In our Political Theory class at Columbia State we were assigned the choosing of ten songs that were relevant to what we are learning about government and politics.
I will begin with the anti-Vietnam War songs. Blowing in the Wind by Bob Dylan and Where Have All the Flowers Gone by Pete Seeger were probably the most played, recorded by many folk artists including Peter Paul and Mary and the Kingston Trio. I was a child of the 60s. I included lines from one of these songs in a play I wrote for our local community theater, Pulltight Players. The play also included a reference to the now infamous photo of Kent State. Neil Young wrote Four Dead in Ohio which is about the shooting by the National Guard at Kent State.
We Shall Overcome became the anthem for the Civil Rights movement. I think the lyrics were written by Zilpha Hart, but it has roots in Gospel Music and has a history of creative lyrics to fit the occasion. Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are a Changing and Sam Cooke’s A Change Is Gonna Come were favorites for defining the Civil Righs movement. The Byrds recorded Turn, Turn, Turn also by Pete Seeger, taken from the well-known Biblical quote in Ecclesiastes, “There’s a time for every purpose under Heaven.” It fit into the 1960s which depicted the decade as the “best of times and the worst of times.”
On freedom of speech, my daughter introduced me to One Voice by the Wailin’ Jennys (not Waylon). The first verse is a solo proposing the idea of one voice for freedom of speech. This is followed by a duet for the second verse with two voices, and a third with a trio and three voices. Then they all sing the fourth verse as the voice of everyone, and the fifth verse as one voice including everyone.
On the subject of pluralism, Woody Guthrie, made a statement for diversity and inclusion with This Land is Your Land, “From the redwood forest to the Gulf Stream Waters. From California to the New York Island, this land was made for you and me.”
On a current note and recurring theme, Woody Guthrie, wrote and recorded Deportee. It is a story of migrant farm workers who picked fruit in the Southwest who drowned after being deported. The references to the disaster included no names, just repeating the word deportee.
On the subject of nationalism and patriotism, three come to mind. The Star Spangled Banner by Francis Scott Key brings us to our feet routinely at athletic events and proudly when our athletes win medals. It has had moments of protests. Members of our track team raised black gloves and clenched fist on the winners stand at the Olympics. More recently NFL players have “taken a knee” to protest Black Lives Matter and other racial issues. This was followed by a right wing backlash of anger and condemnation.
Lee Greenwood’s Proud to Be an American has become the anthem for conservative America. Wherever there is a gathering of Republicans or any right wing group Lee seems to show up and inspire the crowd. “I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free.”
To make the quantum leap from the sixties to 2017, I have one of the classics from the worst of times or best of times. The campaign, election, and first month of the new Presidency have filled the streets with demonstrations and protests similar to my generation. Barry McGuire captured the mood of troubled times in 1964 with his hit, The Eve of Destruction. Ironically, when I went to a link to look for a quote from the lyrics, the first images on the video were of President Trump. Here are the lyrics: