Written by Montanna Macdonald
Here at Ponderings, we have brought together the generational hits of the western world in a three-part series.
Highlighting the political discourse and issues of the time, the art form of music as a communication platform for social change is evident throughout our history.
These artists have succeeded and confronted the many facets of revolutionary, culturally challenging ideas and civil movements for the greater good of a collective human feeling. In Part 2, we will be exploring the 1960s to the 1990s and their music scenes.
Dominating the 1960’s is the protest for social change in the American Civil Rights Movement, one of the most iconic eras for art being an expression of oppression and racial prejudice. We see anthems emerge in this era, from artists like Bob Dylan, Sam Cooke, Joan Baez, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, Peter Seeger, Buffalo Springfield and even in the UK, the Beatles.
Not only in America, but the Australian Civil rights movement is emerging in the 1960s, fighting for Aboriginal rights, including the 1967 Referendum which called for two discriminating references to change in the constitution.
We see from the 1960s to the 1990s many famous songs dedicated to the Indigenous civil rights movement, native title to land and the hardships of the stolen generation. Songs include:
- Kev Carmody and Paul Kelly’s ‘From Big Things Little Things Grow’ (1993, which is about Gurundiji people strike),
- ‘Took the Children Away’ by Archie Roach (1990),
- Shane Howard’s ‘Solid Rock’ (1982),
- The Yothu Yindi’s ‘Treaty’ (1991), and
- ‘Black Fella/White Fella’ by the Warumpi Band (1985).
A special mention to Kev Carmody’s and Pual Kelly From Big Things Little Things Grow, it still to this day has a significant impact, listen and watch this cover by Electric Fields released last month.
This version of Shane Howards Solid Rock (Puli Kunpungka) was recorded for the songs 30th Anniversary with famous Indigenous artists. It was not released until the closure of climbing Uluru in 2019.
Australia’s music scene changed forever from Jazz to garage rock bands once the Beatles toured Australia in 1964. We see the emergence of an iconic Australian rock sound, inspired by Rolling Stones and the Beatles, including the Easybeats, The Atlantics, the Bee Jees, The Aztecs, The Groop and more.
Fun fact, Fireworks (1967) by Val Stephen, was the first piece of electronic music released internationally by an Australian composer.
The ’70s is the era of third-wave feminism protest and recognition of global war-torn prejudice. We see female pop stars, like Australian Helen Reddy in America, fighting to break female gender roles, sexism and the right to vote.
We also hear anti-war cries for world peace from John Lennon influenced by the Vietnam War and civil movement in Zimbabwe and Jamaica from government oppression and lack of human rights by artists like Wells Fargo and Bob Marley. Another political action emerges surrounding protecting the environment, with popular anthems like Big Yellow Taxi by Joni Mitchell and Beds are Burning by Midnight Oil.
Rock n Roll Aussie bands start making it big time in the 70s, including ACDC, Daddy Cool, The Angels, Johny O’Keefe, Radio Birdman, The Master Apprentices, Skyhooks and The Boys Next Door. An iconic era for the formation of unique Australian music culture.
Put on your skates and your eyeliner, because we have just entered the era of disco, dance-pop and grunge. The biggest global musical legends were born into fame in the 1980s including David Bowie, Elton John, Queen and also our Australian friends, ACDC, INXS and the Bee Gees.
The 1980s and 1990s in Australia are iconic for number 1’s in pop, rock and Aussie country, with acts like Kylie Minogue, Australian Crawl, Tina Arena, John Farnham, Daryl Braithwaite, Icehouse, Jimmy Barnes, Slim Dusty, Silverchair, Twelfth Man, Savage Garden, the Moving Pictures, Rick Springfield and Men at Work.
Equally, we see songs dedicated to protesting. A variety of agendas are lyrically shared, including anti-war songs, modern-day slavery, violence against unarmed protestors in Northern Ireland, AIDS research and funding, the reunification of Germany, the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, peace songs, the Indigenous Gurindji Strike in Northern Territory and so much more. Big names like U2, Crowded House, Dolly Parton, Paul Kelly and Bob Marley go down in the hall of fame.
We also need to make a special mention of the evolution of International live satellite TV and the influence this had on music. Prince Charles and Princess Diana opened The Live Aid benefit concert in 1985 in London, created by Midge Ure and Bob Geldof to raise funds in the fight against the Ethiopian famine.
This saw the world’s biggest acts, including Bowie, Queen, U2, The Who and more perform. Not only in the UK, but concerts were live linked all around the globe, including in Philadelphia, Canada, Australia, Russia, West-Germany and Japan via our TV screens. To date, this was one of the largest satellite television broadcasts in history and had an accumulative audience estimation of 1.9billion, which is nearly 40% of the world population. The Live Aid concert raised a total of $127 million for famine relief.
To listen to many of the songs that rocked our world, you can listen to Pondering’s Music Playlist here!
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