Music has been used to make political or moral points for centuries. In the US before the 1930s there was the apolitical pop music of Tin Pin Alley on the one hand and the borrowed melodies of worker’s songs on the other. Only when the pop song fully embraced politics with Billy Holiday’s ‘Strange Fruit’, and folk music became radicalised by Woodie Guthrie, did sparks begin to fly between the distinct poles of politics and entertainment.
For a while, in the dizzying rush of the 1960s, it was thought tha pop music could change the world, and some people never recovered from the realisation that it could not. But the point of protest music, or indeed any art with a political dimension, is not to shift the world on its axis but to change opinions and perspectives, to say something about the times in which you live, and, sometimes, to find that what you’ve said speaks to another moment in history, which is how Barack Obama came to be standing in Grand Park paraphrasing the words of Sam Cooke. Most of these stories end in division, disillusionment, despair, even death. On one level, everything fails; on another, nothing does. It’s all about what people leave behind: links in a chain of songs that extends across the decades. 33 Revolutions per Minute: A History of Protest Songs, Dorian Lynskey
Second Year students from Visual Communications and Print & Contemporary Practice have created visual responses to a collection of iconic ‘Protest Songs’. In doing so they have taken the opportunity to be open, to be experimental and most significantly to reflect their opinions on contemporary socio-political issues.