“Why is that bus all different types of colors, and what are those people
“I think they are what people call hippies now and days, and those are those crazy
goons Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters.”
In the 1960s there was many influential people that helped make a large change to the
upcoming generations of kids. Not only were their influential people, but also music
brought people together as one and helped form a generation of peace and love.
In the early 1960s the commie’s way of life was spreading like a wild fire all
threw out the world. Many people feared a doomes day where the world would end in a
nuclear war between the United States and the U.S.S.R, this conflict was called the Cold
War. During this time period many people feared that the Government was not in control
of their own people and just the well being of the United States because of the case
against Alger Hiss. Hiss was an official in the state department in 1948; he was accused
of giving classified information of the United States to the Communist party in Russia.
After the end of World War II both sides , the communist and the Democrats started an
arms race building some of the strongest military powers seen to this day.
At the beginning of the 1960s many musical artistes wrote songs about this
futuristic war, the one that could end the human race. One of the songs that helped get a
view onto reality was the “Masters of War” written by Bob Dylan. In this song Dylan
talks about the arms build up of both nations, and he talks about how the government
does not care about the well being of its citizens but only the strength of the nation as a
whole. Dylan tries to get the people of the U.S. to understand what the government is
trying to do, for instance, in the song he says “you that never done done nothin', but build
to destroy, you play with my world, like it's your little toy”. He is saying that these
people in charge of our nation are not the ones that are fighting the war, but they are just
the ones who send out citizens sons and daughters to go get slaughtered just to make a
political statement of who’s stronger. Dylan makes a statement that up until this time
period he has never written a lyrical song like this before and was hoping to make a
strong change of how people look at these wars.
Although the Cold war was still going on, this was not the American citizens only
predicament of the 1960s. The Vietnam War, which was also over the spread of
communism into South Vietnam, broke out in the 1950s but really started to escalate
around 1961 and 1962 with military involvement almost tripling. Many Americans began
to Protest against the War because they saw it as a pointless reason for Americans to die.
Throughout the mid 1960s and early 1970s many protest songs started evolving having a
major influence on the younger generation. One of the most famous protest songs was
released in 1967 called “Feel Like I’m Fixing To Die” written by Country Joe McDonald.
This song talks about how the American government has once again got the States
entangled into another pointless war where everyone is going to die. In Country Joe
McDonalds song he says “Come on mothers throughout the land, Pack your boys off to
Vietnam. Come on fathers, and don't hesitate, to send your sons off before it's too late.
You can be the first ones in your block, to have your boy come home in a box.” he says
this in an ironic way because he just wants to prove that there is no honor anymore to
sending away your child to War because the odds of them coming back are very rare. In
the Vietnam War there was over 55,000 deaths alone, and half of the American nation
had no idea why they were in a war with Vietnam.
With this fighting going on around the world a new generation came out of the
mix of things. This generation became to be known as the “hippie” generation that was
based off of national peace and a new idea of how to approach their lives. This idea
started forming around the 1950s with the beat novelists like Jack Kerouac and Allen
Ginsburg, being some of the most famous artists of their generation. It was in San
Francisco that the hippies started becoming big. Thanks to Ken Kesey and his band of
followers the Merry Pranksters the hippie generation blew up all over the United States.
Many adolescents started following their ways of life, having not to worry about the
material things and trying psychedelic drugs like LSD and magical mushrooms that
would alter your mind and perception towards things. One song changed the whole
perception of San Francisco is the song “ San Francisco” written by Scott McKenzie’s.
This song had a major influence on society because the first lines of the song “ If you’re
going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair, if you’re going to San
Francisco, You’re gonna meet some gentle people there”. After this song was released
thousands of people went to the city of San Francisco with flowers in there ears wearing
bright colors. This started a major epidemic cause there was thousands of people inside
the city of San Fran that did not have any where to stay, causing the parks to be flooded
with the hippie generation with most of them tripping on some kind of psychedelic drug.
