Protest Music of the 1960s

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Protest Music of the 60s can be attributed to U.S. involvement in the war in Vietnam. Protest music really hit full swing when the number of troops in Vietnam escalated from 1964-67. The biggest highlight of the music of the hippie era was the Woodstock festival in 1969. The 1960s was an was the right time for this kind of “social revolution” because of the heated Civil Rights Movement and the protests on U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. This type of protest music was different from previous protest songs because “hippie” music dealt more with promoting peace through music.


The International Workers of the World (IWW), “Wobblies,” initially wrote protest songs in the 1960s. Their main goal in creating these songs was to suggest equality for American workers who were receiving unfair pay, hours, working conditions, and health care. Their purpose as a organization was to unite all workers as a strong, stable class in society and abolish the wage system that consumed businesses and giant corporations. To express these strong beliefs to the public and gain supporters to build their organization, the members of the IWW created and performed their personal anthem, “Solidarity Forever.” This song is by far one of the most famous union anthems in history. Written by Ralph Chaplin, this powerful and revolutionary song helped the IWW gain many supporters and also greatly contributed to other events occurring throughout the world during this time in history

The following music artists became very popular during the 60s era due to their influential and catchy lyrics pertaining to the war and civil rights tensions:

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~The Byrds were a popular psychedelic, blues band from London, England.
Popular in the early 1960s, they enjoyed great success as they recorded
songs that many Americans could relate to as social tensions increased.
“Turn! Turn! Turn!,” their 1962 it hit, is a superb example of a protest song
that relates to war. This melody suggested that peace will ultimately come
through support from the society and we must all work together in order to
achieve this goal.

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~Bob Dylan (Robert Allen Zimmerman), a New York rock and blues musician, gained great recognition and success in the 1960s. His first major hit record, “Blowin’ in the Wind” (1963) is a rallying call for American society to direct its attention towards the benefits of freedom and make a change in society. This universal song influenced the anti-war movement in leading protests throughout the country. Originally taken from the slave song, “No More Auction Block,” it was widely recorded and listened to, becoming an international sensation in the music industry.

The Beatles
The Beatles
~John Lennon, a popular vocalist from Liverpool, England, is considered to be of the most successfully acclaimed musicians in the history of music. Forming a band, The Beatles, this group incorporated various styles of music and combined them with meaningful, ranging lyrics that captured the public’s attention during the social and cultural revolutionsof the era. The group members consisted of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr. Their hit song, “Imagine,” describes a perfect world in which political, social, and economical chaos would cease to exist. Written after the Vietnam War, it directly addressed what society would be like if poverty, hate, and tensions were terminated. In order to evolve into a stable nation, society must reflect upon past actions and criticize their mistakes which caused immense suffering and fear, effecting the good of the nation. Doing this will ensure the evolution of a new and improved, open generation.

Other singers who commonly participated in protest demonstrations were called “folkies.”

~Judy Collins is a famous singer and songwriter who greatly contributed to the 1960s folk music. Her strong support of social activism encouraged her to compose her personal song, “Che.” This song was specifically dedicated to Che
Guevara, an Argentinian Marxist icon of the Cuban Revolution. His death in 1967 encouraged Collins to record the song. It talks about his life and how he managed to grow as a person by changing from two completely different extremes, primordial poverty to a diplomatic, intelligent leader.


After the Vietnam War, World War ll, and the Civil Rights Movement craze, many Americans became influenced to prevent such terrible events from disturbing their lives in the future. After the war had come to an end, many American servicemen came home, hoping to return to a normal family life. However, they soon learned that the war had immensely disrupted the basic society that once existed. Once the Baby Boom occurred, it ignited thousands of college students to dive into a new time in which they expressed their strong beliefs to awaken public awareness of war and civil rights conflicts through protest. In addition, the music industry also began to openly broadcast diverse beliefs and opinions through various songs. These songs soon became extremely successful and supported the growing protest movement that occurred in the 1960s.


The new lyrical styles of music that consumed American pop culture created a widespread sexual revolution. The United States embraced a diverse group of people- hippies, gays, feminists, homosexuals, etc. These various people transformed their beliefs to accept other marriages besides the heterosexual combinations. The 1960s represented a time of a dramatic increase in sexual intercourse among the younger generation. Consequently, due to this increase in sexual relations, pregnancy became extremely common. As a result, birth control pills became a source of relief and control over unwanted pregnancies. Before the pill was introduced, impregnated women would commonly resign from work, education, and struggled for survival as they decided whether to terminate their pregnancy or make room for another human being. The pill allowed women to pursue advanced career options, formal education, and receive further freedom opportunities within society.

