Felts 1 John Felts Ms.

Caruso ENGL 1103 11 November 2012 Protest: From One War to Another Protest is a way of expressing a person’s disapproval of certain laws, actions, or events occurring through history. It is a right every American has, and many have exercised this right. Something that goes hand-in-hand with protest is how it is expressed, in some ways more effective than others. In some cases, groups of people resort to violence, and contrarily, others practice a form of peaceful protest. Music can be defined as a way to express feelings and ideas, usually in a more passionate way than speech. By incorporating protest into music, this creates a very powerful tool, something that can affect the views and opinions of whoever listens. Some people through history have mastered this art form, but has it affected society in a positive or negative way? Is protesting government decisions during hard times something that can pick a country back off its feet, or is it something that can bring a country to destruction? Protest, in any form, seems to have changed through the years, from the historic Vietnam War, to the modern Iraqi War. Why has protest seemed to drop from the minds of Americans as an option to show their disapproval of a war they don’t believe in? Protest has been around ever since a person decided to publically disapprove of a government’s decision. Protest in music has been around ever since music was used to express that disapproval. Inspiration is a major factor into creating music, and can be triggered by many human feelings, including protest. In early days, music consisted majorly of purely voice;

Felts 2 instruments were in their early stages. Beats to keep a tempo were popular, evident in many cultures. War seems to be the most popular topic to protest throughout history, dating back in America to the late 17th century, during the Revolution. Moving along in time, to a more modern era of protest, was the mid-20th century in America. The Vietnam War was very real in the minds of Americans during this time, and protest, especially through music, erupted in America. Known as the father of protest music, Bob Dylan revolutionized music in the U.S.; hundreds of thousands of people heard his music. Some say protest music in today’s modern America has lost its appeal on listeners, but is still out there. The war in Iraq has brought the disapproval of many Americas; but it doesn’t seem to be the same level as in the 60’s. Some would agree that a protest song is merely for entertainment purposes, and rarely, if ever, used for actual intellectual government protesting. R. E. Knupp defines protest songs in the 60’s with a lack of educational value, intellectual reflection, and specific issues or policies (Haynes 4). From an intellectual standpoint, this is a valid viewpoint, but musicians are not Ph. D’s, along with the vast majority of the U.S. population. These musicians relay a message in a way easily understood by themselves and most of the population though, which is why it is powerful and motivating, as well as entertaining. As defined by R. S. Denisoff and summarized by Haynes defined: “folksongs of protest as propaganda songs which were used to induce change in opinion or behavior, written and/or played in the traditional folk style.” He stated that a protest song, or propaganda song, is split into two kinds, magnetic and rhetoric protest songs. Magnetic was designed to hold the members of a movement together and to attract new members to the fold, or the “rhetorical” song, which “describes some social condition, but one which offers no explicit ideological or organizational solutions.” One can say that of the two, “magnetic propaganda” songs would probably be more

Felts 3 effective for building up a movement, and throughout history there was one very influential musician who did this well (Haynes 4). One of the most influential musicians in America, protest or not, was Bob Dylan. Born and raised in Minnesota, Dylan started to play music at high school age. He loved music and was in multiple bands throughout his adolescence. By his early twenties, his album “The Time They Are A-Changin’” was a huge hit, and he had been deemed the “voice of a generation.” He knew how to use his talent to relay views and opinions on political issues. This really brought together protesters who agreed with his message, giving motivation and building up the movement. “Thanks to his sharp-edged radicalism and unique poetic gifts (as well as no little musical craft) Dylan renewed the protest genre and helped it reach a new mass audience.” From the words of Mike Marqusee, Dylan brought the protest genre back to the attention of popular culture. Although this seemed to be a great achievement, Dylan wasn’t exactly writing his music strictly from his own belief, but rather what he thought the people would want to hear. After his first hit album, he said that he would rather write music from “inside me”, and not be a spokesman for “no movement.” Even so, his new music still drew the attention and approval of a nation. The majority of Dylan’s work consisted of anti-war and U.S. Civil Rights movement, showing his support for both. Although he didn’t deal with Vietnam directly, a few of his songs were related to the controversy of the war (Marqusee par. 2-4). More directly link to the Vietnam War, Credence Clearwater Revival, or CCR, directly addressed the war in their music. “Fortunate Son” talked about the less fortunate in society who had to get drafted for the Vietnam War. The author is bitter towards the wealthy, which get to skip the draft for individual reasons. This would definitely create tensions between the social

