This is the "7-12 "Fight the Power": Music as a Social Force" page of the "Rockin' the Schools" guide.
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7-12 "Fight the Power": Music as a Social Force Print Page




"Fight the Power": Music as a Social Force

Suggested Grade Level: 7-12

This research guide serves as a resource for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum's Education Department course, "Fight the Power": Music as a Social Force". For additional information on the course and for more teacher resources, see

In many times and places, people have used music as a powerful tool for social change.  The story of rock and roll overlaps with some of the most turbulent times in U.S. history.  In the 1960s alone, American society was being torn apart by debates over the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights movement, and the Women’s Liberation movement.  Since that time and well into the present, musicians have entered such debates by spreading messages of revolution, protest, and empowerment through musical styles as diverse as folk, rock, and soul.  This class features songs from the 1960s and 1970s that have challenged audiences to consider the alternatives and make changes in our society.  Students explore recordings and videos of legendary artists to examine expressions of social commentary contained in lyrics, performance styles, and historical images.


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    These research databases can be accessed within the Library and Archives.

    • Academic Search Complete
      This scholarly collection offers full text coverage of information in many areas of academic study including: archaeology, area studies, astronomy, biology, chemistry, civil engineering, electrical engineering, ethnic and multicultural studies, food science and technology, general science, geography, geology, law, mathematics, mechanical engineering, music, physics, psychology, religion & theology, women's studies, and other fields.
    • African American Music Reference
      African American Music Reference brings together 50,000 pages of text reference, biographies, chronologies, sheet music, images, lyrics, liner notes, and discographies which chronicle the diverse history and culture of the African American experience through music. The database is constantly expanding to include comprehensive coverage of blues, jazz, spirituals, civil rights songs, slave songs, minstrelsy, rhythm and blues, gospel, and other forms of black American musical expression.
    • American Song
      Hear and feel the music from America's past right up to recent additions including Motown, Jimi Hendrix, the Mamas and the Papas, and other artists from the rock era. There are songs by and about American Indians, miners, immigrants, slaves, children, pioneers, and cowboys; songs of Civil Rights, political campaigns, the Revolutionary War, and the Civil War; and every great American genre is here—from folk and blues to country, gospel, and rock.
    • Newspaper Source
      Selected full text for 28 national (U.S.) and international newspapers, including USA Today, The Christian Science Monitor, The Washington Post, The Times (London), The Toronto Star, etc. Also contains selected full text for more than 200 regional (U.S.) newspapers, including The Boston Globe, The Chicago Tribune, The Detroit Free Press, The Miami Herald, The New York Daily News, The San Jose Mercury News, etc. In addition, full text television & radio news transcripts are provided from CBS News, FOX News, NPR, etc.
    • Popular Culture in Britain and America, 1950-1975
      Popular Culture explores the dynamic period of social, political and cultural change between 1950 and 1975. The resource offers thousands of color images of manuscript and rare printed material as well as photographs, ephemera, and memorabilia from this exciting period in our recent history. The Library and Archives of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum contributed over 7,000 items from its collections to the project. The database allows you to explore an interactive chronology to learn a wealth of fascinating facts, take a tour of the site's visual resources, and watch video footage to experience the spectacular sights and sounds of the period for yourself.

    For Your Students

    Cover Art
    Fashions of a Decade - Yvonne Connikie; Valerie Cumming (Editor); Elane Feldman (Editor)
    Call Number: GT596 .C66 1990
    A pictorial survey chronicling the international fashions of the 1960's

    Cover Art
    Fashions of a Decade - Jacqueline Herald; Valerie Cumming (Editor); Elane Feldman (Editor)
    Call Number: GT596 .H47 1992
    Looks at how the fashions of the 1970s reflected the social, historical and cultural events of that decade

    Cover Art
    Play It Loud! - Sara Gilbert; Kathleen Baxter (Consultant Editor); Alexa L. Sandmann (Consultant Editor)
    Call Number: ML3916 .G55 2010
    Describes the history of music, focusing on 20th and 21st century movements in popular music, groundbreaking musicians of the time period, and how music has influenced social, political, and cultural change

    Cover Art
    Rock 'n' Roll Soldier - Dean Ellis Kohler; Susan VanHecke
    Call Number: DS559.5 .K64 2009
    Dean Ellis Kohler, aspiring rock star, is drafted and sent to Vietnam, where he forms a rock 'n' roll band at the behest of his Captain



    These resources, pulled from class discussion and selected from the Library and Archives' collections, will help you to:

    • Give examples of ways musicians have used popular music to pose questions about society and suggest avenues for change.
    • Interpret the lyrics of songs by applying knowledge of poetry and historical references to the Vietnam War, the 1960s counterculture, the Civil Rights movement, and the Women’s Liberation movement.
    • Explain how music and musicians both influence and are influenced by society and culture.


    Cover Art
    Hip Hop Movement: from R&B and the civil rights movement to rap and the hip hop generation - Reiland Rabaka
    Call Number: ML3479 .R33 2013
    The Hip Hop Movement offers a critical theory and alternative history of rap music and hip hop culture by examining their roots in the popular musics and popular cultures of the Civil Rights Movement and Black Power Movement.

    Cover Art
    Hippie - Barry Miles
    Call Number: HQ799.5 .M54 2004
    Experience the ultimate flashback with this celebration of an era. Rich in illustrations and filled with the history, politics, sayings, and slogans that defined an age, this tribute to the 1960's counterculture is as groovy as it gets.

    Cover Art
    Music of the Counterculture Era - James E. Perone
    Call Number: ML3918.P67 P47 2004
    With vibrant narrative chapters on the role of music in the anti-war movement, the Black power movement, the women's movement, political radicalism, drug use, and the counterculture lifestyle, James Perone details the emerging issues explored by performers in the Sixties and Seventies.

