Generation Peace:Pop Music for Peace: It’s the Great Uniter
-by Abby Smith
Administration and Community Manager
Welcome Spring! As spring flowers begin to bloom and the sun easily warms your skin it’s difficult to not get excited about the next few months of glorious sunshine and warmth. As the spring and summer approach, many twenty-somethings like myself are gearing up for concert season. As a music junkie this time of year is my favorite, because it’s filled with concerts and music festivals where great music flows and an audience can come together as one voice to sing the lyrics to their favorite songs. Music is the great uniter where all people from all walks of life can come together.
Throughout the years musicians have been able to find a voice for peace, to help the message spread far and wide across generations and genres.
The 1960s brought on the first wave of popular songs about peace, with the peace movement associated with the war in Vietnam. One of my personal favorites is “War,” recorded by Edwin Starr. It’s an upbeat song that on first listen seems to merely be making fun of war and how silly it is. “War, huh, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing.” But if you listen closely to the lyrics you hear the sadness and destruction that war causes when he sings, “Oh, war I despise, because it means destruction of innocent lives. War means tears to thousands of mothers’ eyes.” This song is a quick reminder of what is at stake and all we have to lose.
In the early 2000s we once again felt the resurgence of the need for peace as the United States invaded Iraq and brought on a whole new wave of popular musicians making music about peace. Lenny Kravitz, the American musician known for his song “American Woman,” recorded another called “We Want Peace,” with lyrics that sound like a protest chant: “We want peace, we want it, yes, we want peace, we want it, yes, we want peace, and we want it fast.”
Green Day, a band popular in the 90s, remade themselves in the early 2000s with a strong political agenda and disgust for the war in Iraq. They recorded songs like “American Idiot,” “Peacemaker,” “Horseshoes and Handgrenades,” and finally “21 Guns.” “21 Guns” begins by asking a question that is quickly overlooked and ignored: “Do you know what’s worth fighting for? When it’s not worth dying for?” Are the ends justifiable by the means? The answer should be a resounding No, but by continually ignoring that question we are silently condoning the loss of life.
My personal favorite song about peace is “Where is the Love?” recorded by the Black Eyed Peas. It was released in 2003 after the invasion of Iraq and reminds us of the atrocities of war and the benefits of love. The entire song is packed with lyrics that make you think about the current state of things, but the chorus hits home as Justin Timberlake sings, “People killing, people dying, children hurt and you hear them crying, can you practice what you preach, and turn the other cheek?” The whole song evokes an emotion that makes you realize that hopes, and prayers, and work towards peace are not in vain.
Pop culture has helped to spread the message about peace and the evils that war so readily brings, and despite the emotion-packed lyrics many just sing along, without thinking about the meaning behind the words. We must continue to work towards peace and remember that unity and perseverance can prevail. In the famous lyrics of John Lennon, “Imagine all the people living life in peace. You may say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one! I hope someday you’ll join us and the world will be as one.”
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