Dec 12, 2019 in Exploratory

Music and its Influences

Over the years, different musicians have used the art of music to describe the current state of affairs and express generations’ feelings against various occurrences. Through music, one can learn the history of a nation and the mood that prevailed in the particular era when the music was composed. Music at times takes a different perspective from entertaining and informing to protesting against certain shortcomings in the society either by the government or the citizens.  Regarding this issue, this paper aims at describing how music has spoken for generations over the years starting from the 1960s to the 21st century.


The most notable song in the 1960s is “With God on Our Side” by Bob Dylan released in 1964. The protest song represents the Cuban Missile Crisis, which introduced a new era of the nuclear disaster in the world. The song describes discourses that inform America's political and military actions that tend to disregard fundamental human rights hence questioning whether God has been on America's side. The song became was an instant hit song as soon as it was released gaining popularity in the various media houses across the nations. The popularity aided Bob Dylan to achieve his objective of persuading people to disown war as a tool for dispute settling between nations through this song. In the first stanza, the song describes how selfishness has resulted in the world becoming a place where the weak have no place due to the current depression. 


Through the history of America’s war engagement with different nations, Bob Dylan shows the adverse effects of war on innocent citizens. For instance, Dylan uses the phrase "Oh the history books tell it, they tell it so well. The cavalries charged, the Indians fell, the cavalries charged, the Indians died.” In this context, the song is describing how Indians were butchered and wiped out of America in the great genocide of the 19th century. The song also talks about other wars in the history of America such as the Spanish-America war, the civil war, the first and the Second World War. Though the song uses irony in describing many of these facts, it had a significant influence on how people viewed war against nations in the 1960s era.


In the year 1970 Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young (CSNY) released a protest song "Ohio" which was a reaction to a shooting that happened at Kent State University in the US. Four Vietnam War protestors had been shot by US soldiers as they carried out their protestations against the war. The song represents the America Vietnam War, which lasted for 20 years from 1955 to 1975.  The song turned out to be an anthem ensured that the adverse effects of war are unforgettable by the public hoping to motivate people to rise against the war. 

Media houses in the US such as 1 AM and 7 AM helped the song in reaching its target audience resulting to protest groups using the song as their anthem. The song matched with protests that followed pressured the government to end the support for the war four years later. The song describes the adverse effects of the war through lyrics like “Gotta get down to it, soldiers are cutting us down should have been done long ago. What if you knew her and found her dead on the ground? How can you run when you know?”.


“Beds Are Burning," a song by the Midnight Oil band best describes the state of affairs in the 1980s in Australia. The anthem song was released in 1988 and when the political arena of Australia was dominated by the native Australian lands debate. The song urges the Australian government to give back the aboriginal lands to the Pintupi tribe, who were forcibly moved out of the settlements during the period of the 1950s to 1960s. Through lyrics such as "The time has come, A fact's a fact, it belongs to them, let's give it back" the song emphasizes the need to return the confiscated lands to their rightful owners.

Midnight Oil had released the song months before the country celebrated its 200th anniversary marking the first arrival of Australian fleet in Sydney as a reminder that Australia had been celebrating an occasion founded on genocide and plundering. The song was performed to thousands of Australians and also received a lot of airplay on radio and TV stations that aided its popularity amongst various social movements around the world fighting against land injustice. The song later on became an anthem to countries that had acquired their land through war such as America and South Africa carrying the political message all through to the 20th century.


In the year, 1992 group Rage Against the Machine produced their hit song “Killing In The Name” which turned out to be an anthem among many people fighting against racism in the US. The song addresses racism using lyrics such as “Some of those that work forces, are the same that burn crosses”. In this particular statement, the song links police to ethnic discrimination and brutality. Zach del la Rocha and Tom Morello released this song in the era when the US was fighting racial discrimination and police brutality that marked a defining moment in the history of America. 

During this era when Radio stations and TV stations had gained popularity and increased at a significant rate, the media aided the song in gaining popularity overnight hence promoting protests across different parts of Los Angeles. The song is linked to Los Angeles riots of 1992 after four police officers were vindicated of excessive force and assault that was caught on a videotape. The hit song turned out to be an anthem and was voted the number one song of the year in December 1992 in Radio 5.


The second Iraq War marks the 2000s error in the history. Dar Williams through her song "Empire" released in the year 2005 addresses the war and its effects. The song protests against the then president, George Bush’s decision to engage in the war vehemently accusing the US of empiricism. The song criticizes America’s policies that aim at fighting terrorism using such lyrics as "We'll kill the terrorizers and a million of their races, but when our people torture you that's a few odd cases". Dar Williams through her song intended to reinforce peoples' strength to confront the government's efforts to the war and other political problems that may emerge in future. 

As social media gained popularity through the growth of internet and media houses, the song received immense promotion all around the globe. As a result of the song, therefore, different groups rose to protest against the Iraq War and the president's policies regarding dispute resolution. The song describes how bad policies are implanted over time as people do not rise against the system when the government is violating human rights. The action and effect are described by the lyrics, "Kiss my ring, and join our next campaign, and the empire grows with the news that we are winning".


In an era marked by various fashion trends emerging and dying fast, the "selfie" trend is the perfect trend that describes the 2010s. The "selfie" trend is well defined by the song "Selfie" by the Chainsmokers. The song uses such lyrics as "Can you guys help me pick a filter? I don't know if I should go with XX Pro or Valencia I want to look tan". The song also-also marks the era of social networking such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc. through the use of various terms such as hashtag, caption, and texting. The song has turned out to be an anthem song amongst youths who are relating very well to the context of the lyrics. In this era when the social media is well established across the globe with platforms such as YouTube and peer to peer file sharing the song has reached a lot of people all over the world hence promoting the “selfie” trend.

Clearly music has influenced different generations over time and is also an important platform that describes the history of generations over time. Various musicians have used lyrics to express the mood in a particular era and air their grievances to the government over various underlying issues. Some of the songs have died with the generations it defines, but some of the songs such as "With God on Our Side" has stood the test of time due to its vast history and the reflection it promotes on different underlying discourses in the society. It is, therefore, important to nurture musical talent and create a conducive environment for the artists to continue expressing the history of different generations over time.


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