Here’s an article that I wrote for the Music For Democracy website on the interchange between music and politics. I tried to isolate different approaches to the question of music and politics and then pick one musician that exemplified each approach.
Music creates and fosters community by speaking to people’s needs, hopes, fears, and intimate lives — and so does politics. Musicians have responded to this connection in a variety of ways over time. As the host of Down Home Radio, I thought it would be worthwhile to compile a brief survey of how certain musicians, each in a particular way, chose to explore the realm of politics. Obviously, I have only touched on a few musicians here, so please respond with amendments, qualifications, additions and corrections.
Pete Seeger (b. 1919)
Pete Seeger has worked it from almost every angle over his long career. He started out in the 1930s playing at union meetings, and in 1948, hit the road with Progressive party presidential candidate Henry Wallace to sing songs at campaign rallies. Since the era of the civil rights and peace movements, Seeger has appeared at demonstrations large and small, using his unique celebrity in conjunction with grassroots activism to draw crowds and attention to a wide range of issues, from war and racism, to nuclear power, to ecological awareness.