Free Powerpoint: The History of Protest Songs

Report
“We The People” Protest
Songs 1776-Present
By
Marion T. Sanders, Jnr.
Glenn Hills Middle School

In harmony with the First Amendment’s
guarantee of freedom of speech, music has
long been an expression of freedom, peace
and justice. Throughout American history,
songs have cried out against inequality,
poverty, and in support of workers civil and
human rights.
Escape At Sunset
Slavery
After the founding of the United States in
1776, some of the new nation’s first protest
songs were by and about slaves.
Steal away
Steal away
Steal away to Jesus
Steal away
Steal away home
Ain’t got long to stay here
Hutchinson Family
The Hutchinson Family
Singers, was one of the best
known musical groups
during the mid 1800’s.The
subject of their protest
songs ranged from
temperance to women’s
rights to abolitionism.
Hutchinson Family cont’d
Politicians gazed, astounded when, at first our bell
resounded: Freight trains are coming, tell these foxes
with our votes and ballot boxes
Roll it along!Roll it along!Roll it along! Thro’ the
nation Freedom’s car, Emancipation
Because of Julia Ward Howe, John
Brown may not have become fused with
American myth. She wrote “The Battle
Hymn of the Republic” to the tune of
“John Brown’s Body, retaining its
“Glory, glory hallelujah”and changing “
His soul goes marching on” to “His truth
is marching on.”
Commercial Break
In the 1880’s there were 1,118,000 children under sixteen at
work in the United States. With everyone working long hours
families often became strangers to one another. A pants presser
,Morris Rosenfeld wrote a poem, “My Boy”. The poem is on
the next page. For many families today this poem is a reality.
How would the poem sound immersed in the rhythms of today.
“My Boy”by Morris Rosenfeld
I have a little boy at home,
A pretty little son;
I think sometimes the world is mine
In him, my only one…
‘Ere dawn my labor drives me forth;
Tis night when I am free;
A stranger am I to my child;
And stranger my child to me;
The Workers
In the 1890’s, workers began distributing strike songbooks in
American cites. The Industrial Workers of the World (IWWW), also
known as the Wobblies, most completely combined songs and action
in their movement for union building and workers’ rights in the early
1900’s. Songs were a central part of the organization’s strategy of
recruitment, solidarity and strikes. One of the best-known songs if
this period was “Bread and Roses” by James Oppenheim and
Caroline Lolsaat, which was taken up by protest movements
throughout the 20th century.
“Bread and Roses”
by James Oppenheim & Caroline
Kolsaat
As we go marching, marching
Un-numbered women dead
Go crying through our sins
Their ancient call for bread
Small art and love and beauty
Their drudging spirits knew
Yes it is bread we fight for
But we fight for roses, too.
War, Labor and Race
The Almanac Singers, which included Woody Guthrie, Josh
White, a young Pete Seeger and many others, toured
America before World War II, singing to support struggling
workers everywhere. In the years after the war, Seeger
would go on to become one the great champions of folk and
protest music.
“Deportee”
By Woody Guthrie
Some of us are illegal, and some are not wanted
Our work contract’s out and we have to move on
Six hundred miles to that Mexican border,
They chase us like outlaws, like rustlers, like thieves
We died in your hills, we died in your deserts
We died in your valleys and died on your plains.
We died ‘neath your trees and we died in your bushes
Both sides of the river, we died just the same
The greatest protest song of all time was born
during a strike in Charleston, South Carolina.
Taking their text from a 1900 gospel song by
Charles Tindley( “I’ll Overcome”), workers of the
Negro Food and Tobacco Unions sang,”We Shall
Overcome” for the first time in American history.
The song would go on to become the unofficial
anthem of the civil rights movement and beyond.
We Shall Overcome by Charles Tindley
We shall overcome
We shall overcome
We shall overcome some day
Chorus: Oh, deep in my heart
I do believe
We shall overcome some day
Vietnam
The protest music of the 60’s and 70’s was a mixed of old
and new themes. Those that abandoned old and general
themes started creating themes that were all-out cultural
assaults on specific events. In response to anti-war
protestors at Kent State that were gunned down by the
National Guard, Crosby,Stills, Nash, and Young were
inspired to write “Ohio”.
Vietnam
cont’d
“Ohio”By CSNY
“Tin soldiers and Nixon coming
We’re finally on our own
This summer I hear the drumming
Four Dead in Ohio”
Buffalo Springfield wrote about the same
incident: “You step out of line, the man
come and take you away.”
Jimi Hendrix
Perhaps one of the most compelling live performances by a
musician during the Vietnam War was that of Jimi Hendrix and
his “Band of Gypsy’s” on New Year’s Day 1970. His twelve
minute version of “Machine Gun” captured the whole audience
and shook the world. He opened the set like this: “Happy New
Year first of all. I hope we have a million or two million more of
them…if we can get over this summer… Right I’d like to
dedicate this one to the draggin’scene that’s goin’ on. All the
soldiers that are fightin’ in Chicago, Milwaukee and New
York…Oh Yeah, and all the soldiers fightin’ in Vietnam. Like to
do a thing called machine gun.”
“Machine Gun”
By Jimi Hendrix
“Evil man make me kill ya
Evil man make you kill me
Evil man make me kill you
Even though we’re only families
apart.”
Anti-Establishment
In the 80’s two new forms grabbed the mike
of protest. The Punk movement combined
anger, alienation and politics in songs. Rap
also emerged as a protest genre.
Anti-Establishment cont’d
“Stars and Strips of Corruption” By the Dead Kennedys was a Punk protest song
about the Gulf War.
The stars and stripes of corruption
Let’s bring it all down!
Tell me who’s the real patriots
The Archie Bunker slobs waving flags?
Or the people with the guts to work
For some real change
Rednecks and bombs don’t make us strong
We loot the world, yet we can’t even feed
ourselves.
Anti-Establishment cont’d
Rap emerged as protest genre, beginning with Grandmaster Flash’s “The Message”,
which offered up a long lament of the harsh realities for poor African Americans
I can’t take the smell, I can’t take the noise
Got no money to move out, I guess I got no choice
Rats in the front room, roaches in the back
Junkie’s in the alley with a baseball bat
I tried to get away, but I couldn’t get far
Cause the man with the tow-truck repossessed my car
Don’t push me, cause I’m close to the edge
I’m trying not to loose my head
It’s like a jungle sometimes, it makes me wonder
How I keep from going under.
Message Music: Where will the protest song
turn next?
Musicians in every genre continue to write protest songs. Diverse rockers like
Bruce Springsteen, AniDifranco, Steve Earle and System of A Down have
contributed to the protest lexicon in the last few years, some tackling speckfic
injustices, others taking on the larger implications of America’s tragedy and
response since September 11, 2001.
“To The Teeth”By AniDiFranco
Are we really going to sleep through another, while the rich profit
off our blood,yeah it may take some doing, to see this undoing
through, but in my humble opinion, here’s what I suggest we do,
open fire on Hollywood,open fire on MTV, open fire on NBC and
CBS and ABC, open fire on the NRA,and all the lies they told us
along the way.
Anti-Establishment
cont’d
Hip hop and rap artist like and Michael Franti & Spearhead, OutKast and DRSOne tackle social themes.
“Bomb da World” By Michael Franti
You can chase down all your
enemies
bring them to their knees
You can bomb the world to places
but you can’t bomb it into peace
The catalog of protest music is vast. This
overview highlights some of the American
songs and songwriters whose words
songs and music served as catalysts for
thought, action and even social change.

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