No matter your political affiliation or religious beliefs, it is glaringly apparent that our country is in a state of great turmoil. The ground of this nation is fertile for social change. As I consider the state of the union, I’ve been pondering how far the United States has to go before we can truly become the “land of the free and the home of the brave.” In an effort to gain inspiration, I’ve been consuming a lot of media lately. I have read a lot of books, listened to a lot of new music, read a lot of articles, and watched a lot of Netflix. While browsing Netflix last month, I came across two documentaries that opened my eyes to the power of music to effect social and political change.
The first documentary that I reccommend is Greenwich Village: Music That Defined a Generation. This documentary explores the outpouring of music that came out of Greenwich Village in the 1960s. Featuring the music of and interviews by Bob Dylan, Judy Collins, Pete Seeger, Peter Yarrow, Arlo Guthrie, Carly Simon and many more, this documentary shows how the folk singer/songwriters of this decade were so wonderfully different than the shallow pop music of that same era. Through songs that provided commentary on current events from the Vietnam War to the Civil Rights movement, these young revolutionaries contributed more to the political and social climate of the 1960s than your history textbooks have ever revealed. Eye-opening and full of beautiful footage of a 1960s New York City, this doc is a must watch.
The second documentary that I highly recommend is also on Netflix. What Happened, Miss Simone? is a richly rewarding and emotionally fulfilling film that profiles soul/jazz singer Nina Simone. An incredibly powerful and brave woman, Simone was originally trained as a classical pianist, and attended Juilliard, but was rejected from the Curtis Institute of Music because of the blackness of her skin. She began singing in nightclubs to support herself and her family. Her fame grew quickly and at the dawn of the civil rights movement she became compelled to write songs that reflected the constant discrimination faced by people of color all across the country. Despite constant discouragement and physical abuse by her husband, who was also her manager, Simone continued to write and perform these highly controversial songs. This documentary is a beautifully shot and wonderfully emotional film that provides great insight into one woman’s impact on the civil rights movement.
After watching both of these documentaries, I realized the huge influence that music can have on politics and social justice movements. Additionally, it was easy to draw parallels between the racial, economic, and political unrest of the 1960’s and present day America.
I’ve compiled a playlist of my favorite songs from this decade. Not only are all of these songs musical masterpieces but all provide commentary on issues that were prevalent then and are ever present even now. Listen to these songs to get inspired to go to a rally. Listen to this playlist as you write your senators. Listen to this playlist as you attempt to create change in your state. Listen to this playlist as you stand up for racial justice. Listen to this playlist to get pumped up to create your own version of social change whatever that may look like. View my Spotify playlist here.