MUSC 325 was a class I never expected to take but after hearing numerous amazing things about the course, I decided to register myself. This class reviewed years 1955-1975 and we explored the culture throughout this time period. We learned about the famous trends of the era, the songs that hit the Billboard Hot #100s, popular movies, and the affects of the Vietnam War on the United States. The class was lecture-based with the inclusion of music videos and clips from a documentary on the Vietnam War. I loved how Dr. Kinzer incorporated these video clips into the class because it was so much easier to understand the content once we could visualize the information. This class was writing-intensive so we did many assignments that required us to look in depth at certain songs and research the history and sound behind the songs. This was a new experience for me and really pushed me as an individual and student. As someone with a lack of music experience, this class taught me many great skills and helped me understand the deeper meaning behind music.
Below I have attached our final paper for the course. This paper required us to select five songs from the time period we researched and fully discuss them in detail. Some of the songs had to fit in certain categories such as; protest songs, topical songs, and anti-war songs. I decided to include this paper as my artifact because it really demonstrates my understanding of the content from this class!
(I wasn’t able to add the actual document because of a storage error so I have copied the text and pasted below)
Influential Songs Through the Years
Beginning in 1955, the Vietnam War spanned over 20 years lasting until April 1975. The United States officially joined the war in 1961 when U.S troops began accompanying South Vietnamese troops on operations and remained in the war until the fall of Saigon in April 1975. The war had a lasting impact on the United States and even became a cultural divide for people in the states. Within those several years there were new leaders, conventions, protests, and songs all in an effort to get the governments attention. The United States involvement in the Vietnam War caused many debates between people and remains one of the U.S.’s deadliest wars. Because of the controversy surrounding the war and time period, many artists released songs and albums to convey their feelings. Songs such as “Walk Like a Man” and “This Fightin’ Side of Me” were meant to support the war while “Eve of Destruction” and “Give Me Love” were used as protest songs. Music was a creative way for artists to showcase their opinions throughout the war and give individuals an outlet for their emotions.
Released in January 1963, “Walk Like a Man” become one of the first songs to be interpreted as a song related to the Vietnam War. This high energy song is recorded by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. This band is originally from New Jersey and is composed of band members; Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, Tommy DeVito, and Nick Massi (Wikipedia contributors, “The Four Seasons”). The band found commercial success in the 1960s and 1970s with hit songs “Sherry” and “Big Girls Don’t Cry.” “Walk Like Man” charted #1 on the Billboard Hot #100s chart on March 2nd, 1963 and remained on the charts for three consecutive weeks marking the bands third #1 hit (Wikipedia contributors, “Walk Like a Man”). In the song, Frankie Valli has a few solo parts but the chorus of “Walk Like a Man” is sung in harmony with the band members. The song is played at a tempo of 118 BPM and the use of a keyboard, drums, and guitar can be heard throughout the duration of the song (RhinoEntertainment). The dominant beat can easily be heard in the background keeping the band on track. The sound, “WoooOooo” is continuously heard throughout the song showcasing its cheerful sound. Franke Valli’s vocal style is crooning and is supported by the bandmates throughout the duration of the song. “Walk Like a Man” is a very upbeat song with a catchy tune that supports the meaning behind the lyrics telling listeners to literally, walk like a man.
The lyrics of the song originally share the story of a man in a bad relationship being told to “Walk Like a Man” out of the relationship. This song later became interpreted as a pro-military and pro-war song as the older generation telling the younger generation to “Walk Like a Man” into war. This song became widely popular and was later used in several films such as, Hearts and Souls in 1993, Sleepers in 1996, and Mrs. Doubtfire in 1993 (Wikipedia contributors, “Walk Like a Man”).
Two years later, the anti-war song, “Eve of Destruction,” was released by artist Barry Maguire on an album with the same title. This song was written by P.F Sloan in 1964 and recorded by several artists, but Barry Maguire reached high success with his recording. Barry Maguire was born in Oklahoma City in 1935 and moved to California when he was two years old. He released his first song in 1961 called “The Tree” but did not receive commercial success until the release of “Eve of Destruction,” (Wikipedia contributors, “Barry Maguire”).Within the song, listeners can hear an electric bass, drums, and a harmonica that help keep the beat of the song. The sound of the song can be described as loud, dark, and brassy. The song was intended as a “Dylanesque” song with references to the folk genre. “Eve of Destruction” is played at 116 BPM and Barry Maguire has a very angry and panicked vocal style when singing (alltimebestofmusic). Maguire’s raspy voice supports the meaning behind the song of all the destruction and turbulence that was occurring throughout the world.
The lyrics make references to the Vietnam War, the draft, Civil Rights, Cold War, the nuclear threat, and the Middle East making it a very topical song. The song was so controversial it was banned on some American radio stations and conservatives called it “an aid to the enemy.” The lyrics “Don’t you understand what I’m trying to say? Can’t you feel the fear that I’m feeling today? If the button is pushed, there’s no running away. There’ll be no one to save with the world in a grave,” demonstrates his belief that the world was truly approaching self-destruction. Many conservatives believed the song benefited the Communist in Vietnam and was not reflective of the United States. The song began at #103 on the Billboard charts and it eventually rose to #1 within two months (Wikipedia contributors, “Eve of Destruction”). This anti-war song became very influential during the time period and is known as one of the most popular songs referencing the Vietnam War.
