Music as the voice of a generation
By Isabel Braverman
How did John Lennon’s “give peace a chance” turn into Lupe Fiasco’s “I really think the War on Terror is a bunch of bullshit?” Protest songs have been around for ages, but the message remains the same.
Generation Y, our generation, is called lazy, technologically reliant and not in tune with the “real world.” Compared to Generation X, the children of the ‘60s, we are deemed dispassionate and apathetic. As Gen X vehemently protested the Vietnam War (and consequently, perhaps, saw its end) we watch as the War on Terror wages on. Our methods of protest are different, and so is the anti-war music of each generation.
In our defense, it’s not that we don’t care. We do. Greatly. It’s just that with time comes change and each generation deals with issues in different ways. We’re not out there sticking flowers in soldier’s guns, but we are blogging about current events and starting many organizations.
The music has changed too.
Much of the antiwar music now is a revision of 70s punk music: It’s angry and driven by heavy guitar, drums and wailing vocals. (Some might even say “emo”). The message, however, is still the same: End the war and protest corrupt government. The ‘60s had Bob Seger, we have “Rock Against Bush” (volumes one and two, anyone remember those?).
As Edwin Starr was asking “War, huh good God, what is it good for?” Green Day answers, “Do you know what’s worth fighting for/ When it’s not worth dying for?” These musicians exemplify the difference between then and now. The ‘60s had an original folk sound and its big stars were Janis Joplin, Joan Baez and Bob Dylan. Now the sound is more rock and pseudo-punk with the likes of The Offspring, Bad Religion and System of a Down being the frontrunners in protest music.
Paradoxically, while ‘60s music was peaceful, the protester’s actions were sometimes not the anti-war music of today personifies that angst-y feeling of protest in the songs while the people quietly listen.
For a look into what it was like at the time, I turned to a source I knew I could count on—my war hatin’ hippie parents.
My mom, Sarah Reid, recounts, “We marched around with signs and sang protest songs like ‘1 2 3 4 we don’t want your stinking war, 5 6 7 8 we don’t want to escalate.’”
The spirit of the ‘60’s was an impassioned, we-can-do-anything vibe while today we are feeling a little discouraged, maybe from all the failures of the past. John Mayer puts it nicely in his anti-war song “Waiting on the World to Change,” one of the more folk-sounding songs of today, with the lyrics, “Me and all my friends we’re all misunderstood/They say we stand for nothing and there’s no way we ever could/Now we see everything that’s going wrong with the world and those who lead it/We just feel like we don’t have the means to rise above and beat it.”
Thank you, John Mayer. The thing is, we can’t keep waiting on the world to change forever: Action has to be taken.
Music reflects the people of its time, but it also lives on through each generation, bringing with it reflections of the past. We’ll always need music, just like we’ll always need protest.