Music is a universal language that transcends geographic and cultural barriers. While songs often focus on love, loss, and personal struggle, they can also be loaded with social messages and charged with rhythms that move people to rise up and fight. Herbert Hoover, the 31st President of the United States told the jazz-age singing sensation, Rudy Vallee, at the height of the Depression, "If you can sing a song that would make people forget their troubles and the Depression, I'll give you a medal." If we look at some of the historic moments over the decades, music has certainly helped to bring about positive cultural and political impact on real-world events. Where people are struggling for recognition of their rights, you will often find songs of protest and hope. There have been songs that have captured revolutionary movements, condemned injustice, and raised hope for a better future. “We shall overcome” does not simply remain a song that was sung during the Civil Rights Movement but a source of hope to fight numerous struggles around the world.
The song lyrics should not only be seen as texts; they are contexts (of the political and social situation) within another context (music) that should be studied to get deeper insights. Music can change a person’s perspective and it can mobilize entire communities to action. Music can either be about protest, serve as an expression of protest or it can even inspire or incite protest. So how does music help change the world for the better? Does it have the power to start a revolution? What artists or songs have been instrumental in doing this and why? Read the module to start a music revolution of your own.