Political Music: Is the Hippie Vibe of the 60’s Coming Back?
There is no disputing America’s current contentious political climate. Hard lines have been drawn between the country’s two major parties and everyone seems to have chosen a side. Even those with little prior interest in political matters have taken note. Perhaps the willingness of modern musical artists to express their political beliefs through song has had more of an impact on the nation’s consciousness and indeed, pop culture in general. Below is a look at how political music has continued to change and impact popular culture and social commentary through the 60’s to today.
The Dixie Chicks Provide a Pivotal Political Music Moment
The Hippie culture of the 1960’s was known for its protest music. Once the movement faded away, the music industry drifted back towards commercialism. Political music was still around but got shuffled to the back of the line. Protest anthems were no longer mainstream radio material as the 80’s and 90’s gave way to a new millennium.
March 10, 2003 is a date that one could regard as the birth of the new musical revolution. While on stage in England, Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks made disparaging comments about sitting president George W. Bush and America’s war with Iraq. The comments went viral and the response was brutal.
Maines and the Dixie Chicks enjoyed massive popularity in the Western United States where country music and conservative political values go hand-in-hand. Almost overnight the Dixie Chicks found themselves shunned by country radio and those who listen to it. Disc jockeys refused to play their music. Former fans burned their records. To this day the Dixie Chicks have not recovered from the incident.
What is interesting, however, is that Maines has largely remained unrepentant despite the loss of a career. The band’s response to the blacklisting was a song entitled “Not Ready to Make Nice.”
Music Takes Aim at Politics Again
A strong argument could be made that Maines willingly became a martyr for the new political music movement. Her sacrifice prompted many other artists to begin expressing their political beliefs. One of these artists was Bruce Springsteen.
Prior to the Bush administration, Springsteen had gone out of his way to remain mute on political matters. After the release of The Rising in 2002, Springsteen seemed to drift toward protest compositions. His 2005 album Devils and Dust ditched the E-Street band in favor of a sparse, haunting acoustic war cry. The title track evoked Springsteen’s disillusion with the Iraq war.
According to a recent article published by The Atlantic, Political Music has recently surged to new heights during the Trump administration. Katy Perry and Fiona Apple are among artists that have used their music to voice political dissatisfaction.
Some, however, have chosen to work toward unity. Lady Gaga‘s performance at the 2017 Super Bowl is the most famous example. No matter which side of the political fence one is sitting on, it appears that music is once again becoming a tool of social change.