How political was 1960s music?

That question is debated at length in the comments section of this post.  There are obviously political songs, such as the protest songs of Bob Dylan, or “Revolution” by The Beatles, much misunderstood at that.  Still, much of 1960s music was far more political in its time than it seems to us today.  The mere fact that the singer had long hair, or shook his hips in a “lewd” manner, or that white stars aped black music styles…all of that was intensely political.  “I don’t want you listening to no music by no long hairs” was a common parental sentiment at the time, because people mostly did understand what was at stake, namely an overturning of a lot of societal mores.  Elvis Presley sounds to us today like another early rock star, but the black vocal affectations and the grinding hips were a big deal for some period of time.  Drug songs were political too, and there were lots of those.  Just try “Eight Miles High,” or a big chunk of Jefferson Airplane or how about Donovan?  Hippie culture also was political.  Motown carried ideas of black capitalism, and was actually somewhat of a counter to the more politically radical forms of black music.  The Beach Boys are an example of a significant period group who mostly were not very political (though you can find a superficial embrace of consumer culture at first, followed by a collapse into tragedy and sadness), and plenty of the “one hit wonder” songs were apolitical too.  Most of the stuff that has survived in collective memory was fairly political.  The Byrds album Sweetheart of the Rodeo was political too, and it is no accident that Roger McGuinn ended up as a Ben Carson supporter and a Christian.  The album was mostly hated upon its release in 1968, but now is seen as a classic.


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