Smorgasbord Music Column – Protest Songs from the last 150 years.. and still coming! | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

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I thought it was a good time to share Sally Cronin’s post on ‘Songs of Protest from the last 150 years’ as the timing is perfect for US midterm elections tomorrow, November 6th. This vote will be one of the most important votes in US history, despite it not being a presidential election, but a chance for America to save their democracy if the Democrats can take back congress, which will enable them to restore law and order and keep the current president’s hands tied from continuing to pass radical laws with his abuse of power.


As a Canadian, I’m sometimes asked by my own friends and family why I care so much about what happens in America, and frankly it stuns me. We are neighbors to the US and often have a ripple effect here on what happens in the US. I’m quite aware of the politicians rising here taking pages from the current politics in the US, and it scares me. Our economy also gets hit when the US economy takes a hit. My retirement savings is tied in with the global economy in investments. So yes, I’m very concerned about what goes on in the US.


Smorgasbord Music Column – Protest Songs from the last 150 years.. and still coming!

Musicians have voiced their protest for governments, wars, inequality for centuries, sometimes camouflaged with pretty words and secret codes that were only recognised by those within an inner circle.

This included innocent sounding nursery rhymes that really depicted dreadful events such as Mary, Mary Quite Contrary (Mary 1st who had Protestants despatched to the hereafter) Ring Around the Rosy (about the black death) and Ladybird, Ladybird (about Catholic persecution).

When I was a teenager in the 1960s there were plenty of examples of protest anthems against racial discrimination and later the Vietnam War.. and they filtered across to the UK charts, but were not necessarily fully  appreciated by the English audiences with little grasp of the complexities of American culture at the time.

The 1840s and 1850s

The civil rights protest songs began more than a century before with the fight for the abolition of slavery, and a group of singers The Hutchinson Family took their message to a nationwide audience in the 1840s and 1850s.

“Get Off The Track” was a song written and made famous by the most popular United States singing troupe of the 1840s and 1850s, the Hutchinson Family Singers. Scott Gac wrote a book about the Hutchinson Family called “Singing for Freedom.”

The Hutchinson Family became famous by attaching themselves to the American Anti-slavery Society, a church-based group that fought slavery in the courts. They traveled the country, singing at Society meetings, selling sheet music for their songs and, Gac says, changing the way American reformers expressed themselves.

“The Hutchinson family singers don’t invent protest music, but what the Hutchinsons create, really as American singers they create the idea of a protest singer can make money,” Gac said.

The 1960s

The abolition of slavery did not however bring the freedoms envisaged by the lyrics and 120 years later Sam Cooke released  A Change is Gonna Come during the civil rights movement. Although change did come, there are still minority groups who have still not achieved parity with the rest of us.

The Vietnam War resulted in physical and musical protests by prominent stars of film and music and their influence was felt across the Atlantic. As a long time fan of Creedence Clearwater Revival, I must have listened to ‘Fortunate Son‘ many times without realising the significance. It was only later when reading more about their music that I discovered that it was not just about the war but about the disparity of who went and who was rich enough or connected enough to be exempt! Continue reading . . .

I’m quoting Sally here with her closing comment


With global conflicts and discrimination against colour, race and creed, it is not surprising that there is still a need for protest songs to be aired. Sometimes at great risk to those artists in certain regimes.

For most of us Freedom of Speech is a right that we have and should cherish more. And it is interesting that most of the songs that I have mentioned have long outlived either the governments, specific heads of state and events the were protesting. Other unjust systems however do seem to find little resolution.

And now people are taking to the streets again…in particular in the run up to the vote on November 6th in the USA. There are those that say American politics and actions are none of anybody else’s business, but unfortunately everyone in this global economy is interconnected with each other.


Source: Smorgasbord Music Column – Protest Songs from the last 150 years.. and still coming! | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

28 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Music Column – Protest Songs from the last 150 years.. and still coming! | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

  1. Hi Debby and Sally – music and poetry does allow a voice to be added and influence so much, as it always has throughout history. I’m not that knowledgeable about this sort of thing … and really will enjoy learning and reading more about it here via Sally – thanks for highlighting her post/s. Cheers Hilary


  2. Well done, Sis and Sally. This was a lovely post. Once people understand that we can’t hide from each other and build walls we will have change. We are all interconnected in this world and we have a global economy we must learn to deal with. The hate, racism, and rhetoric that this administration spews must come to an end. I am praying daily for a blue wave that will restore some semblance of order to this insane GOP takeover of our country. I did not serve my country for it to end like this. ❤


  3. Great awareness piece, Deb. Also, goes to show that looking back on history can always benefit us today. I can’t imagine any Canadian who wouldn’t be concerned about what happens in the U.S.!


  4. Yes, this is so true, Sally and Debby for sharing. We can’t hind before the wall and expect to be set free by other heroes. When we went to Germany, Our tour guide in Berlin said, she was one of the people hammered holes on the wall. Wow, it gave me chills! 🙂


  5. Thanks for sharing Sally’s important post, Debby. I agree with you both that what happens in the United States affects all of us and seems to be of even greater concern today than it once was. I very much enjoyed your song choice. What a great one from Barbara Streisand.


  6. I think what is happening in the USA is of great concern to the whole world. And I think people will be stunned at the events about to unfold if changes are not made to the power held by certain individuals.

    Sally is wise and we all of us have a responsibility within this world..
    Great Share Debby.. Thank you ❤


    1. Thank you Sue. You are spot on! This today election will be the deciding vote which way the world will turn! Will good prevail over evil, because if it doesn’t, the once leading country of the free world will set the tone for corruption condoned. Focus on the color blue my sister! ❤ ❤ xx


  7. How these songs of protests are needed these days. By the time I’m writing this the midterm elections have passed and the Democrats have taken over the house. There are many young rising stars in this party that I hope will revive the party and not allow themselves to be intimidated by Trump, which he has already tried regarding if the Democrats investigate him. He needs to go and the Democrats need to bring back humanity and integrity to the country. Debby, I am with you in that we as Canadians are affected by American politics in so many ways. I am happy that many diversified women were elected but sad that Beto O’Rourke lost to slimy Ted Cruz.


    1. And I’m with you on all points too Carol. Yes, the dems will once again restore law and order, but the most dangerous time is right now for the 7 weeks til they can take power and tRump (I refuse to capitalize his name) firing the Attorney General and trying to replace with another ass licker. Attorney Generals are to protect the people, but he found a slimeball who will protect him instead. More chaos currently and the country is in protest over this. The dems are working furiously to protect Mr. Mueller’s investigation any way they can. It’s like a bad movie that never seems to end! Yes, a sad loss for Beto. But mark my words, that man will be president one day! ❤


  8. These songs are still needed in today’s crazy times, Debby. Thanks for sharing Sally’s wonderful post. Without diving too deeply into politics, I think there was some good that came from the results. But many changes still need to be made. ❤


    1. Yes Lauren, it’s huge that the Dems took back the house. They will restore law and order, but we all know they will have their plates full. We need to get by these next 7 crucial weeks before the Dems can take action! ❤


  9. Well, something good came out of these last elections. Let’s just hope that justice will be served in regards to Trump and that our common values and common sense can get restored… It’s a crazy time we live in!

    I think artists have a lot of power and influence, when it comes to sharing their ideals and values with their fan base, and making a positive change in this world.


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