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American Popular Music Essay

The very diversity of the music drives home the complexity of a nation at war.

While many saw Bob Dylan or Country Joe or Jimi Hendrix as radicals and even traitors, it is clear that these critics of American foreign policy saw themselves as patriots, urging the country to pursue peace instead of war, to renounce what they saw as imperialism, and to acknowledge the rights of American citizens to free speech, even if it was critical of the government.

We hope you will think of these essays, therefore, as examples, as templates for how historians and history teachers can use music effectively as a window onto our past.

Elihu Rose has chosen to examine the songs that accompanied World War II.

Candaele does not romanticize the musicians who created this protest music, nor does he make grand claims for its impact on our society.

Instead, as he says in his closing paragraph, he sees the value of protest music as a spur to civic engagement: "What anti-war music could and did do," he writes, "as all protest music has done throughout American history, was to raise the spirits while doing battle, help define identities of activists, and turn passive consumption into an active, vibrant, and sometimes liberating culture."Sometimes, as Elizabeth Wollman shows us in her essay on the women’s movement and its music, it is the emergence of the musicians themselves rather than the "message" of their songs that signals a shift in cultural norms or social values.


  1. The History of African American Music ADAPTED FROM ESSAYS BY LORI. Ragtime became the first nationally popular form of American music in 1899, when.

  2. Theo Cateforis's 1993 JPMS essay “'Total Trash' Analysis and Post Punk Music”. bested only by Public Enemy's It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back.

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