing of Bi-Partisan Education Reform Bill into law in 2002, the beginning of enduring freedom and war against terrorism in 2001, the landing of NASA rovers on Mars in 2004, Gulf Coast hit by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and Virginia Tech Massacre in 2007 among other events in the history of the world (McAdam, 2010).
The song of this decade (2000 – 2010) is “Standing in the Way of Control” of 2006 which was sung by Beth Ditto, based on the releasing of hammering of disco-punk. Intrinsically, the song was purely protesting against anti-same-sex marriage laws. The track of the song was not only seen to be infectious and diva-sized orientation, but it put emphasis on the gender-bending. It also highlighted the anger of women towards the discrimination of the country against same-sex couples when Bush administration attempted to ban gay marriage as part of the Federal Marriage Amendment (Marable, 2015). “Standing in the Way of Control” was used to signify a different type of matrimony that is between electro and rock and had remixes that were used in propelling politics in the dance floor. As a consequence, the song became an anthem for young people who were rebellious on the attempted amendment of the law that is against them.
The influence of Technology and the Social Media
The generation has been influenced by advanced technology. Starting from the phones to social media, where people are much concerned about getting more information as fast as possible. Even in the decades where there was no instant communication, the available technology was used to provide good coverage to help in the organization of events as well as enhancing movements (Waldfogel, 2016). They used to multiple venues where people had the ability to spread information globally. In the period of 1940s, CCTV was put into use for specific purposes. Actually, it is today used as the video surveillance camera for mainly to provide views of traffic violations and for security purposes.
In summary, during the period between 1960s and 2010s, many events and movements that happened were represented by different songs. Indeed, most of these songs were used as the anthems that were frequently utilized in a particular decade and could relate to the mood of a whole decade since most of the movements had a similar connotation. In the 19th Century, the songs were mainly used in the protest against civil war, slavery, and poverty while in the 20th and 21st Centuries; the issues include civil rights, economic injustice, rights of women, civil liberties, politics, and war.
The songs of the decades are listed starting with the song of the decade (1960 – 1970) as “Only a Pawn in Their Game” which had many connections to the political injustices. Second, the song of this decade (1970 – 1980) is “Machine Gun” representing the protest of the Vietnam War and giving comments on the conflict which resulted in the war. Third, the song of the decade (1970 – 1980) “My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down” gives a representation of the protest to the administration of Reagan because of the policies which favored dictatorship type of leadership. Fourth, the song of the decade (1990 – 2000) is “Lift every Voice and Sing” which served as the anthems of most of the powerful civil rights movements in the 20th Century. Lastly, the song of the decade (2000 – 2010) is “Standing in the Way of Control” of 2006 which was purely protesting against anti-same-sex marriage laws. Eventually, technology and social have potential influence on the occurrence of events and movements.
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- Marable, M. (2015). How capitalism underdeveloped Black America: Problems in Race, Political economy, and society. Haymarket Books
- McAdam, D. (2010). Political process and the development of black insurgency, 1930-1970. University of Chicago Press.
- Waldfogel, J. (2016). The Random Long Tail and the Golden Age of Television. In Innovation Policy and the Economy, Volume 17. University of Chicago Press.