Rockin’ in the Free World: Where Music Meets Politics

Rockin’ in the Free World: Where Music Meets Politics

Rock music and politics have been inseparable since the 1960s, when recording artists including Bob Dylan broke new ground, using music to raise awareness about social justice.

He went to Oxford Town
Guns and clubs followed him down
All because his face was brown

– Bob Dylan, “Oxford Town” (1963)

Dylan wasn’t the only one. Aretha Franklin sang about “Respect.” Rock soon gave artists an opportunity to provide commentary on an even broader range of important issues from war and nuclear proliferation to the assassination of President Kennedy.

He was a friend of mine, he was a friend of mine
His killing had no purpose, no reason or rhyme
He was a friend of mine
He was in Dallas town, he was in Dallas town
From a sixth floor window a gunner shot him down
He was in Dallas town

– The Byrds, “He was a Friend of Mine” (1965)

A new exhibit exploring the connection between rock and politics opens this Friday, May 20, 2016 at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. “Louder Than Words: Rock, Power and Politics” delves into “the power of rock to changes attitudes about patriotism, peace, equality and freedom.” The exhibit moves to Washington, D.C.’s Newseum in January 2017.

RHOF

“Louder Than Words: Rock, Power and Politics” opens May 20 at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, then the exhibit travels to the Newseum in Washington, D.C., in January 2017.

SoundExchange is honored to support this important initiative that provides video, multimedia, photographs, periodicals and artifacts – including a guitar belonging to John Lennon and a letter from the FBI outlining its concern over tracks on N.W.A.’s “Straight Outta Compton” – to examine the significance of this connection between music and politics.

Numerous recorded interviews are part of the exhibit, including one with SoundExchange Board Member and former Talking Heads front man David Byrne. U2’s Bono and President Jimmy Carter also provided interviews as part of the exhibit.