Politics and Music

The Trumpets of Jericho

Beethoven and Napoleon 

Wagner and the Nazis

"Ohio" and the Vietnam War

"Imagine" and consumerism 

The Dixie Chicks 

Countless examples illustrate the intersection of Music and Politics. Jerry Garcia referenced his group as "just a dance band." Always pondered how we react to our choices of music. Divorce it entirely from the controversies of the day and merely enjoy the artistry or allow it to change the way in which we view the world. Transformative, escapism, nostalgia, intellectual profundity, cultural discovery. Large questions. Your thoughts?


Great music can certainly be transformative in how we view the world. For me, that happened with Zappa's "We're Only In It For The Money", which I first heard back in 1969; came a bit late to that party! 

Bob Dylan likely changed a few folks' viewpoints.... 

Everything is of its time.

There's simply no getting away from that.

We may no longer have protest singers but the music of today is still very much a product of our time.

Context matters, but it's not everything.

Just earlier today I heard Wham!'s Club Tropicana being played whilst out shopping.

As much as I dislike the calculated style of Wham! I found myself irresistibly singing along to it.


"Club Tropicana, the drinks are free..."


"Remember, our business doesn't draw the most stable minded of individuals", is what my bass player said while conversing about a good player who was quite flaky and undependable. Considering that music is generally an emotional exercise, I don't believe them to be a very good intellectual source for forming my worldview and  political choices.

The 60's  movement was all about peace, love and ending wars. Yet since we, the baby boomers have grown and taken the roles of power, we have endless wars, violent riots and now the cancel culture where only one viewpoint is even allowed.

We could discuss how such a great idea became so corrupted. But the point is that  music is for entertainment, not education

But the point is that  music is for entertainment, not education

It's OK to make a political statement through music but you may limit the number of people that want to listen to it. I give artists a break for expressing their viewpoint using music but there is a line that can be crossed and I wont buy music that offends my sensibilities. 

the author of the topic, are you a naive person or did you write it on purpose?
Anyone (mostly young inexperienced people) should know what an OVERTON WINDOW is.
... dehumanization technology ...
in a playful way, they offer you: let's try the devil a little ... forget God for a while ... a little bit ... as a joke

This is constantly done by (sponsors) oligarchs and arms corporations ... They spend millions on advertising such ideas - to get billions ...

this is a trick - deception of ordinary people

Shostakovitch delivers us straight into the horrors of WWII with his Second String Quartet. No glory. Just madness.

It’s interesting, the percentage of progressive/left-leaning songwriters, singers, and musicians vs. those of the conservative/right-leaning persuasion. Make a list of your faves, and see where their allegiances lie.

Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, Graham Nash, Bruce Springsteen, Ry Cooder, John Mellencamp, John Fogerty, John Hiatt (a lotta John’s around here ;-) , Iris Dement, Emmylou Harris, Joan Osborne, etc. on the left.

On the right? Ted Nugent and Mike Love. I don’t know much about Nugent’s music, other than that The Amboy Dukes’ version of "Baby Please Don’t Go" is unintentionally hilarious. As for MIke Love, we have to be embarrassed for him, as he’s too dumb to do it for himself.

I like what Dylan years ago said: "It’s not left or right, it’s up or down."

the greatest music is multi-level in its meaning. some diatribes are danceable. 

Elvis Costello’s song Shipbuilding is a fabulous anti war song. Always surprised at how many people miss that.

somebody said that someone got filled in

for saying that people get killed in

the result of their ship building.....


Goes to show that we don’t listen to the lyrics enough?

The list is not complete without Woodie Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, and Steve Earle.

@bdp24 I like what Dylan years ago said: "It’s not left or right, it’s up or down."

I don’t agree entirely with this sentiment, but that’s irrelevant - I know very similar words were well known to be attributed to President Reagan.

Quite odd, in the circumstances.  Think.

edit - here it is (excuse formatting, a copy and paste)-

“You and I are told we must choose between a left or right, but I suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There is only an up or down. Up to man’s age-old dream -- the maximum of individual freedom consistent with order --or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism. Regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those who would sacrifice freedom for security have embarked on this downward path.”