The 1960s where also known for its racial conquest for blacks and their fight for
equal rights. Many blacks where living in poverty in inner city’s or in the Deep South
where racism, and the Ku Klux Klan still where popular among the whites in the south.
Many blacks have fought for their equal rights with the most famous Martin Luther King
Jr. Although King followed non violent actions in getting his point across he played as
one of the icons of the black population. King was eventually assassinated on April 4th
1968, after his death a wave of riots across the nation began to spring up. Even though
blacks during this time period were not taken seriously many people fell in love with the
song “What’s Going on” written by Marvin Gaye. This song talked about the poverty,
drug use, assassinations, and many more political problems going on in America besides
the War. Although the Motown records that had Marvin Gaye under their contract hated
the song produced by him, they began to enjoy it because he was selling millions of
copies to all kinds of audiences not just the black population.
Four students shot and killed at the Kent state protest against the War in Vietnam.
Threw out the 1960s and early 1970s many protest like these where going on, but none of
them have ever escalated to this degree. During the Kent state protest the National Guard
was brought in to disperse the students and stop any one who could have started a riot.
The National Guards men opened fire on the group of students after they had
continuously threw rocks and bottles at the guards men. After awhile the guards men
went to disperse the mob and began pushing them back deeper into campus, once they
where retreating the guards men opened up fire for reasons still not known to this day.
One famous song was written about this massacre called “Ohio” written by Neil Young.
Neil Young defends the students of Kent state because he believes that they where doing
nothing wrong, and how the National guard should not have been called because this was
not a state of emergency. In his song he wrote “Tin soldiers and Nixon coming, we’re
finally on our own. This summer I hear the drumming four dead in Ohio” this is a very
influential line because he is saying that Nixon is on a rage of killing and that the people
of America are on their own, and that the National Government is breaking down. After
this song came out it was banned in some parts of the country due to its anti-Nixon
sentiments. Although this was just one major political protest, their where many other
influential ones during its time period.
In 1968 the democrats where holding a convention to determine who would be the
next candidate for the presidential election. After losing one of their most upcoming
democrats Robert F. Kennedy due to an assassination on June 5th, they where trying to
figure out who should be next. A group of people started protesting about the War and
civil rights during this time period of the convention. The National Guard was brought in
because their had been a series of letters stating assassination attempts for some of the
democratic officials. Once the National Guard was called they came in and made arrests,
arresting eight men who where later tried for attempting a riot. One song depicts the
actions of this protest is the song “Chicago” by Graham Nash. In one of his lines “ so
your brothers bound and gagged ad they’ve chained him to a chair, won’t you come to
Chicago just to sing.” In this line he is talking about the Chicago eight who where
arrested for attempting to start a riot. The brother that was gagged was a black man was
chained and gagged due to his outbursts in the courtroom. He was eventually released
and found not guilty. In the statement “ won’t you come to Chicago to sing.” Nash is
talking to the nation as a whole to come help support the Chicago eight .During this time
period many of the police and government officials used Gestapo tactics to break up these
Through out the 1960s and early 1970s music played a major role in shaping what
society is like today. Music changed the way people thought and the way people acted
forming a bond between the adolescent generations, it also acted as a gateway for people
to understand what was going on in their world.
1) "Neil Young Ohio Lyric Analysis." Thrasher's Wheat - A Neil Young Archives. Web.
19 Apr. 2011. <http://thrasherswheat.org/fot/ohio.htm>.
2) Mailer, Norman. "AllPolitics - Democratic National Convention." CNN.com -
Breaking News, U.S., World, Weather, Entertainment & Video News. Web. 19 Apr.
3) "Kent State Shootings - Ohio History Central - A Product of the Ohio Historical
Society." Ohio History Central - An Online Encyclopedia of Ohio History - Ohio
Historical Society. Web. 19 Apr. 2011.
4) Ritz, David. "Marvin Gaye - Introduction | American Masters | PBS." PBS: Public
Broadcasting Service. 27 Aug. 2008. Web. 19 Apr. 2011.
5) "Cold War." U.S. National Park Service - Experience Your America. Web. 19 Apr.