In light of Veteran's Day and a CSS Mass Communication class's focus on music, students were asked to write a reaction paper to an NPR feature on Vietnam War protest music. Students were given the prompt: Given the importance of music as a catalyst for social change during Vietnam War (1964-75), is there anything in today's music scene that compares with what happened then? If not, why not? The student writing here has focused her reactions on an another protest piece produced by NPR in 2003.
In the NPR report, "Protest Music for the New Generation," the speaker compares the recent internet song by Lenny Kravitz to Vietnam War protest music. Click below to listen to Kravitz's single.
However, I believe that anti-war sentiment has been present in our music industry long before Kravitz's recent hit. Soon after September 11, 2001, I remember purchasing my first Eminem album.
His song "'I'm a Soldier" was a clear expression of anti-war, or at least anti-Bush, protest. In fact, it changed my own sentiments towards the war and caused me to think critically about our presence in Iraq, and I was only twelve years old.
Click below to listen to Eminem's "I'm A Soldier."
Not much later, in 2003, the Dixie Chicks were booed off stage for antiwar statements and their song "Travelin' Soldier," which is, in fact, about a young soldier in Vietnam who never returns home. Protest has been a part of the music industry since the very beginning of the War in Iraq.
Listen to the Dixie Chick's protest song below.
I do not, however, equate these protests with the musical protest of Vietnam. We live in a different age, and music does not have the effect it had in the 1960s and 1970s. No one rallied against the war to the urgings of Eminem or the Dixie Chicks. Thus, the major difference between the protest music now and the protest music of the Vietnam Era is the cultural reaction to it.
Perhaps it was the prevalent attitude of social change and anti-government sentiment present in the young adults of the 1960s that resulted in the protest music, and not the other way around, because our generation's protest music is no less moving or compelling, but it is simply our generation that is not compelled.