Conservatives tend to oppose things like---in the case of Reagan---Stem Cell research (’cause fetuses have their rights too). That is, of course, until such research will benefit them personally (after Reagan’s illness was diagnosed, Mrs. Reagan got behind Stem Cell research in a big way). What a great irony it was that the "great communicator" lived his final years unable to speak.

We Californian’s were horrified when Governor Reagan cut funding for the State mental hospitals, "throwing" the mentally ill literally into the street. Reagan suggested the families of the ill should take responsibility for their relatives. Good luck, ya’all. One of those tossed out was Skip Spence (drummer on the debut Jefferson Airplane album, then rhythm guitarist/songwriter/singer in Moby Grape.). For the rest of his life Skip could be seen wandering the streets of San Jose, bumming cigarettes and spare change. Cruel indifference to the suffering of the least fortunate. Jesus weeps.

It's so easy for these discussions to go off a cliff. Music should be from the heart. Politics is the furthest thing from it.

Al Stewart is outstanding when it comes to writing about politics/history.

Personally, I prefer when the issue is approached more from an observational/narrative perspective than a didactic one.


“the greatest music is multi-level in its meaning. some diatribes are danceable”. 

You win.

Politics can be the inspiration for a lot of great music.  The Popular music realm—-a.k.a the Sixties—are well known to most forumites.  In Classical the High Romantic era and the rise of Nationalism gave rise to works such as Smetena Ma Vlast, Dvorak Slavonic Dances, many works by Tchaikovsky and the Russian Mighty Handful.  French, Mexicanand American Composers have had their Patrriotic outings.  All of this in addition to examples given by the OP and other posters here.

  Tchaikovsky was held to be in bad odor in Wales at the outbreak of the Russian incursion into Ukraine.  An orchestra in Wales canceled an evening of Slavonic Marche, Little Russian Symphony, and the 1812 Overture. (“Little Russia” is term that many Russians used to refer to Ukraine, and the Symphony is basically a riff on Ukrainian Folk Songs).  Piotr died around 1895, so I am not sure how he was supposed to anticipate Political Sensibilities 130 years in the Future, but there you have it

Hating Russians for their government move is preposterous...

It is like hating americans because of Bush or any other president...

Cancelling Russian culture is beyond stupidity...

Politic and music are not separable, no more than in England for example Tallis or Byrd were understandable and the relation between their works in a comparison without the passage of Catholicism to Henry VIII protestantism...

All music is born from a sociological cultural context, which include politic in any era...

Why is this important?

Because all histories, economic,politic,artistic,musical,scientific etc reflect only one history together : the history of human consciousness itself...

Then the goal of each of us as student is to decipher the past layers of the unconscious in our own consciousness...

One of the best underestimated books i know among others for doing that is :


Jean Gebser " the ever present origin"...

A work beyond ordinary genius...

Or Egon Fridell : "the cultural history of the modern age"...

Or in the US : F.S.C. Northrop " the meeting of east and west"...

All underestimated flabbergasting opuses complementary of each other...



the entire purpose of this thread is so obvious. Ray Charles could see through it.


“The 60's  movement was all about peace, love and ending wars. Yet since we, the baby boomers have grown and taken the roles of power, we have endless wars, violent riots and now the cancel culture where only one viewpoint is even allowed.”

As a  youth I marched to oppose the Vietnam War, and the songs of Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, The Jefferson Airplane, Country Joe, and Barry Maguire were very much the playlist of protest. Even then there were Young Republicans who counterprotested, shouting Love it or Leave It,  Cut your hair, Get a job, etc. The ‘60s Woodstock generation was not everywhere the same, and there were plenty of straight young people who would not have had to reject the pieties of the left in order to become the adult Neo-Cons who pushed our dear country into endless unwinnable wars of opportunity.  As for “violent protests”, they were a reaction to police murder of Black men and really were a new expression of the Civil Rights movement.  Their legitimate protest was commingled with property damage in some places, but overwhelmingly they were peaceful. Left “Cancel culture” is a regrettable campus  phenomenon and an abuse of Social media.  On the Right It is more widely practiced …ask Liz Cheney!  

Why does Florida’s Ron DeSantis promote laws banning public schools from teaching the role played in our Founding by the legacy of Slavery by labeling it “CRT”?  Why ban the discussion of current thinking on gender identity by falsely claiming educators are “grooming” students?  In the current highly siloed world of Red vs. Blue, Truth is the central victim..

