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Music And The Civil Rights Movement

1533 words - 7 pages

“It’s been a long, a long time comin’ but I know a change gon’ come.” These lyrics from Sam Cooke’s “Change Gonna Come” are few of many that were written during the Civil Rights Movement to help fuel the movement in the 1960s. Music was one of the largest influences in the Civil Rights Movement. This is most likely due to the fact that everyone could do it. You did not have to have a Master’s degree or a million dollars to become a musician. Very few, if any, of the artists with songs influencing the movement itself were multi-millionaires or famous for anything else.
Looking at the artists of the civil rights era, one can’t help but notice the variety between them all. Some swayed everyone listening with slow jazz, while others tore it up with rock ‘n’ roll. Some had multiple chart-topping songs while others were” one hit wonders (Larry Verne, I’m looking at you). One of the most influential singers of the movement was Aretha Franklin, whose enchanting voice led the movement with gospel and had more than 70 songs come out in the 1960s, the pinnacle of the Civil Rights Movement (Aretha Franklin songs). Another artist who totally differed from Aretha was Bob Dylan, who combined rock ‘n’ roll, civil rights, and a unique feel to the movement with his songs and his book, tarantula, released in 1964 (Bob Dylan). Though these two artists vary between each other, they both shared one common belief: We Shall Overcome.
Throughout the whole Movement, the song “We Shall Overcome” was one of the most popular songs of the era relating to civil rights. Written by Charles Tindley, the song was originally sung by Pete Seeger, a singer and activist in the Civil Rights Movement and Vietnam War. One large misconception of the Civil Rights Movement is that the song was based off of Martin Luther King Jr’s speech, We Shall Overcome. In reality, the song was released in 1963 and Dr. King gave his speech in 1968 (moments in time). And though unrelated, the song represents one of the things Dr. King loved: nonviolent protesting. According to NPR.org, It is not a marching song. It is not necessarily defiant. It is a promise: "We shall overcome someday (NPR). This song became so large, DR. King used its lyrics in his Nobel Prize Acceptance speech and President Lyndon Johnson used it in a civil rights speech to congress (moments). And though this song is definitely one of the most influential, there are many other influential songs of the era.
Another influential song from a greatly influential artist was Times They Are A Changin’ by Bob Dylan. This song, sung in 1964, was one of the top songs of the Movement, eventually earning Dylan a performance in the white house in 2010 (PBS). The song was so great, the album appeared on 166 charts and the song was number 2 in 1964. One of the most helpful items that spurred on the song was its riveting lyrics: The line it is drawn, the curse it is cast. The slow one now will later be fats as the present now will later be past. All...

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