In the 1960s the protest song changed popular music and the folk tradition of singing about the times was given new life through artists like Bob Dylan.

In the face of the Vietnam war, protesters would find their causes immortalised in the words of songs like "The Times They Are-A Changin'" and Buffalo Springfield's version of Stephen Still's song called "What It's Worth".

Move forward 40 years and the protest song from popular music is conspicuous by its absence.

We have been involved in numerous wars and witnessed more atrocities committed in a year than during the 1960s decade as a whole. So why are our musicians silent? And are they really that silent?

One of the songs of recent times that stands out is Pink's 'Dear Mr President', a heartfelt and powerful song that brought more than a tear or two to the eyes of this writer (But I am a soppy old git).  There have been other protest songs of recent years but few have had recognition by the music press or been given the air time that they would have in times gone by.

Why is this? What killed the protest song for the MTV generation?

Well in the 1980s and 1990s the protest song became a little too much a part of popular culture and then it became a cliche. Watching embarrassing renditions of power chord soft rock popularistic quazrotest songs by aging rockers trying to rekindle their failing careers by singing with a dodgy perm whilst holding one hand on the headphones did the trick.

Sting and Bono championed many causes throughout the 1980s and 1990s with noble intentions for plights of the less fortunate and the environment and still do to this day. I am not sure if there is a U2 album since the 1980s that has not contained at least one protest song.

But as for today's young generation there is a silent void of protest songs and Americanised teen angst has taken the centre stage.

If such a protest song were to make the light of day from this disaffected Xbox addicted IPod generation what would they sing about? They should write and sing about the injustice they are surrounded with at home and globally. They should also sing about the knife and gun crime on the streets of Britain. But they would more probably sing songs protesting against the delay in a video game release when it is made available in Japan a month earlier.

It turns out the real social commentators of this generation are rappers and hip hop artists.

In the UK we have one excellent and somewhat quirky rap outfit called The Streets who sing about life in 21st century Britain and other social injustices.

It may be me but my preference is for protest songs sung by bearded hippies with acoustic guitars…but then again I was born 1500 years too late.

Comment Here!

comments