“The Sixties are most generously described as“The Sixties are most generously described as

“The Sixties are most generously described as a time when people took part – when they stepped out of themselves and acted in public, as people who didn’t know what would happen next, but who were sure that acts of true risk and fear would produce something different from what they had been raised to take for granted”, quoted from Greil Marcus, a prominent cultural critic and music journalist. Marcus is relating to the cultural boom occurring within America at the time creating a new wave of musical influence.  The combination of war protest led by nonconformist, the American Civil Rights Movement, and other cultural changes of the time, made the music of the 1960s in America to be significant for people where a major cultural change was on the brink of occurring. With the emergence of a new form of youthful expression and confidence within the musical arts, the  a wave of hippy protest in a musician’s words was given a giant leap on the culture of the 1960s.         Wars are able to make to public shape unique enemies who transform their empathy, concern, anger, and other emotions into poetry, , or as in our modern time, popular music. This was very true for the war in Vietnam. Given this era’s unique historical circumstances, the musical rhythms and artist that emerged in the Vietnam War was strikingly different from the music that accompanied World War II. While there was an abundance of very patriotic songs that did quite well with the public, the most well known being Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler’s million-selling number-one hit “Ballad of the Green Berets” in 1966 and Merle Haggard’s “Okie from Muskogee” in 1969, a large majority of Vietnam War songs followed into a theme of anti-war, rather than pro-war music, which was quickly gaining hatred from adolescents across the country. 2 Rock and roll, born in the 1950s, turned millions of the young minded adolescents toward this new exotic and transformative new art. With a wave of sexual experimentation and the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement in Southern America, a youth culture was created that prominent black writer James Baldwin said “The American equation of success with the big times reveals an awful disrespect for human life and human achievement. The youthful “counterculture” of the 1960s carved out new spaces for experimentation and alternative views about what people should consider a “good society” to be and act as. The New Left made up of civil rights and anti war activists  developed as the Vietnam War further progressed and became an increasingly more bloody, immoral, and overall unpopular with the American public and others around the world.  These events laid out the context in which popular music in general, along with anti war music more specially, became a large space for cultural conflict and political dialogue. The Vietnam war was accompanied by a wave of anti war soundtracks that touched on every tone, and every emotion of the American public- capturing the long demoralizing impact of the war. Unlike the anti-war movement itself, it began without a  large significant audience in the days of the early 1960s, but as the war further progressed in its violence and bloodshed, came a much larger extent all the way up to the wars ending in 1975.           3    One of the most prominent and outspoken leaders of this movement, was Bob Dylan. Dylan widened the cultural space for centering the opposition to the Vietnam War in the beginning of the 1960s. Using the folk music, he created a revival that was initially a political and cultural phenomena– his attempt at using singing to gather a mass movement to end of the culture that the supporters of the war had created. Dylan wrote two songs “Masters of War” and “Blowin’ in the Wind” in 1962 which both focused on highlighting the obnoxious militarism that America faced in the sixties, a self righteous indictment that the popular music that the American public had not yet seen. Bob Dylan was not the only artist portraying the American public’s concerns and angers towards war efforts, the concept was occurring across all music genres in the 1960s. Bobby Darin, who had began his pop career as an iconic teen idol in 1958 with a couple of multi-million seller songs, had completely changed his style of music by 1969. By this time, he was writing songs of political activism and denouncing the war with his popular song “Simple Song of Freedom.” Just as Darin was beginning his music career to focus on political activity around the country, Di Mucci began to follow a much similar path. More commonly known as Dion, he also changed his style of music by the ending of the 1960s, by offering up an array of domestic and international violence in “Abraham, Martin, and John.” While the Cold War and harsh actuality of death in the United States and 4,000 miles away in Vietnam became more apparent , anti-war songs kept the heart of the individual adolescent and collective public dissent, causing them to flourish.  4 With the fear of upsetting large music distribution companies, made many radical anti-war statements in popular music a relatively unseen occurrence. Music by popular musicians were written for the radio and often with a popular audience in mind. This growing and eventually massive record business had its demands. A musical artist with a fair amount of record sales could occasionally release a song with a clear political or social message. Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son,” a abrasive attack on militarism and the class and race based unfairness of the war draft, was eventually released, and to the surprise of some, sold very well.         The pinnacle of this protest genre came on August 18, 1969, when guitarist Jimi Hendrix stood on stage at the Woodstock concert and played his version of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” In his performance, Hendrix put an meaningful emphasis on a decades of protest aimed at the United States military activities around the world, and more specifically, the Vietnam War . His blistering and ironic version of our country’s most cherished musical song also showcased an array of changes and contradictions that beautifully encased the anti-war music and movements of the 1960s. Unlike the folk tradition that played a part in the movement for civil rights, late-sixties anti-war music did not focus on solidarity with those abroad and the thought of risky movements. Hendrix was not a guitar-strumming singer embedded at the service of a social movement, he saw himself as quite the opposite. His sound, being loud, technologically complex and remarkable in many aspects its skill–was by 1969 a very big business. As music venues kepting growing bigger and bigger, Hendrix, now designated a “star” to much of the American public—was increasingly separated from the audience. While Hendrix himself may have wanted his audience to be transformed into active participants in their own history, the medium could not deliver that message with sincerity. Who could sing along to, or reproduce with an acoustic guitar in a dorm room, his version of “The Star-Spangled Banner”?             The increasing anger within the anti-war movement peaked during the presidency of Richard Nixon. Nixon was elected in 1968 on a platform that included a “secret plan” to end the war in Vietnam and a promise to “bring us together”; however, Nixon’s Vietnam policy further divided the nation. While Nixon did decrease the number of troops in Vietnam, he also ordered secret bombings of North Vietnamese supply routes that ran through neutral Cambodia. When, in April of 1970, Nixon decided to send troops into Cambodia, campuses across the country erupted in protests and a strike of hundreds of thousands students on more than 700 campuses. On May 4, four Kent State students were killed and nine were wounded by Ohio National Guardsmen, and ten days later two were killed at Jackson State College. After seeing photos from the Kent State massacre, singer-songwriter Neil Young wrote “Ohio,” recorded with Crosby, Stills, and Nash in two days and distributed as quickly. “Ohio” was a message to America to do something about the deaths, the war, and the breakup of the country. As an epic moment of truth, “Ohio” did sound a call to action, but like the vast majority of successful rockers, none of the members of CSNY was truly part of a social movement. They stayed clear of day-to-day organizing and ongoing moral support of activists.           African Americans contributed much of this sometimes forgotten anti-war music. Martha Reeves and the Vandellas released “I Should Be Proud” in 1970, the first anti-war song from the Motown label. It was followed a few months later by “War,”  recorded first by the Temptations (not released as a single for fear of conservative backlash) and then re recorded by Edwin Starr. With its simple but memorable refrain—”War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing!”—the song went to number one on the Billboard Pop Singles chart. More tender and soulful was Marvin Gaye’s plea for peace and love in “What’s Going On,” where “war is not the answer, for only love can conquer hate.” “In 1969 or 1970,” Gaye said, “I began to reevaluate my whole concept of what I wanted my music to say. I was very much affected by letters my brother was sending me from Vietnam, as well as the social situation here at home. I realized that I had to put my own fantasies behind me if I wanted to write songs that would reach the souls of people. I wanted them to take a look at what was happening in the world.” For a brief moment during the years of the war, millions of young people, and a few oldsters, believed that political music could help make a social revolution, remake a country, and stop a war.  As it turned out music did not accomplish these things. What anti-war music did do, as all protest music has done throughout American history, was to raise spirits while doing battle, help define the identities of activists, and turn passive consumption into an active, vibrant, and sometimes liberating culture.         The most important aspect to recognize and remember from the 1960s era of protest, is how it was able to greatly affect American society for the future generations to come. One of the most powerful ways to convey this anger in war, civil rights violations, and tyranny from the government, was protest music. Protest music highlighted the atrocities and tragedies that were both known, and unknown to the American public. Artist like Bob Dylan, Bobby Darin, and others alike adapted their music to fit the political and social opinionated Americans they shared their music with. Before the this era of protest, activism through musical artist was mostly unheard of and unlikely to see. The promise of peace and succession of human rights was made possible not just because of outspoken activism in places across the globe in the 1960s, but by using the platform of the musical arts to convey messages that most of America was not fully capable at understanding during this time.