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Music and Morality

It can be said that all music is “political”, in the sense that it always has “something to say” and a point to make; even if it’s just about it “Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair”. Today it’s about Hillary and Donald with the weird yellow Hair; but both parties and candidates used music to sell themselves and their policies.

It’s not just in elections. Music and politics have long been connected with “issues”. One example was “Live 8” in 2005, where a series of concerts were used to pressure the leaders of the “G8 nations“: USA, UK, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Russia, to change their policies on third world debt. As we can so clearly see in our own Presidential Conventions Music can energies a crowd in a political rally as it does in a rock concert.

Music itself is apolitical, but becomes “political”, when it is associated with a person or party or event.  “Happy Days Are Here Again” was recorded by Leo Reisman and His Orchestra in 1929 but we automatically think of FDR and his “New Deal”.

We often say “politics is theater”, but that means “theater” can also be “political”.

What are some of greatest political songs of all time? There are too many to mention, but here’s one list:

Billie Holiday’s: Strange Fruit (1939). The lyrics are from a poem written in response to black lynchings in the American South.

Lesley Gore’s: You Don’t Own Me (1963). The lyrics come from a poem written in response to lynching’s in the American South.

Sam Cooke’s: A Change Is Gonna Come (1964) Released 11 days after he was shot in a Los Angeles hotel, Cooke’s soundtrack to the civil rights movement tells of the daily humiliations faced by blacks.