In 1964, when Martha Reeves sang, “Calling out around the world/Are you ready for a brand new beat?/Summer’s here and the time is right/For dancing in the street,” was she beckoning listeners to join a party or the civil rights struggle? Or both? From spirituals sung by enslaved workers to protest anthems shouted at union rallies, music has provided the soundtrack to social justice causes throughout American History. Whether performed by rank-and-file reformers or famous recording artists—from Frank Sinatra to Nina Simone to Bruce Springsteen, Beyonce, and beyond—popular music has accompanied and sometimes fueled transformations in American politics, culture, and social life. In this course students will explore American popular music in its many forms—blues, country, jazz, folk, rock, punk, disco, hip hop, tejano, and more—to understand its power and limits as both a force for social change and a window into major themes of the American experience.
Crosslisted with: AMST 30954, HIST 30952, IIPS 30445, CST 30952, PS 30952, GSC 30952