Social unrest and political activism in the 1960s and 1970s are responsible for many of the things we take for granted today. Women can have bank accounts. Jim Crow is dead. Segregation is gone. Though not complete by any means, those decades gave us hope and progress.
The protests of the 1960s and 1970s gave voice to a generation. Instead of milquetoast songs about taking Susan to the sock hop, this generation used music to question authorities.
Music and social progress were intertwined. At the famous 1963 March on Washington, led by Martin Luther King, Jr., musicians issued blistering indictments of war and racism.
The electric Nina Simone sang Mississippi Goddam, written in response to the murder of Medgar Evers:
They try to say it’s a communist plot
All I want is equality
For my sister my brother my people and me‘
Marvin Gaye’s smooth jam, What’s Going On, may sound chill, but it’s actually a blistering indictment of the treatment of black Americans and the war in Vietnam.
‘Picket lines and picket signs
Don’t punish me with brutality
Talk to me, so you can see
Oh, what’s going on‘
One of the most recognized voices of the protest movement was Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. Member Neil Young wrote Southern Man, sharing his view of the unrepentantly racist white southerners of the 1960s.
You probably still couldn’t play this song in a good bit of the South today without encountering a very, very angry man named Bubba.
‘I saw cotton
and I saw black
Tall white mansions
and little shacks.
when will you
pay them back?
I heard screamin’
and bullwhips cracking
How long? How long?‘
Maybe the most notable Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young song was Ohio, a response to the killing of peaceful protestors by the National Guard at Kent State. Young Americans exercising their right to protest were shockingly cut down. Somehow, this song encapsulated the nation’s horror:
‘Tin soldiers and Nixon’s comin’
We’re finally on our own
This summer I hear the drummin’
Four dead in Ohio
‘Gotta get down to it
Soldiers are gunning us down
Should have been done long ago
What if you knew her and
Found her dead on the ground?
How can you run when you know?‘
After a brief run, Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young disbanded in a fury of drug abuse and anger. These fractures are so deep that they are still unhealed.
And hopefully, they wouldn’t be needed. America was supposed to have learned from the 70s. The political leaders were supposed to be more in touch with the real concerns of U.S. citizens.
Unfortunately, the rise of Donald Trump and the racist upheaval he wrought calls for a strong response from the side of peace. David Crosby went on the record, and said that the only thing that might reunite the band would be their shared hatred of Donald Trump.
In his interview with Billboard he was asked if Trump’s abuses of power might cause the band to reunite:
‘Yes, it might, but we don’t get along, and we haven’t gotten along for a while. They’re all mad at me. But they all dislike Donald Trump very much, the same way I do. We dislike him intensely because he’s a spoiled child who can’t do his job. So a reunion is possible. We don’t like each other, but we like Trump a whole lot less.’
He also outright called the president racist, and asked that Trump supporters not step foot in his concerts.
CSN+Y fans are thrilled:
@realDonaldTrump you’re so completely detestable that a band that’s unable to agree on anything can agree they loathe you and your policies enough to reunite. Thanks!: David Crosby: Shared dislike for Trump could reunite Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young https://t.co/DqERr9jJgp
— alphabet soup (@lilcupofsoup) February 5, 2018
— ❤️Mel❤️ (@mellian1) February 5, 2018
— Dennis B (@CHCmobile) February 5, 2018
— Susan Doyle (@SusanDoyle1963) February 5, 2018
Featured image: Michael Putland/Getty