Music and Politics of the 1960s Essay

Music and Politics of the 1960s Essay

In 1960s, the main archetype of fashionable music had become popular music which was an adaptation of African genre that encompassed soul music, reggae and funk. It dominated the decade breaking the tradition of the traditional or rather classical music that stuck to the cannon of the classics and conservative in nature. Rock music employed different kinds electronic instruments which were in vogue making it endeared to the rebellious young generation (Randall, 2004). Rock music was rich thematically, bearing the politics and other topical issues that rocked the time period. For this reason, bands produced music records employing the genre of popular music – rock music, which was popularized by radio stations that played it frequently. Rock music was a fusion of African American tunes that encompassed the modernized and traditional aspects fused with the British wave of blues (Mitchell, 2005).

This rock-mania caught up with other artists who for fear of becoming thematically obsolete, took to the flowing trend. This by all means attracted enormous commercial audience. Yarar (2008) argues that rock music played with the emotions of its listeners who felt in a way connected to the music therefore becoming popular among the people. Rock music carried messages of political and personal liberation and more so the rising of consciousness of people on political issues bearing in mind this was the period of protests for civil rights in America in addition to the Vietnam War.

Popular Music and positive reaction to politics

This was a time better labeled by historians Age of protests. The artists of this era packaged their message in rock music which was a big hit. Mitchell (2005) points out that music in this way acted as a mode of self-expression and emancipation of the oppressed. African Americans were agitating for civil rights and therefore music played a great role in raising the conscience of the marginalized and more so pressurizing the policymakers to consider their hardlined stand on the issues of people’s rights. Rock music alone could not have caused people to protest against the injustices they received but it contributed to the overall mass awareness of their situation as the music was thematically tailored to address indirectly the plight of the oppressed and the need for solidarity to ace common bargain for their freedom. What was important was the conscietization of the people’s minds and the eventual realization of what they had been deprived. This is what led to protests and the physical liberation (Brown, 2004). On this score, we cannot undervalue the power of music in political struggle.

On the issue of war in Vietnam, through music, artists expressed the evils of war and their discontentment with the nations spearheading the war. It is true that music could not make the masses protest but it dominated the overall view of protestors against war in Vietnam in the 1960s. Mitchell (2005) states that due to rock music, there was more public awareness as protestors sung in Washington DC as they protested against the war in Vietnam on 15th November 1969. This in fact points to the ability of music to influence the conscience of the masses and ultimately agitate for change. Popular music played the role of the activists in its own right by conscientizing the public of the social evils that quietly devoured the society inch by inch grounding humanity to the edge. Its role, though passive, is effective for it does not pit the artist against the judging authority but effectively passes the message of change onto the masses who decipher it gaining more ground on what affects the society, hence invoking the urge to shout out in solidarity (Yarar, 2008).

Music was also viewed to a larger extent to influence the politics of culture from the conservative to more liberal one accepting changes as they occur in the society. The contemporary society was experiencing social transformation with rock music defining a culture with new values and gauging people from those new radical aspects. This led institutions to incorporate changes in the already existing structures. In can thus be argued that the youth become active in all that affected them and society at large due to conscietization via the music (Brown, 2004). The wave of music was actually reflected on societal changes and the youth via the influence of music in causing revolt. Achieving a higher moral ground, music vibrantly exemplified the independence of expression where the society sought freedom from oppression. And this points to the reason for which the world staged protests against the intervention of United States in the Vietnam War.

On the ability to disseminate information, rock music has been so influential in the way it referred to those who associated with it. According to Randall (2004), this was a major point of influence via which nations could push for a particular agenda to the people. By using musicians, the government could package messages that campaigned for particular ideas in the community at large. In addition, the message packaged in the music symbolically had impacts on the people because when people endeared to become rich, they would still be reminded via popular music that material things and money do not bring happiness, for happiness is found within the self through self reconditioning. The mental dialogue than came with listening to popular music emphatically created individual awareness to things that surround ones life and moreover empowered aspects of self-expression and liberation of the mind (Mitchell, 2005). The artist, acting as the mouth piece of the society, would use popular music to hit out at the authorities for evils done on the people and especially at a time when racial discrimination was rife. The messages where quite clear and precise, addressing the bitter truth beyond the prejudices and stereotypes that racism was based upon. The ideas of discriminating one simply because of his skin color was simply dehumanizing as one did not choose where and in which race he was supposed to be born. Therefore, popular music of the 1960s was not merely for recreational purposes but a vehicle through which the philosophy of politics penetrated the cultural and social space leading to the eventual enlightenment of the contemporary society (Yarar, 2008).

Negative impacts of Music

Popular music has not been without negative impacts that have been witnessed in the contemporary society. In Britain, the media was satirical in the way popular music had negatively impacted on the youth for it encouraged a rebellious attitude among the young leading to occasional clashes with the authorities whom they saw as the agents of government propaganda. Popular music was a medium for rebellion or protests and was accountable for the ideological divisions that threatened the society (Brown, 2004). The aim of the music was to consciencetize but not bring radical behavior among the youth who were mostly the as it did not par on well with the older generation.

Rock music was influential in other ethics too as it advocated for prosperity in terms of big cars, lavish living as well as living a good life but where it underscored on the ethics that come with working hard to achieve these dreams in life. Moreover, the idea that drugs to some extent received praise in popular music had impact on the youth who had become rebellious to the society conservativeness to moral ideals. This is to blame for the penetration of drugs in the society that has negatively affected lives of many a youth with many having lost their lives prematurely (Mitchell, 2005). These are tragedies from the music of the sixties which should forever act as a reminder on the effects of drugs.

The emergence of subcultures that emphasized on new extremes led to a cliché of youngster who negated the morals of the society and brought sharp contrast to societal expectations (Brown, 2004). This is the culture of tattoos and extreme fashion that led to bastardization and erosion in the societal expected norms. Divisions in the society emerged leading to some youngster being caste out by their parents. Altogether, this has not anchored well in the society because of the extreme ends that came with the popular music (Randall, 2004). The influence on the youth has been great and as a result we have youths that are careless and who want to spend to be fashionable and flow with the current popular culture.


Popular music had a great impact in the 1960s, a period marked by agitation for civil rights and protests against policies made by leaders that affected the global society such as US army involvement in the Vietnam War. Popular music had its battles to fight in the raising of consciousness of the people on the evils that surrounded them, requiring the expression of solidarity in a bid to stem out these evils. The public awareness created by popular music was what was needed by the people to rise up in one accord and condemn out rightly the oppression of the people by unjust policies. It was not possible that popular music could organize people to protests but the rising of the people’s consciousness on the minute details they once ignored made them think, and with the activists calling for solidarity in condemning what was wrong in the society, the people responded because popular music had engaged their thoughts. However, there are trends that we can out rightly condemn having emanated from popular culture for they have impacted negatively on the society, leading to moral degradation.

List of References

Brown, T (2004), Subcultures, pop music and politics: Skinheads and Nazi rock in England and Germany, Journal of Social History, Retrieved July 23, 2009, from

Mitchell S (2005), You say you want a revolution?: Popular Music and revolt in France, The United States, and Britain during the Late 1960s, HAOL, (8), 7-18.

Randall, A (2004), Music, power and politics, New York: Routledge.

Yarar, B (2008), Politics of/and popular music, Cultural Studies, 22(1), 35-79.

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