Where are Our Protest Songs?

Like most white people twice my age I’ve been watching The Sixties on CNN, a documentary series about – get this – the Sixties. Each episode focuses on a different important cultural, political, or societal aspect of the decade. As you would expect there’s a heavy focus on popular culture, in particular music – Woodstock, the British Invasion, the whole deal.

Watching the peaks of musical expression from that era, I can’t help but feel that our modern pop culture trends are lacking in terms of any kind of social conscience. The Sixties were plagued by racial unrest, assassinations, and the draft. There was a lot for people to speak out against.

But our time period is not so different. While we don’t have a draft, we’re still feeling the effects of two wars that many Americans validly believe to have been illegal. One need only look at what’s happening in Ferguson, Missouri this week to understand that racial unrest remains a reality. And as for political strife, you could make a pretty good argument that we’ve got it worse.

So where the hell is our protest music? It must be somewhere (on the internet, I guess), but you really have to search for it. Listening to the radio – as if anyone still does – you wouldn’t have any idea that anything troubling is going on in the world at large. Are we so damned self-absorbed as a society that there’s no popular interest in art that makes any kind of social commentary? I hope not, but maybe.

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