Blog: Whatever Happened To The Protest Song?

Blogger Lagrange explores...      22/02/14
Blog: Whatever Happened To The Protest Song?


Lagrange Audio Writes:

It's amazing how these things start. So picture the scene where a bunch of people at the pub with a healthy appreciation in music begin discussing history. All the music they love, they hate (and why) and what they miss and so on, and inevitably we hit a subject area that gets everyone's tree shaking (or blood boiling), in this case 'Whatever happened to the protest song?'.

Now regardless of whether you are an idealist, politically motivated or at the other end of the spectrum where you just want music to be a more light-weight soundtrack to your life, we all have an opinion about the protest song.

In many ways it gets to the very heart of the power that music can have, can you imagine a life without it? Bob Geldof summed it up better than most on a recent trip to Australia when he said that rock 'n' roll needs a social context to exist and further went on to say that much music today reflected a lack of context, in his opinion thereby fragmenting if you will the power of music.

Whether you agree with this or not what he did say however can infer a reasonable parallel to a perception that protest songs do not figure as prominently as they once did. Now I use the term perception quite deliberately here simply because having a perception doesn't necessarily mean something is true, far from it. A 'smoking gun' the perception maybe but always points to the need for validation.

In the course of my involvement in this beer-fuelled conversation I found myself agreeing with the notion that protest songs had diminished in number and prominence and I was compelled to explore this further.

The obvious problem is that by their very nature protest songs are highly charged and emotive and any opinions offered about their significance and place in the modern world will likely result in much heated debate, that which I would like to avoid. So the only sensible approach to take is to try and be as scientific as possible within obvious constraints in order to arrive at the truth of the matter, or at least present enough data from which trends can be identified and extrapolated.

When I started this exercise however I had no idea how difficult this was going to be because my two key measures were simply the number of songs released within a time range or period. In other words the number of protest songs released in each year since 1963. This date was purely arbitrary to provide a convenient fifty year snapshot and in no way diminishes any protest song released prior to this date, of which there are many dating back not just decades but centuries. Unfortunately this approach is still very simplistic.




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12 Comments...  Post a comment    original story
Champ    Said...

I read the entire article and didn't found it very scientific. By that I mean that there is to much guess work involved to make a sensible conclusion. He also made the mistake to call things "the nature of" when in fact thats not what it really is meaning that in other environments we could act differently on it and every artist has a mind of its own, lives in a different area etc etc. (sure a higher percentage would likely be one side or the other but thats another story) Was a nice read anyway. :) I wish more artist wrote powerful lyrics that make sense and also mean every word of it. My favourite song still is John Lennon's - Imagine. The lyrics of that song are still very true to the core of what I wish to accomplice in life. The lyric makes sense even in science. (beside the fact that there is more then sky above us, but let's not get too picky :P)

22-Feb-14 03:08 PM


Anti Zionist    Said...

The Hillsborough campaign , made a song that got into the charts. There are hundreds of Pro Irish Freedom songs, there are songs about the miners strike. There is a lot out there. There will be some in Kiev now . There are great Palestinian songs and great song celerbrating people standing up to the Police .such as 'Fuck the Police' This track was Massive.

22-Feb-14 03:08 PM


to be    Said...

There are so many out there until today and so the question shoud be in another direction. Why are protestsongs not so populare as they used to be. Like Universal Soldier was.. I think it is because there is no "big goal" which keep people all over the world together...special in the cold war when all people were affraid of nuclear war, there was a great need for such songs...

Even when Big Stars sing such song today... nobody is intressting... A lot of Madonna Audience say they don't want her to talk and sing about problems of the world...and now a lot of people here read this and think, so she does? You make fun of me... Yes she does and Media don't transport that fact... they want just see how she shakes her ass... so it is allways the Audience which make such songs populare... the Lyrics of Pet Shop Boys It is allright are so 2014... but everybody just cares for go west...and Ministry is the most politcal Band i know but in 2014 a big audience give a fuck about such lyrics... we want fun, fun, fun...

22-Feb-14 07:10 PM


Nanners1    Said...

Basically, the music "industry" happened. End of story.

22-Feb-14 07:46 PM


blox Electrix    Said...

I think what happened to the protest song is that someone wrote a protest song about it & now nobody will protest.

23-Feb-14 11:21 AM


Noel Eiffe    Said...

Love them or hate them, one recent example is the track "Gaza" from Marillion's latest, Sounds That Can't Be Made.

But, um, well, it's not like Woody Guthrie in any particular way, but the soulful repetition of "it just ain't right, it just ain't right," well, is a protest. I'm a casual listener of this band, but they do seem to have a protest thing going on fairly consistently.

Also, I think Radiohead does a lot of protesty things both on and off record. I dunno, seems to me there's a lot of anti-corporate protest out there in a world increasing under pressure by corporate ownership.

In a post-irony world, maybe, it gets harder and harder to take "causes" seriously when they seem so hyped up by celebrity voyeurs. But then it does seem rather depressing that we've been ground down and become numb to legitimate voicing of the complaint.

Interesting read...

23-Feb-14 05:02 PM


a man from Evbaz    Said...

try this one. Ukraine, Jan 2014. The pictures explain it http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AFYttRDvQCc

23-Feb-14 07:28 PM


tacklux    Said...

Skinny Puppy's Weapon is an entire album of protest songs.

23-Feb-14 11:37 PM


Studio 139    Said...

I can not speak to other cultures, but I can say in the U.S. the way we listen to music, the role it plays in our lives has shifted dramatically over the last 50 years. While one can argue about how effective any protest song has ever been, but it is hard to escape the fact that any protest song could easily be used by an artist to gain relevance or gravitas.

23-Feb-14 11:40 PM


Spunky    Said...

Esperanze Spalding: We Are Amerika

http://vimeo.com/79294714#

24-Feb-14 10:25 AM


Raise your fist!    Said...

Interesting. Skinny Puppy and Ministry are good examples. Since 20 years, most of protest songs come from the industrial/Dark Electro scene IMHO, they're not coming from the mainstream. It seems that most of people prefer light weight music & lyrics. Listenning to protest songs requires a bit more involvement, thoughts and critics. As it has been said another problem is about sales. Making protest songs don't pay the bills while singing stupid dance songs and showing naked girls or other superficial things is a lot more attractive to people...The music industry is a business...only a few indie labels dare to promote protest artists because they still beleive that music should be use to protest even if it doesn't sell...

24-Feb-14 06:22 PM


ciabd    Said...

Also the HipHop and Rap Community make such Tracks if it is good...

You wanna know in which Time we live? I saw just 2 Interviews in my Life with James Blunt...and it is allways about his time in the Army. But is he critic, say fuck war... nothing...he sings for the troups and gets applause for beeing a soldier....what is his message???...when he talks you have the feeling he is a representer of the Goverment....

And what was with the dead of Pete Seeger? Anyone remember...

25-Feb-14 02:31 AM


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