Sting whom I admire greatly wrote quite a few political tunes.

I typically prefer instrumentals as I can create my own story

in my tiny brain.



Surprised no one has mentioned Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young as a group or solo were very political while also making great music.

I have always enjoyed "Wake Up Everybody" by Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes featuring Teddy Pendergrass. It contains an unexpected and seldom heard dig at the Beatles (who I also love) with the line "The world won't get no better if we just let it be." Remember, it's not politicians who change the world for the better, it's the people. Grass roots efforts ended Jim Crow, the Vietnam War, etc. and grass roots efforts can still work.

Just off the top of my head, The American Ruse by MC5, really matched my perception of just about everything. I also very much identified with Respect Yourself, Staple Singers, I was very much an outlier in those days, alienated from both the 'system' and the 'social order'.


As for all the peace, love, togetherness songs of mid to late 60's through early 70's, those messages certainly haven't turned out to be salient or mindfully present for the children and adolescence of that era.  Turns out we boomers didn't really believe in those sentiments, only a dream world imagined by innocents. I get it with the "OK, Boomer" attitude of younger generation. Hippie Dream by Neil kinda gets to these sentiments.

I try to separate the artists from the art.  Looking to entertainers for serious thoughts on political issues is like asking your accountant how to fix your boiler.  I have a little more trouble when the art itself is so political, and, of course in a way that I find personally objectionable, I might get to the point where I dismiss the artist and their repertoire entirely.  I have done so for a handful of artists.

@bondmanp Looking to entertainers for serious thoughts on political issues is like asking your accountant how to fix your boiler. 

Quite so. 

Carefully worded to include all manner of superficial vox pop by artists (broadly defined), despite their disciples cringing enthusiasm over their relentless superficial dribble.

If present-day Russia claims, for example, Tchaikovsky as a "national treasure", then under present circumstances it makes sense not to perform him at the moment.  Nothing against Piotr, everything against his appropriation.  Perhaps though, a suitably contextualized performance of some Shostakovich might make the opposite point.

If present-day Russia claims, for example, Tchaikovsky as a "national treasure", then under present circumstances it makes sense not to perform him at the moment. 

And what exactly would that achieve?

As usual, many different opinions here.  As always when the topic is music, the form is so much larger than the locus of all of our musings.  Things to keep in mind:

Political and philosophical do not always mean the same thing.

Artists (and accountants) are people, not their profession.  A musician can have an informed opinion, and an accountant could be an ex-plumber that put herself through college with her hands.

Limiting your sphere of investigation places limits on yourself only.

Blanket statements are often used to cover the ignorance of the speaker.

IF you want a small laugh (perhaps needed after threads like this) checkout Johnny Cash: song, the one on the left is on the right.


The Who's "Join Together" also states:

"Do you really think I care What you eat or what you wear Won't you join together with the band There's a million ways to laugh Ev'ry one's a path"


But these were at a time when people were more sane, before politics invaded even medical journals...


Mozart was claimed as a “National Treasure” during the Third Reich.  Never mind the fact that he wasn’t German, or even Austrian (Salzburg was an independent Duchy when he was born).  So from 1933-45 no one was supposed to listen to Mozart?  I would have loved to see the Opera that he and Da Ponte would have written to lampoon Hitler

@bdp24 - you forgot Kid Rock Old Man Pebble.... 

@bondmanp - why should an entertainer's opinions on politics or anything else be worth less than the opinion of a computer programmer, a banker, a fireman, you, or anybody else? 

@larsman "why should an entertainer’s opinions on politics or anything else be worth less than the opinion of a computer programmer, a banker, a fireman"

While everyone is entitled to their own opinion, people in e.g. entertainment often have inflated self worth, get away with breaking laws that most people could not get away with, and many times, want to impose their opinions on everyone else. Put simply: who would you want to e.g. be governed by: a group of 10 random rock stars, or e.g. carpenters, plumbers, etc. I’ll take the carpenters.

haha...you forgot to mention "politicians".....I'll take the 10 rock stars any day.

Politics and music don’t really mix very well as history has shown us time and time again.

I guess this is hardly surprising when you look at the average age of the typically radical musician. The older ones tend to know better than isolate half of their potential audience and tend to keep their views to themselves.

