BeeOasis Step 5
Protest songs speak out against problems in society. We can hear protest songs at pivotal moments of activism in western history, during the civil rights, anti-war, feminist, labor, and environmental movements. Protest singers have also sung about slave emancipation and women’s suffrage.
Of the many protest singers, Bob Dylan stands out as a key figure. In the 1960’s, he wrote many landmark protest songs, such as Blowin’ in the Wind (1962), Masters of War (1963), and The Times They Are A-Changin‘ (1964). Though many people consider Dylan a protest singer, he objected to the label, and he composed his so-called protest songs during a short period of only 20 months. By the end of 1963, Dylan was feeling both manipulated and restricted by the folk music movement. He then transformed his musical style from acoustic folk to a more electrified rock, and he crafted increasingly abstract lyrics. This greatly frustrated his folk fans who felt betrayed by Dylan. But Dylan said, “From now on, I want to write from inside me. I’m not part of no movement.”
According to Rolling Stone Magazine, Blowin’ in the Wind “is the most famous protest song ever written.” It is also Bob Dylan’s first notable composition. But when Dylan first performed it, he ironically declared that it wasn’t a protest song, and that he wasn’t a protest singer. In one sense, this is true because the song supplies no concrete answers and references no specific events. It only raises questions. Thus, because of its general, inclusive, and universal nature, listeners can perceive the song and lyrics according to their own experiences of freedom and oppression.