Feel like you’re fixing to die? Whether you’re headed to Dewey Square or kicking back to Coldplay in the comfort of your room, you’re not alone in your frustration. The same disgruntled Zeitgeist that propels today’s youth into the streets echoes in the beats and bass of generations past.
US: Bob Dylan, “The Times They Are A-Changin’”
Written in 1963, during the heart of the civil rights movement, this song was recorded weeks before President Kennedy’s assassination. Dylan recalls performing it the next night: “Something had just gone haywire in the country and they were applauding the song. And I couldn’t understand why they were clapping, or why I wrote the song. I couldn’t understand anything.”The hand-written lyrics were recently sold for $420,500 in auction. The purchaser was a hedge-fund manager.
Czechoslovakia: Plastic People of the Universe, “Magické Noci” (Magic Nights)
Heavily influenced by the Velvet Underground and Frank Zappa, the Plastic People stood at the helm of Czechoslovakian counter-culture during Soviet rule. The band formed in the wake of a Kremlin crackdown on the liberalization which had occurred during the Prague Spring of 1968. Their 1974 album, “Egon Bondy’s Happy Hearts Club Banned,” thought to be one of their best, was covertly recorded in a Bohemian castle in 1973-1974 and later smuggled to the West, where it was first issued nearly four years later.
England: The Beatles, “Revolution”
This song came out of a potent period of student dissent, the Vietnam protests of 1968. An early example of Lennon’s political writing, it was written soon after he had met Yoko and as he was still coming into his own as a social critic. It expresses his doubts, based in part on the transcendental meditation he was practicing at the time, about the legitimacy of violent methods as a means of effecting social change.
Ireland: U2, “Sunday Bloody Sunday”
One of U2’s most politically-charged songs, the lyrics recall the infamous Bloody Sunday incident which occurred in Derry, Ireland in 1972, when British soldiers shot 26 unarmed civil rights protesters, killing 13.While earlier versions of the hit had a more political edge, drummer Larry Mullen, Jr., said of the song: “Let’s forget the politics, let’s stop shooting each other and sit around the table and talk about it ... There are a lot of bands taking sides saying politics is crap, etc. Well, so what! The real battle is people dying, that’s the real battle.”