Story behind the Protest Song: A Reference Guide to the 50 Songs That Changed the 20th Century

Story behind the Protest Song: A Reference Guide to the 50 Songs That Changed the 20th Century

Story behind the Protest Song: A Reference Guide to the 50 Songs That Changed the 20th Century

Story behind the Protest Song: A Reference Guide to the 50 Songs That Changed the 20th Century

Synopsis

Protest songs are united by the fact they all have something to say, something to dispute, or something to rile against, whether it be political, social, or personal. Story Behind the Protest Song features 50 of the most influential musical protests and statements recorded to date, providing pop-culture viewpoints on some of the most tumultuous times in modern history. Among the featured: songs about the Vietnam War, the civil rights movement, the most recent upheaval over policy in the Middle East, as well as teenage rebellion, animal rights, criticisms of mass media, and even protest songs that lambaste other protest songs.

Excerpt

It is an unpredictable treat that never fails to gladden the heart of any school kid: the sight of a Physical Education teacher drafted at the last minute to substitute for a sick teacher in another subject. Growing up as I did in England and attending a pretty tough high school, this usually meant that the normal lesson plan went out the window and the substitute teacher was there simply to make sure the classmates did not injure each other. On occasion, the substitute might try to keep the lesson somewhat vaguely near the actual subject—I remember one Physical Education teacher bravely trying to engage my English class in a group reading of a Shakespeare play, although at one point he looked up with a wry smile and freely admitted he could not understand a word. But one particular occasion sticks in my mind. It was a Humanities class where we normally studied the history of the troubles in Northern Ireland (actually a subject I really liked). The substitute teacher happened to be one of those stern Physical Education types that pretty much no one liked—we will call him Mr. “A” for the sake of his anonymity and my lack of a lawyer. The machinations of hundreds of years of Irish history were way too complicated for him to even begin to tackle, so he decreed that we could have a whole hour of “quiet reading.” How is that for a blatantly obvious crowd control measure?

Still, I could not have been happier for in my bag that day, I happened to have a copy of the British music magazine Q. I was 15 at the time and fast beginning to descend into music-geek territory by reading music press meant for people twice my age, listening to the radio at any chance I could, and endlessly enthusing to my Oasis-obsessed peers about such bands as Weezer, Green Day, Radiohead, and R.E.M., which was on the cover of that latest edition of Q. About halfway through the “lesson,” Mr. A was stalking through the class to make sure we were not reading anything unsuitable when he came across me reading said magazine and tersely remarked, “where’s the educational value in that?” before adding a glare for good measure. To my eternal dismay, I did not have an answer and he told me to put it away. If only I had known then what I know now.

During my extensive and tiring research for this book, I was buoyed massively by reading about the legendary Pete Seeger—a true American hero if ever there was . . .

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