Felts 4 classes in reality, segregating rich from poor. In this time period, there were nearly a countless number of bands writing songs about the Vietnam War (Marier). What today’s genre of classic rock was their popular mainstream music. Groups like CCR, Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, and much more were the groups that everyone listened too. More recently, the Iraq war has also caused controversy, but much less it seems. The American people don’t seem as adamant to stand up against a war they don’t believe in. It’s just not the same as it was with Vietnam, despite the fact that over 25% more American soldiers have died in Iraq in comparison to Vietnam (Vey par. 1). Some of the more modern popular bands who have used protest in their music are U2, Green Day, and Bruce Springsteen, but it doesn’t seem to have had the same impact as in the Vietnam War days, why is this? One answer could be that music has lost its strong connection with people; the connection evident in the Vietnam days. The advancements in technology could answer how this connection was lost. People now get their mostly all their information from the internet. This wasn’t as common fifty years ago, mainly because the internet didn’t exist. Technology is constantly changing an improving, and with this new technology comes different ways information is relayed to people. There are huge changes from the 50’s to the modern day, and these changes have affected the way people view news. In the 50’s and 60’s, television was still a fairly new thing. Actual footage from Vietnam was shown to Americans. As they watched in horror, Americans we’re being shot at and killed in front of their very own eyes. To most, this was something that had never been seen before, and had a huge impact on how people viewed and felt about the war (Crary 2). In today’s day in age, it’s not uncommon to see children watching similar scenes of war in movies, with virtually no difference in “realness.” The

Felts 5 shock factor just isn’t the same when people think of war anymore. Keeping this in mind, when that footage was considered “real” in the minds and hearts of Americans, an outlet for expression was subliminally wanted. Protest music was more than just a tune for people in this time; it had true meaning and relayed the thoughts and feelings of the people. In modern day, people can speak their minds with the internet through chat rooms, blogs, and online videos. The need for expression has re-routed itself from a “loud and proud” protest song to a quiet form of expression. A lot has changed since the Vietnam War era. In America, this was when protest music became a very popular form of expression, for listeners and musicians. It affected some of society’s views on government decisions, causing motivation for other forms of anti-war communication. Whether these forms of protest were negative or positive depended on the group themselves, but protest music as a whole can’t be put into a specific group. What protest music seems to do is motivate people to stand up for their own, usually similar, views and try to change what they think is wrong. So why has protesting the Iraq war never seem to reach the same level as the war in Vietnam? One answer could be the now not-so popular protest song. During Bob Dylan’s day, it was the mainstream music that talked about the war. Today’s popular music included very little, if any, reference to the war in Iraq.

Felts 6 Works Cited Marier. "Song Analysis of "Fortunate Son"" Web log post. Political Influence on Music in the 60's and 70's. N.p., 13 Jan. 2009. Web. 17 Sept. 2012. Haynes, Louise. From Vietnam to Iraq: A Content Analysis of Protest Song Lyrics of Two War Periods. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Sept. 2012. Marqusee, Mike. "The Politics of Bob Dylan." Red Pepper Nov. 2003. Web. 26 Sept. 2012. Vey, Gary. "Iraq vs. Vietnam: 15,000 More US Casualties than in 1975." Media Freedom International. Viewzone, June 2011. Web. 11 Nov. 2012. Crary, Davd. "Iraq and Vietnam: Contrasting Protests." Common Dreams. Associated Press, 27 Mar. 2007. Web. 1 Nov. 2012.

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