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HIST 374: Protest Songs of the 1960s: Protest Songs

Dr. Sarah Judson

Protest Songs

Today's class will cover these categories:

  1. The Protest Song tradition
  2. The Cold War
  3. Civil Rights
  4. Vietnam
  5. Environmentalism

The songs

The Protest Song Tradition

Billie Holiday: "Strange Fruit," originally recorded in 1939

Pete Seeger: "Which Side Are You On? written by Florence Reece, Harlan County, Kentucky, 1932

The Cold War

Bob Dylan: "Masters of War." Released in 1963 on album The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan

Randy Newman, "Political Science," released on the 1972 album Sail Away

 The Civil Rights Movement

Phil Ochs: "Here's to the State of Mississippi," from the 1965 album I Ain't Marching Anymore

Nina Simone: "Mississippi Goddam," from the 1964 album Nina Simone in Concert

Bob Dylan: "Oxford Town," written in 1962, released in 1963 on album The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan

John Coltrane - "Alabama" - the saxophonist's response to the BIrmingham church bombing in 1963

James Brown - "Say It Loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud"

The Vietnam War

Buffy Sainte-Marie:  "Universal Soldier," written in 1963, and was a hit for Donovan in 1965. 

Creedence Clearwater Revival: "Fortunate Son," released as a 45rpm single in September 1969.

Jimmy Cliff - Vietnam - 1969 hit from one of the first reggae stars

Edwin Starr - "War" - 1970 - a number one hit and one of the first political songs from Motown Records

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young - "Ohio" - written in response to the killings of anti-war protesters at Kent State University in May 1970

John Lennon and Yoko Ono - "Give Peace A Chance" - released July 4. 1969 in the US


Joni Mitchell - "Big Yellow Taxi" - 1970 "they paved paradise and put up a parking lot"

John Prine - "Paradise" - 1971 - the effects of coal mining on a Kentucky town


Additional Social Commentary

Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention -  "Who Needs the Peace Corps?"

Gil Scott-Heron - "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised"

Johnny Cash - "The Man In Black"

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