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Protest Songs of 1960’s Essay

In history, words have had a tremendous ability to empower the people to rise up to achieve their desired goals. Often times words have the power to help affect a change in government, racism, or condition of life. Gandhi was the first to teach us the power of non-violent movements to help attain the goals and desires of the people. He showed us that the power of words could drive Britain, one of the most powerful countries, to release their rule over India. He helped accomplish this by walking long marches protesting the wrongness of the Britain power over India. Just like Gandhi songwriters in the 1960’s used the power of the word to help achieve their desired results. Instead of making lectures, they decided to write songs filled with symbolism and meaning with a direct message. These people wrote passionate songs fighting for their rights. If these people didn’t stand up to the wrongness of the culture we would still be living in it today.

John Lennon, one of the most influential songwriters and musician to ever lived, wrote a song called “Give Peace a Chance.” John and Yoko were staying at Queen Elizabeth’s hotel on May 26th,1969 when John and Yoko decided to stay in bed for six full days to promote peace. Being already famous because he was a band member of The Beatles, he got a great deal of attention from news stations. John got the song idea and the song’s rhythm by listening to all the media knock on his door. He decided to follow through on his idea and write the song. “All we are saying, is give peace a chance” is one of the lyrics in this song and is also one of the most popular lyrics in the world. He wanted to stop the war in Vietnam and wanted a war-free world. This song quickly became the anthem of the anti-war movement as many Americans felt that we should not being fighting in Vietnam. On October 15, 1969, a multi-city demonstration called The Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam, took place, with protesters singing this song in mass numbers.

Another song “This Land is Your Land, This Land is My Land” was written by Woodie Guthrie to protest the Great Depression. He was focusing on when the people were roaming the city streets trying to find jobs and a way to stay alive. Woodie Guthrie starts off by painting a pleasant picture about the United States of America as the “land of opportunity” but towards the end he addresses real social and economic issues of tht time period. He points out that he sees his fellow citizens standing in welfare lines and then asks, is this land really ours? He seems to be asking whether the government really cares about its citizens. He is also addressing the issue of ownership by noting that common folks are dealing with hunger while the land is so rich or fruitful.

John Fogarty is the lead singer of the band, Creedence Clearwater, and in the song, Fortunate Son, he says “Some folks are born, silver spoon in hand, Lord don’t they help themselves.” This is talking about the rich kids that are born with money and get everything they want. Later in the song he talks about the “Tax Man” coming to the door and the house looks like a “rummage sale” which implies that these rich kids grow up unresponsible not knowing how to don’t pay their taxes or live on their own without their parents money. When he refers to not being a “Fortunate Son” he’s talking about politician’s sons who don’t have to go the war because of their father’s power.

They do have the protective government behind them to keep them out of the armed forces while the rest of middle and lower class are subject to the draft that was going on at the time. He also talks about asking them “How much should we give?” and they just say “more more more.” So when you ask the government how much we’re supposed to give to help the war effort they basically say that they want and unlimited about of donation. This song was one of the more influential songs of the time period, and I think that this is evident in the length of time that this song has been prominent. It also became an anthem of the anti-war protests.


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