Date of Award
Bachelor of Arts
protest songs, folk music, protest music
Throughout the course of American history, music has served as a vital cultural mode for the expression and articulation of the collective American experience. Perhaps the most iconic connection between music and politics in American history occurred during the 1960s in the era of the counterculture and the Vietnam War. During this period, rock ‘n’ roll musicians became the figureheads for the Anti-War campaign and represented the political objectives of the New Left. However, the iconic status of these political musicians did not arise in a vacuum. These musicians, and their political importance in America can trace its origins to the careers of the Popular Front folk musicians from nearly three decades earlier. This thesis investigates how the political movements of the left wing in America utilized music as a vehicle for the articulation of cultural and political values throughout the 20th century, beginning in the post World War I period. Between chapter one and chapter three, I illustrate how the growth of American folk music, and its politicization as a popular genre influenced popular American music as a whole. Bob Dylan, and the folk music revival in the early 1960s serves as the pivotal point where folk transferred its political traditions and significance into the tumultuous climate of the 1960s. The trajectory of Dylan’s career, and the folk-rock boom of 1965 that followed provides a clear bridge between folk music and rock ‘n’ roll. Therefore, I aim to assert in this thesis, that the political rock ‘n’ roll of the late 1960s was a culmination of a musical traditions in America that percolated and developed throughout the 20th century.
Kouwenhoven, Alexander B., "From Woody Guthrie to the Big Muddy: The Evolution of Political Music in America From World War I to the Late 1960s" (2017). Honors Theses. 53.