An Understanding of Music’s Entanglement with Politics

Courtesy: Shutterstock


Courtesy: Shutterstock

Anthony Amuso, Staff Writer

Punk, Rap, Rock and Roll, Blues, and so many more genres of music have deep roots in songs, making political stances and encouraging people to take a stand against injustice. 

From Childish Gambino’s, “This is America,” to Creedence Clearwater Revival’s, “Fortunate Son,” music has assisted in political movements, asking for change, and telling people to open their eyes to what is happening around them.

Musicians have the ability to choose what they want to talk about and some of them find it important to talk politics. Woody Guthrie believed in politics so much he emblazoned, “This Machine Kills Fascists” on his guitar. Below are some other examples of songs and musicians who take a stand with their music:

Creedence Clearwater Revival’s, “Fortunate Son,” is a piece opposing the Vietnam War. John Fogerty, the lead singer of the band, was a Vietnam veteran and wrote this song in opposition of the war. In a video on his official YouTube channel, Fogerty talks about his inspiration for the song.

“50,000 people camped out on the White House lawn, and Nixon came out on a Saturday morning, looked at the crowd and said, ‘Nothing you do here today will have any affect on me. I’m going back inside to watch a football game.’” 

Fogerty continues to say that when the troops arrived home, Nixon turned his back on them. The feelings against this treatment of American citizens inspired Fogerty to write, “Fortunate Son.”

Fogerty finishes the video with, “I was writing what this young man [himself] felt was happening and I needed to express it. It was very personal to me.”

19 years later, in 1988, N.W.A released their song, “F*** the Police,” which talks about the group members being fed up with the racial injustice by the police force in the United States. The song has seen a boost in streams recently from the murder of George Floyd. Kory Grow with Rolling Stone quotes the band member M.C. Ren.

“A lot of people would be happy that they song gets streamed, but it’s unfortunate.” For 33 years this song has had a reason to be played as we see police brutality not going away any time soon. 

Killed By Police is a website dedicated to tracking the amount of police-related deaths since 2013. Since then, more than 1,000 reported people each year have been killed by police. Songs like this want accountability and resolution for these unjust murders.

 When people argue that musicians need to keep politics out of their music, it comes off as insensitive. When an Instagram user commented, “Another successful musician instantly becomes a political expert” under a picture of Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine’s guitar with the statement, “F*** Trump,” Morello replied with: 

“One does not have to be an honors grad in political science from Harvard University to recognize the unethical and inhumane nature of this administration, but, well, I happen to be an honors grad in political science from Harvard University so I can confirm that for you.”

Tom Connick of NME reports that Morello adds an explanation to his rebuttal, “You don’t give your right of free speech away when you pick up a guitar. When you have some sort of platform, you have a microphone that they don’t have, and so on social media they try to even the odds by telling you to shut up.”

Politics shouldn’t be an exclusive field that can only be accessible to people who aren’t celebrities. Everyone has a right to their beliefs and shouldn’t be told not to speak about them.