Growing up with the Beatles I was spared the political rhetoric that Lennon began to indulge in once he’d become infected by the dangerous, seemingly radical Ono malady.

His album Sometime in New York City particularly ruffled a few critical feathers (though no doubt it would be far better received today so much have things have seemingly changed).

Nevertheless I tended to side with my (possibly working class) hero.

At least I did until I grew up a little and began to form my own opinions.


By that time the seeming contradictions of Lennon singing ’Imagine no possessions’ whilst his viciously entrepreneurial champagne socialist wife was busy amassing a considerable fortune at his expense became less troublesome to me.

Lennon after all was still a young man himself and he was merely expressing an ideal - an ideal that was obviously beyond him also.

Imagine still remains a great song, and it still also remains an unobtainable ideal.

I loved Jackson Browne until I unknowingly attended his concert/worldview monologues a few years back. (It was advertised as a concert) Not that I didn’t agree with some of his points, I just don’t consider him or most musicians, actors, talk show hosts, and audio enthusiasts a reliable source of information to base my views upon.


I generally prefer not to mix politics with music, and I will say it seems insane to punish Russian artists, particularly dead ones 🙄, for the acts of their dictatorial government.

As expected, this topic has opened the door to self serving expressions of personal political biases. So, back to the OP:

The answer is, you can have both suggestions.  Acknowledge the political message in the music (any art) and remember that the message is an expression of the composer’s world view; no one else’s.

To ignore that fact is to have an incomplete view of the music. We, as listeners, can be educated; or, we can disagree with the message and still appreciate the artistic merit of the music. Seems inconceivable, for instance, to refuse to listen to Wagner and ignore its musical greatness, because we disagree with his twisted political views.


@kb673 Yep, that was an early impression on a young mind, always equated that with the 'rule of man', the rule of law is delusion. Observe the present Supreme Court as they ignore Stare Decisis for evidence of this.


If one makes choice to present political views in their music, they also need to accept the consequence of that decision. The vast majority of listeners likely cannot divorce their own political views from those presented in this music, I don't see a problem with this. The political message is integral to the artistic intention, I don't see how one can separate the message from the music. I presume many have this issue with all sorts of messages contained within music. Many here can't relate and/or accept entire genres of music based on various messages. Take rap or hip hop for instance, many write it off as an inferior form of music. I don't presume to know why any single individual has this perception, but I'd suggest for at least some race is an issue, for others it may simply be a problem with the messages being sent.


For myself, its difficult to relate to messages and stories  in any music that has virtually nothing in common with my life experiences. I can be curious or even empathic, but I mostly prefer music with messages I can relate to. Why should political messages be any different! Add in the provocative intent of the political message and this becomes even more difficult.

"...the politics of dancing.....the politics of feeling good..."

In all times, in all forms, there's always the artist that feels the need to play a comment on their era's foibles and fumbles....

Where ones stands in relation to that will generally create a wall that divides.

Whether or not it relates or riles is up to you.

Try to enjoy or internalize to suit.... ;)

But do carry on...*G* J

Did ya’ll know that Neil Young was for a time a "Reagan Democrat"? Disappointing.

For years I greatly admired Joan Baez as an "activist" (I don’t care for the term, as it feels to me somewhat pejorative), but didn’t care for her artistically (too much vibrato in her voice). But I have recently found her very alluring (upon hearing her recording of Dylan's "Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands"), and am in the process of exploring her recordings.

I immediately took to Iris Dement, as did Merle Haggard (he recorded her astounding song "No Time To Cry", as heartbreaking a song as I have ever heard). My love and respect for her only increased when I heard her "Wasteland Of The Free", a scathing indictment of the Christian Right, who responded to the song by ostracizing her (she was brought up Pentecostal). She’s too honest for them.



Yep, that was an early impression on a young mind, always equated that with the ’rule of man’, the rule of law is delusion. Observe the present Supreme Court as they ignore Stare Decisis for evidence of this.

Stare Decisis is like the person who makes a wrong turn which leads him in the opposite direction of his destination, yet continues on their erroneous path. That is stare’ decisis in action. The later decision to overturn the  Democrat lead Dredd Scott decision of 1857 was also a break from Stare Decisis and a welcomed one by every black America because it restored their freedom