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Music as a political platform

Horsch is a first-year news/Internet major and can be contacted at lauren.horsch@drake.edu

Music reaches out to everyone. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t listen to music or witness someone with headphones in, tuning out the world.

Music covers a variety of subjects and can help express one’s concerns or personal beliefs at any particular time. Throughout most of history, music has been used as a semi-protest against injustices and laws that have caused controversy across the land.

To me, music and politics go hand in hand.

Slaves in the south sang spirituals that had more than one meaning. Many of their songs dealt with the Underground Railroad and ways to escape from slave owners. Their songs united a population and helped many slaves escape. The music can still be heard today, most popularly with She & Him doing a rendition of “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” on their album “Volume One.” The “chariot” referred to a wagon that helped slaves escape.
Music is used as a form of expression, and it definitely accomplishes that.

Many artists decide to let their opinions out in the open for the public through songs. Whether it is left wing or right wing, it’s going to come out no matter what.

Songs against any particular subject can become an anthem for a generation or a song that transcends time.

One such song is Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA,” which was a song about the effects of the Vietnam War. He sings “Fighting off the Viet Cong/They’re still there, he’s all gone.” His lyrics appeal to the fact that those who fought in the war came back and were injured either physically or mentally, sometimes even both. Whether he was for or against the war doesn’t matter; his song still had political clout and meant a lot to the public.

Nowadays, there is always the age-old example of Green Day’s “American Idiot,” but we all know what goes on there, even the title alludes to it.

But, enough with examples, what about the actual topic? Music is the jelly to politics’ peanut butter. Politics in music are not meant to sway anyone’s opinion on the matter, but rather to educate someone. Personally, when I listen to a song against a war, I don’t feel the need to change my opinion on the subject. In fact, it doesn’t bother me at all. If I don’t like it, I’ll turn it off.

Musicians have a stage to get the word out about any subject they want to. If something speaks to them, then they’ll write and sing about it. A lot of the time, music does parallel with what is going on in current events. If the public speaks about it, why can’t musicians? I mean, they’re human, too.

Songs with a political agenda are not there to persuade listeners, but rather to inform in a catchy manner.

No matter what political leaning you are, I bet if Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” came on, you’d be tappin’ your toes, even with the mild political and historical meanings behind the song.


Horsch is a junior news/Internet and rhetoric double major. She serves as the TD's Editor-in-Chief. She has been on staff for three years and has been the editor since January 2012.

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