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History of Social Commentary Music
by Alex Cosper (12/21/12)

Social commentary music has been around longer than recorded music. In the early 1930s the Bing Crosby hit "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" historically explained the Great Depression. In the 1960s folk artists like Bob Dylan commented on events they witnessed in society, such as the drifter in "Like a Rolling Stone." Concept music about society continued in the 80s with R.E.M., whose "It's the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" joked about doomsday believers who forecast the end of the world. In the 2012 election President Obama called for songs with deeper social meanings.

There have certainly been huge gaps on the pop music timeline between big hits that have a message for society. Between the sixties and the seventies, there is a long list of social commentary hits but by the nineties radio had become very segmented and songs with a message didn't fit very many radio formats designed to deliver background music. The alternative radio format was very popular in the nineties and featured outspoken artists like Pearl Jam, Sublime and Tori Amos.

Part of the reason the sixties and seventies marked a big era for social commentary music was that freeform radio stations sought music with deep messages. These days freeform radio lives on at public and college stations. That's why it concept of lyrical music seems to have become more a part of independent music than popular music. Folk and spoken word artists who sing about news events can be found in almost every major region on Reverb Nation.

Here is a list of some of the most important social commentary songs in pop music history:

1963 - Blowin' In The Wind by Bob Dylan
1965 - Eve of Destruction by Barry McGuire
1966 - And The Beat Goes On by Sonny & Cher
1967 - Within You, Without You by The Beatles
1968 - Love Child by Diana Ross & The Supremes
1970 - War by Edwin Starr
1971 - Joy To The World by Three Dog Night
1971 - Imagine by John Lennon
1972 - American Pie by Don McLean
1973 - Money by Pink Floyd
1975 - Young Americans by David Bowie
1977 - Hotel California by The Eagles
1979 - The Logical Song by Supertramp
1981 - De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da by The Police
1984 - Born In The U.S.A. by Bruce Springsteen
1986 - R.O.C.K. In The U.S.A. by John Mellencamp

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