Folk music underwent a major resurgence in the mid-1900s. In this time, folk music served as a major vehicle for spreading and reinforcing major social movements. Naturally however, wherever in history one finds an attempt to enact social change, one can just as easily find a backlash to said proposed social reform. As Sir Isaac Newton put it so eloquently: “To every action there is always opposed an equal reaction.” (Admittedly, Newton was referring to thermodynamic systems, not societal ones, but the statement holds nonetheless) This brings me neatly to today’s artifact – an opinion piece by Harry Golden from 1967 titled: Only in America… Democracy Hangup1. There is a certain irony present throughout the article, but it peaks when Golden, after spending more than one paragraph complaining about liberal college students, says:
“It is for that reason we have checks and balances written in the Constitution. Left to their own devices, the collegians would elect Bob Dylan President and Joan Baez Secretary of State.”
If only Golden could see America now – how the turntables have turned!
Historical irony and The Office aside, it is fascinating to see how some things really do seem to never change. The generation of which Golden refers to as “militant college students” representing “democracy at its entropy” is the very same generation that has turned around and started saying “kids these days this…” and “millennials that…” Granted, the statements I am making are overly generalized, there are certainly many members of older generations who are more than understanding of social issues today, and many so-called millennials who are much less so, but the existence of such sayings at all is reflective of an unfortunate underlying truth – a fundamental fear of relinquishing control and passing the baton to the next generation, and the distrust that goes alongside said fear.
Nonetheless, I digress, for the fascinating topic that this Golden article alludes to is that of music as a fundamental part of social movements. As Ray Telford says in his piece in Volume 3 – Issue 13 of Rock2: “[Sedaka] “felt the time was right” for a composer with something to say.” Whatever Sedaka’s motivation at the time may have been, it is worth noting that music, whether it be folk then, or rap now, has been a key part of social movements for a long time. Perhaps Newton could have said: To every action there is always an equal… piece of music?
1 Golden, H. (1967, Dec 09). Democracy hangup. The Chicago Defender (National Edition) (1921-1967) Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/493210749?accountid=351
2 Telford, R. (1972, February 14). Sedaka & Mann: Singers from Songwriters. Rock Retrieved from http://www.rockandroll.amdigital.co.uk/Search/DocumentDetailsSearch.aspx?documentid=905675§ionid=988895&imageid=988915&pi=1&searchmode=true&prevpos=905675&vpath=searchresults&searchrequest=doc&hit=first