Homosexuality was a major issue that was greatly criticized and looked upon negatively by society before the 1960s. It was acclaimed to be a psychological condition that was a brain developmental malfunction that was unable to be cured. Homosexuality prevented minorities from freely expressing their personal opinions about social rights and cultural protestation. However, the topic of homosexuality was remodeled by the 1960s. Gay rights campaigns faced excessive criticism as they resisted discriminatory policies and various social codes. One event of particular significance of the homosexual revolution was the Stonewall Riots of 1969. These riots were a continual series of historic, violent rallies against a police raid that occurred at the Stone wall Inn in New York City. Homosexuals stood up for their beliefs and took a stand in fighting against a government organization that tyrannized sexual minorities. These noteworthy furors initiated the beginning of the homosexual/gay rights movement in the United States.


Woodstock was a three day long festival on a dairy farm in the village of White Lake near Bethel, New York. external image woodstock_poster.jpg?w=395&h=568Woodstock was one of the biggest symbols of a decade of questioning authority and protesting the war in Vietnam. When only 50,000 people were expected, almost a half a million people showed up to express the importance of love, peace, and the opportunity for drugs and sex. That weekend of August 15, 1969, it was raining and muddy, but that didn’t stop the young people from congregating there for “3 Days of Peace and Music”. Many famous musicians performed at Woodstock. Some of these include Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and The Who. This event also sparked it to be called the “Summer of Peace and Love”. Woodstock sent a message around the world saying that people could come together peacefully and promote peace and enjoy music.

Summer of Love:
external image images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQ4P2BatOIBQSMfwcQBeFiK6m1ulA-5F71-Gxl1aVk7ytblio2l&t=1The Summer of Love was a social event that occurred during the summer of 1967 when about 100,000 people gathered on the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood in San Francisco. This gathering created a political and social rebellion. While hippies gathered in many areas throughout the world, San Francisco was the heart of the hippie revolution that was sweeping the nation. It became a defining moment for the hippie culture because this entire peace and love movement came into the public eye. During this summer, free food, love, and drugs were available in Golden Gate Park. A free clinic and and a free store gave away medical treatment and basic necessities to anybody that needed help. During the summer, people flocked to concerts in Golden Gate Park. However, towards the end of the summer, students left to resume their studies at college. The Summer of Love was another big showcase of the hippie counter-culture and how people came together to spread the message of peace and love throughout the world.


The 60’s was a time of rebellion against their elders, “the norm”, and U.S. involvement in the the Vietnam War. As young adults began to speak out against the Vietnam War, the “hippie” movement began to grow as more and more young adults began to question why exactly we were fighting a war we had no business being in. The people that began to speak out against the war did so through music. Musicians gave the common person a voice, and their voice and opinion was then heard throughout the world. Music was a great non-violent outlet for hippies to express their ideas for peace and love throughout the world.

Miscellaneous History:

~The new British were heading "across the pond" to America, forcing the U.S. to progress in the music industry by creating new sounds in Rock and in Rhythm-and-Blues (R&B).

~Blues music initially originated from the music of black sharecroppers in the poverty stricken area of the Mississippi Delta. It traveled north to Chicago and thus transformed the blues from acoustic solo guitar music to electric guitar-electric bass-drums combos.

~Les Paul was a studio whiz and guitar player who pioneered the technique of overdubbing (allowing one to play more than one part on a recording).

~The East Coast Doo Wop and other various girl groups were singers whose origins are in the streetcorner, and acappella groups were found in many urban areas.

~Motown Record Corporation had its first Top Ten hit, "Shop Around," by the Miracles in 1960. It was Motown's first million-selling record.

~Bob Dylan and Joan Baez performed a song together during the civil rights, "March on Washington" in 1963.

~Psychedelic rock dramatically increased in California's emerging music scene as groups followed the Byrds from folk to folk rock (1965).

~Late in the decade, the Monterey Pop Festival and Woodstock Music Festival would represent the American counterculture and gained many supporters.

~"Summertime Blues" and "Eve of Destruction" particularly talk about the issue of the voting age, which at the time was 21.

~Billboard Magazine named the English band, The Beatles, as the best Artist of the Decade for the 1960s.

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