1960’s America was characterised by political activism. Issues such as race, class and gender each came to the forefront of the public’s attention at various points throughout the decade. Acts of protest came to symbolise the generation’s desire for change, and no writer seemed to encompass the ideals of the counterculture movement better than young musician Bob Dylan.
This leads to my question which is “To what extent was Bob Dylan the ‘political voice of a generation’?” Closely evaluating his role as a social commentator in 1960 's America.
Dylan’s trend of writing socially conscious music was first made apparent in the early 60’s. The songs in his first albums were often directly linked to political issues being raised by protestors at the time. One of these political protest groups was the ‘Students for a Democratic Society’ (SDS), who released the famous Port Huron Statement of 1962. This manifesto for the New Left became a huge influence upon the growing counterculture movement of the 60’s. The statement expresses concern that America has been lulled into a dormant state. The introduction declares that,
Beneath the reassuring tones of the politicians, beneath the common opinion that America will "muddle through", beneath the stagnation of those who have closed their minds to the future, is the pervading feeling that there simply are no alternatives, that our times have witnessed the exhaustion not only of Utopias, but of any new departures as well.
It points out the complacency of the American p...
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...‘When the Ship Comes In’)
Bob Dylan’s performance at the March On Washington was one of the few instances where Dylan publicly showed his support for a politically driven cause. The march, where Martin Luther King delivered his renowned ‘I Have a Dream Speech’, was a mass protest designed to promote the need for jobs and equality for African Americans. It has been seen as an event which sparked both those who were being oppressed, along with people who were outraged by such injustice to take action.
However the way the public was responding to Dylan’s role in the 60’s civil rights movement soon led to his complete rejection of politically inspired music. Bob Dylan didn’t want to be defined or constrained by his label as a protest singer. As he told a Canadian journalist in (DATE), “I’m not politically inclined. My talent isn’t in that area; it’s just to play music.”
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