Music a powerful influence for change

Jerice Banola, Staff Writer

On October 13, 2016, Bob Dylan, an influential singer and performer for more than half a decade, became the first musician to win the Nobel Prize in Literature for his ability to create poetry about political issues in the form of music. His songs “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “The Times They Are a-Changin” served as powerful protest songs for the public during the ’60s, ’70s, and even today.

“For decades he continued to confound expectations, selling millions of records with dense, enigmatic songwriting,” author Ben Sisario said in his article “Bob Dylan wins 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature.”

However, from as early as the eighteenth century to the twenty-first century, music has been empowering people to take actions they would otherwise feel too helpless to commit.

Music’s influence in protests were first apparent in the Irish Rebellion of 1798, which was the first major rebellion where music drove the public to defy an injustice. Songs like “Irish Soldier Laddie” inspired the citizens of Ireland to challenge the oppressive Britain.

Fast forward a century and a half later in America, protesters used the song “We Shall Overcome” as a chant to power the Civil Rights movement forward. The song, originating from the hymn “I’ll Overcome Some Day” by Reverend Charles Tindley, was a key anthem during the ’50s and ’60s, widely used by many singers like Guy Carawan and Joan Baez.

During the ’70s, in the wake of a deadly shooting at Kent State University by the Ohio National Guard, composer Neil Young created the song “Four Dead in Ohio” to voice his opinion on the shootings and attributing the deaths to the Nixon administration, evoking strong outrage among the public in support of Young’s anthem. His eventually banned song created a public uproar to remove the troops from Vietnam and drew heat towards President Nixon.

Today, contemporary and past artists have used music as a way to express their ideas about controversial topics, like police brutality, in an attempt to create awareness of perceived injustices.

“In the ’90s, Tupac and N.W.A. sent messages about the discrimination in the streets through their songs like ‘Trapped’ and ‘F*ck the Police,’” senior Ambra Tabuyo said. These two musical icons created a spotlight on the racial injustice they witnessed during their time.

Other issues like same-sex marriage and gun control are addressed more recently.

“Artists like Lady Gaga in ‘Born this Way’ and the Black Eyed Peas in ‘Where is the Love’ have addressed real world issues, not really to start protests, but to draw attention to issues in the world,” senior Leilany Lim said.

Recent songs aren’t created to stir up defiance like the ones created by the Irish, N.W.A., and Neil Young; nevertheless, present-day music still brings people together over causes.

“‘Alright’ by Kendrick Lamar is one song that unified people of similar beliefs together,” senior Jonathan Aguayo said. The altercation between Cleveland protesters and police in July 2015 displayed the citizens using Kendrick’s song as a chant to rally together against the alleged police brutality.

While music that speaks about world issues may inspire rebellion to effect change, it unifies people at the same time.

“Music has brought more people together than it has broken up,” junior Talena Vo said.

Either way, music has altered history countless times and is finally receiving recognition. Dylan was right: the times are a-changin’.