Music as a Call to Action

Music artists have long addressed social issues as commentary or as calls to action. We R 1 Voice seeks to uphold this tradition and to support its growth around the world, especially today when social media can point the way to the next big hit.

During the Vietnam War the first rock protest songs were heard, inspired by the songs of folk musicians such as Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan, which ranged from abstract evocations of peace Peter, Paul and Mary‘s “If I Had a Hammer” to blunt anti-establishment songs such as Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young‘s “Ohio“. Other musicians, notably John Lennon and Yoko Ono, were vocal in their anti-war sentiment both in their music and in public statements.

Famous rock musicians have adopted causes ranging from the environment (Marvin Gaye‘s “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)“) and the Anti-Apartheid Movement (Peter Gabriel‘s “Biko“), to violence in Northern Ireland (U2‘s “Sunday Bloody Sunday“) and worldwide economic policy (The Dead Kennedys‘ “Kill the Poor“). Another notable protest song is Patti Smith‘s recording “People Have the Power.” On occasion this involvement would go beyond simple songwriting and take the form of sometimes-spectacular concerts or televised events, often raising money for charity and awareness of global issues.

Music as social activism reached a milestone in the Live Aid concerts, held July 13, 1985, which were an outgrowth of the 1984 charity single “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” and became the largest musical concert in history with performers on two main stages, one in London, England and the other in Philadelphia, USA (plus some other acts performing in other countries) and televised worldwide. The concert lasted 16 hours and featured nearly everybody who was in the forefront of rock and pop in 1985. The charity event raised millions of dollars for famine relief in Africa. Live Aid became a model for many other fundraising and consciousness-raising efforts, including the Farm Aid concerts for family farmers in North America, and televised performances benefiting victims of the September 11 attacks. Live Aid itself was reprised in 2005 with the Live 8 concert, to raise awareness of global economic policy. Environmental issues have also been a common theme, one example being Live Earth.

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