Changing Media for Social Protest in American Popular Music

Title

Changing Media for Social Protest in American Popular Music

Creator

Jonathan Barry Wolf

Technologies and Events in This Collection

Beyoncé Releases Formation
During the Super Bowl L halftime show, Beyoncé premiered Formation with a backup dance crew, all dressed in clothes evocative of the Black Panther party. On that same day, the song’s music video, which features imagery evoking a Black empowerment and…

DAW and MIDI
As digital recording and sampling processes advanced and the personal computer began to gain prominence, the development of digital audio workstations (DAWs) for recording and performing music followed. But despite significant advancements in MIDI…

Green Day Releases American Idiot
In the 1990s, Green Day began to release market-friendly rock songs inspired by ‘70s punk music. In 2004 they released American Idiot, a protest song inspired by 9/11, the Iraq War, Hurricane Katrina, then-president George W. Bush (lead singer Billie…

N.W.A. Releases Fuck Tha Police
West Coast rappers N.W.A released Fuck Tha Police in response to the ramped up war on drugs, growing prison populations, and the targeting and dehumanization of people of color by police. Upon the song’s release, N.W.A faced considerable backlash:…

E-Mu SP-1200
Before releasing the SP-1200, E-Mu Systems, Inc. released their first mass-market music machine and the first programmable drum machine, the Drumulator. The machine was reasonably priced at $1,000, and the device came with several samples already…

Technics SL -1200
In 1972, Technics, a brand of the Panasonic Corporation, released the SL-1200 model of their classic turntable. Turntables work by spinning a record on a platform, while a metal stylus moves along the grooves in the record, picking up vibrations, and…

Jimi Hendrix Performs the Star Spangled Banner at Woodstock Music & Art Fair
At 8:30am on the last day of Woodstock’s three-day peace and music festival, Jimi Hendrix took to the stage in a white fringe jacket, red bandana, and blue jeans, and with his electric guitar—an instrument designed for right-handed players he played…

Bob Dylan Goes Electric at the Newport Folk Festival
On July 25, 1965, the typically acoustic guitar-toting Bob Dylan took the stage at the Newport Folk Festival with a Fender Stratocaster and an electric backup-band. His performance of Maggie’s Farm was met with raucous booing from the audience. Until…

Electric Guitar
In the 1920s, the guitar overtook the banjo as the “fretted instrument of choice” because its strings allowed for more jazzy chords, however, it was much quieter than the banjo. Banjo makers, aware of the changes in the market, hoped to tap into the…

Woody Guthrie Records This Land is Your Land
In response to the great depression, the dust bowl, and the poor treatment of migrants and African Americans in the United States, ‘outlaw’ folk singer Woody Guthrie began playing and recording folk music to protest corrupt politicians and oppressive…

Acoustic Guitar
The early nineteenth century was the ‘golden age of the guitar’ due to its use in Viennese Classical music. The first book of guitar notation was published during this age in 1820, ensuring that its classical practice, technique, and melodies could…

Billie Holiday Records Strange Fruit
Inspired by a double-lynching in Indiana in 1930, Jewish American songwriter Abel Meeropol wrote Strange Fruit and presented it to African American singer Billie Holiday, who performed it at the integrated Cafè Society in Manhattan that same year.…

Scott Joplin Publishes Maple Leaf Rag Sheet Music
Ragtime music emerged in the late nineteenth, early twentieth century as the first commercially popular black music. Rag performers parodied white perceptions of black people in minstrel songs by fusing them with black folk tunes. As a result,…

Commercialized Piano
In the early nineteenth century, the banjo was considered to be the instrument of enslaved people and the acoustic guitar was the instrument of the rising middle class while the piano was the instrument of the social elites. In the 1870s, however,…

Hutchinson Family Singers Perform Get Off the Track at Anti-Slavery Society Meeting
The Hutchinson Family Singers was the first commercially successful popular music act to fuse an social protest with public music performance. They cultivated a public image based on a fusion of Christian revivalism, abolitionism, and agrarianism,…

Stono Rebellion
On September 9, 1979, a group of enslaved Africans met on the banks of the Stono River in South Carolina to stage a rebellion. They stole weapons and began killing white masters and freeing enslaved people. As the rebellion grew in numbers, some…

Gourd Banjo / Wood-Rimmed Banjo
When West Africans were enslaved and transported to the United States, they maintained, revised, and adapted many past cultural relics in response to their cultural surroundings in the U.S. One such relic is the banjo. Though often stereotyped as an…