Another very influential song was released a few years later in 1967 by Aretha Franklin, called “Respect.” Originally released by Otis Redding in 1965, the song told the story of the traditional family dynamic of the man working all day, coming home and demanding respect from his wife. Aretha Franklin took the song and put her own spin on it spelling out the word respect, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” and making it a Civil Rights Anthem. Aretha Franklin, also known as the Queen of Soul, was born in March 1942 and went on to become a singer, songwriter, actress, pianist, and Civil Rights Activist. She went on to record 112 charted singles on the Billboard Charts with 77 of them being Billboard Hot 100s entries (Wikipedia contributors, “Aretha Franklin”).
Franklin’s version of the song became a cultural sensation and Civil Rights/ Feminist Movement anthem. It reached number #1 on the Billboard charts in June 1967. The song is played at 114 BPM with a strong influence of a jazz band. The sound of the song can be described as strong and rich. There is a heavy presence of drums, saxophone, brass instruments, and background singers (TatanBrown). The background singers can be heard singing in harmony with the phrase of “just a little bit.” Aretha dominates the song with her strong vocal style and can be heard demanding respect throughout the song. The strong female lead throughout the song supports the meaning behind the lyrics demonstrating the desire and demand for respect from the world. The lyrics were interpreted as the story of women demanding respect from the world and that they deserve nothing short of it. Because of the impact this song had, I would easily define it as an agent of change. “Respect” was a cry for change and could be seen as a turning point in the Civil Rights and Feminist Movement (Wikipedia contributors, “Respect”). In 2014 President Obama said, “She had no idea [“Respect”] would become a rallying cry for African Americans and women and anyone else who felt marginalized because of what they looked like, who they loved,” (Obama, 2014, as cited in Rhodan, 2014) which demonstrates how this song was truly an agent of chart. “Respect” was a defining song of the century and can easily be identified as a Civil Rights anthem.
Released in 1970, “This Fightin’ Side of Me” was written and performed by Merle Haggard and The Strangers. The song was an instant hit reaching #1 on the Billboard charts in January 1970 where it remained for three weeks. Merle Haggard was born in April 1937 in California and rose to fame with his song contrary to the popular anti-war themes. Over his career he had over 38 number one hits on the Billboard charts and has had a very successful career (Wikipedia contributors, “Merle Haggard”). Within the song, listeners can hear the use of an electric guitar, drums, string guitar, and a tambourine. The sound of the song can be described as natural and traditional. At 1:07 there is an instrumental solo of the electric guitar which attempts to give the song a more modern style. The song has 99 BPM and Merle Haggard has a very informative, storytelling type vocal style (MerleHaggardVEVO). The sound of the song is very old- school and supports the lyrics by sounding extremely patriotic. The lyrics tell the story of a character who is very patriotic and loves America. The song supports the troops singing, “our fightin’ men have fought and died to keep.” The lyrics also allude to the fact only “wimps” would oppose the “wars we fight,” making a reference to the Vietnam War (Wikipedia contributors, “This Fightin’ Side of Me). Unlike majority of the songs during this time period, “This Fightin’ Side of Me,” supported the war and became an anthem for Conservatives.
Shortly before the end of the war, George Harrison released the song, “Give Me Love,” in 1973. Born in February 1943, George Harrison was an English musician who later became the lead guitarist of the international band, The Beatles. The song was released on his album, Living in the Material World, and became his second U.S. #1 hit (Wikipedia contributors, “George Harrison”). The simple guitar strumming dominates the beat in the song and George Harrison’s smooth and peaceful voice demonstrates his typical vocal style. The song is played at 81 BPM and asks for peace (Shane Woodbury). The sound of the song can be described as very simplistic and smooth. The lyrics in this song are very positive and spiritual which overlaps with Harrison’s love for Hindu culture (Wikipedia contributors, “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)”). The soft and simple tempo support the lyrics main theme of a desire for harmony. Many Americans referenced this song to the Vietnam War and used the song as a means to ask for peace from war.
Ranging from 1963-1973, the music industry was greatly influenced by the release of so many current and topical songs. These songs related to the events occurring around the world and were an outlet for people to express their opinions. Although I think all the songs discussed throughout this paper were extremely influential, I believe “Respect” by Aretha Franklin had the greatest impact during the time period and is still influential in modern times. “Respect” sparked and became an anthem for the Civil Rights and Feminist Movements demonstrating its ability to be an agent of change (Wikipedia contributors, “Respect”).
This time period was extremely controversial and turbulent for citizens of the United States. The war had a lasting impact on society which was reflective through the music industry, the movie industry, and social movements. Although the times were turbulent, people were unafraid to speak out and used the arts to showcase their opinions. Because of this, many influential and topical songs were released; many of which we discussed throughout this paper. These songs made a lasting impression on the world and are still influencing society in modern times.
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