    Cover Art
    Story Behind the Protest Song - Hardeep Phull
    Call Number: ML3551.5 .P48 2008
    Story Behind the Protest Song features 50 of the most influential musical protests and statements recorded to date, providing pop-culture viewpoints on some of the most tumultuous times in modern history. Among the featured: songs about the Vietnam War, the civil rights movement, the most recent upheaval over policy in the Middle East, as well as teenage rebellion, animal rights, criticisms of mass media, and even protest songs that lambaste other protest songs

    Cover Art
    Talkin' 'Bout a Revolution - Dick Weissman
    Call Number: ML3917.U6 W45 2010
    Talkin' 'Bout a Revolution is a comprehensive guide to the relationship between American music and politics

    Cover Art
    When the Music's Over - Robin Denselow
    Call Number: ML3916 .D46 1990
    This book sets out to examine the history of post-war political pop from the McCarthy era to Live Aid and from Ewan MacColl to Red Wedge. The story includes the anti-communist witch-hunts of the 50s, the Civil Rights and Vietnam campaigns of the 60s, the Rock against Racism Movement of the 70s and the close connection between pop and politics in the Caribbean, Africa, Greece and Russia - areas where the authorities have often made it clear that they regard music as a potentially subversive force.

    Cover Art
    Women and Popular Music - Sheila Whiteley
    Call Number: ML82 .W45 2000
    From Janis Joplin to Tori Amos, this work explores the changing role of women musicians & the ways in which their songs resonate in popular culture. It examines the interaction between feminist debates & music culture over 30 years of pop history



    Cover Art
    Anthem of the sun - the Grateful Dead
    Call Number: CD GRAT ANTH 1987

    Cover Art
    Paranoid - Black Sabbath
    Call Number: CD BLAC-S PARA 1987

    Cover Art
    Yellow submarine - the Beatles
    Call Number: CD BEAT YELL 2009



    Cover Art
    1968 with Tom Brokaw - History Channel
    Call Number: DVD VAR NINETE 2008

    Cover Art
    Black Sabbath : Paranoid - Matthew Longfellow
    Call Number: BRD BLAC-S BLAC-PARA 2010

    Cover Art
    Bob Dylan: No direction home - Martin Scorsese
    Call Number: DVD DYLA NODI 2005

    Cover Art
    Yellow submarine - George Dunning
    Call Number: BRD FIC YELL 2012

    Archival Resources

    New to Archives? Check out:

    • Rock Against Racism
      This catalog search provides links to a variety of archival materials in our collections on this event.
    • Woodstock
      This catalog search provides links to a variety of archival materials in our collections on this event.
    • ARC-0155 Rona Elliot Papers
      The Rona Elliot Papers span the years 1963 to 2008. The collection consists of two series. Beyond research material, clippings, and notes used by Elliot during her career as music correspondent on the Today Show, featuring artists such as Joan Baez, Ray Charles, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, and George Harrison; there is also a substantial amount of material on the Amnesty International "A Conspiracy of Hope" benefit concerts of 1986.
    • ARC-0230 Robert Altman Photographs
      The Robert Altman Photographs consist of 347 digital images on a DVD-R, spanning the years 1967 to 1978, with the bulk of the photographs from 1969 and 1970. The collection focuses on the psychedelic rock music era of the San Francisco area, but also covers 1960s counterculture in general, including hippies, Yippies, psychedelic drug use, radical liberal politics, anti-war demonstrations, music festivals, mystic eastern religions, communal living, and sexual liberation. The images in the collection feature a wide range of musicians and musical groups, political figures, religious leaders, writers, journalists, intellectuals, artists, actors, and New Wave film directors. There are numerous images of the members of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Jefferson Airplane, and the Rolling Stones, as well as musicians Bo Diddley, Joni Mitchell, and Iggy Pop; the drag queen theatrical troupe, the Cockettes; Ken Kesey and Timothy Leary.
    • ARC-0281 "Poetry of Popular Music" Course Materials
      The "Poetry of Popular Music" Course Materials consist of 156 1/4-inch audiotape reels containing music and interviews that supplemented the high school course, "Poetry of Popular Music," taught by Anthony C. Moore, in Cherry Hill, New Jersey from 1972 to 1998. The collection also contains documentation related to the "Poetry of Popular Music," including examples of the textbooks Moore created for the course, quizzes, student assignments, and permission requests to reproduce and publish song lyrics. The collection provides rich documentation and insight to the teaching of rock music at the high school level.
    • ARC-0493 Ken Regan Photographs
      The Ken Regan Photographs consist of 375 black-and-white images of a variety of musical performers and events from 1960 to 2002, with the bulk of the photographs dating from 1968 to 1986. Ken Regan covered riots and demonstrations in the United States and abroad; created photo essays about gold mining in Brazil and poverty in Harlem; documented famine in Ethiopia and the social conditions in South Africa. He also did a great deal of work in politics, covering political conventions and campaigns for Newsweek and Time, and working extensively with the Kennedy family. Regan also toured with some of the most renowned musicians in rock and roll history. He was the official photographer George Harrison’s Benefit for Bangladesh and worked closely with renowned concert promoter Bill Graham and was the main photographer for Amnesty International and Live Aid.

    YouTube Videos

    Beatles, "All You Need Is Love"

    Joan Baez & Bob Dylan, Blowin' In The Wind," 1963

    Grateful Dead, "The Other One," Shoreline Amphitheatre

    Black Sabbath, "War Pigs," Paris, 1970

    Lupe Fiasco, "Words I Never Said," featuring Skylar Grey
    Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum | Library and Archives
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