Costs of War – Protest Songs – Can Music Help Solve Political Problems?


The influence of music is enormous. Culture within a generation dictates the rhythm while circumstance dictates the cause projected. Politics are often voiced in song as people try to deliver their point of view. Costs of war,facts about the Vietnam War, facts about the war in Iraq, prison outrage, abortion rights, the list goes on and on of course.

While walking my dog this morning I found myself singing an old song of Joan Baez’s, called “Prison Trilogy”. The song is about how prisoners were/(are?) treated in the USA. While singing the song I remembered my Dad’s response to “Prison Trilogy” and other political songs of my generation. He got angry with me as I protested the war in Vietnam, singing songs of outrage that defined my ideals, as I washed the family dishes in our suburban home. A fledgling finding her way, effected directly by the draft of my young classmates, for a war that made no sense to me, I would find my own voice. Yes, it was and is a generational thing, as politics of the day change. We are influenced by peers, the media, and the struggles of others, noted by us as unique individuals. My dad, just like so many of any group regarded collectively, decided years ago about his political stance and that was that!. True for many in any generation and I guess even mine. I admit to it.

Despite all, I do honestly think that protest can be spoken in a song more directly than it can be said in discussion. In song one can get away with voicing their views, on any subject, more poignantly and certainly more aggressively than what might be allowed in normal conversation. (Light bulb moment I think for getting teenagers to tell you what they are thinking! LOL)

Bringing back the song, “Prison Trilogy” as an example of protest that was greeted with mild consequence, for good or bad, the point was received but not fully absorbed. Because of the tune and Joan Baez’s glorious voice, I sang that song when I was young without considering the other side of that issue. I never thought once about the fact that people were in prison for a reason. Yet… I think mans inhumanity to man explodes in the scenario, especially now with the hopeful closing of Guantánamo. Every issue is more complex than what is ever sung or voiced but song is a good reference to history; it voices the artistic side of the issue along with the importance felt. The good thing about protest in song is that it causes us to ‘think’ about the differences. Eventually and hopefully we refine, collect them and decipher their truths and non-truths; our protests, and try to change things for the better.