Hymns & Spirituals

Patriotic Odes

Minstrels & Musicals

Protest Songs

Solidarity Forever

We Shall Overcome


Audio Clips

"The Times They Are A-Changin'"
Dylan, Bob. The Times They Are A-Changin’. CK 8905. Columbia, 1989 [Original Release Date 1964]. CD 686

QuickTime   MP3

"Revolution 1"
Beatles. The Beatles [White Album]. CDP 7 46443 2. Parlophone, 1989 [Original Release Date 1968]. CD 3136 disc 9

QuickTime   MP3

Protest Songs:  You Say You Want a Revolution

Rock music--whether folk, acid, hard, or psychedelic--was the lifeblood of Sixties youth counterculture. Its tone was rebellious and intoxicating. The political events and social tensions of the tumultuous era, marked by the assassinations of the Kennedys and Martin Luther King, Jr., the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement, the nuclear arms race, and the generation gap, furnished plentiful material and inspiration for early acoustic artists. Breaking with their 1940s counterparts, these artists moved away from folk songs towards original songwriting. Out of this younger generation, Joan Baez, perennial critic and ardent antiwar activist, was the first politically active songwriter, while Buffy Sainte Marie, of Cree Indian heritage, penned controversial laments, such as "My Country 'Tis of Thy People You're Dying" and "Universal Soldier." Bob Dylan had the most profound and long-reaching influence on rock and roll. Specifically, his 1965 move to electric guitar, while alienating folk purists, brought in a new and larger group of fans.

The growth of the youth counterculture in the latter half of the 1960s permeated all elements of society and exerted a pervasive influence on fashion, social and sexual mores. Music became the group's outlet and its voice. Electrified rock ruled the day. The hallucinogenic folk-rock blend of Jefferson Airplane, the eclectic virtuosity of the Beatles, the wailing blues-rock of Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix's guitar pyrotechnics brought rock to new heights. In the summer of 1969, a crowd of 300,000 descended on Woodstock, New York, in a communal celebration of youthful solidarity, free love, and acid- and electrified rock. As Dylan had foretold, the times they were a-changin.'

Woodstock Music & Art Fair Presents An Aquarian Exposition in White Lake, N.Y. 3 Days of Peace & Music. [New York: Woodstock Music, [1969]].

Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service. San Francisco: Family Dog Productions, [1967].

Purchased with the
Robert and Virginia Tunstall Trust Fund.

Moby Grape Dance Concert. San Francisco: Family Dog Productions, 1967.

Purchased with the Robert and Virginia Tunstall Trust Fund.

Photograph of Joan Baez by Ed Roseberry. University of Virginia, Charlottesville, 1965.

Courtesy of Ed Roseberry.


Dylan, Bob. The Times They Are A-Changin'. LP. Columbia, [1964].

On loan from Spencer Lathrop.

At first, Bob Dylan seemed the likely heir to the folk legends Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie, adopting their sound, philosophy, and style--down to his rumpled work clothes. Still, he lacked the collective consciousness that had inspired the 1940s folk revivalists. Once Dylan donned electric guitar and neon jacket at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, he transformed himself from folk troubadour to rock icon, signaling a fundamental change in the direction of pop culture.

The Beatles. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. LP. EMI; Capitol, 1967.

Gift of Peter J. Levinson.

Arguably Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band stands as the Beatles' most historically important album. Here the Fab Four reached out to the collective consciousness of youth, singing of desperation, alienation, and loneliness. John Lennon's drug-inspired "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" achieved a high point in 1960s psychedelia. In spite of its drug-cult status, Lennon, nonetheless, claimed that the mnemonic in the title (LSD) was purely coincidental.

Jefferson Airplane. Surrealistic Pillow. LP. RCA Victor, 1967.

Gift of Peter J. Levinson.

From San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district, heart of hippiedom, Jefferson Airplane rocketed to national attention with Surrealistic Pillow, their second album. The song "White Rabbit" echoes the advice of Timothy Leary, an early promoter of LSD: "Tune in, turn on, drop out." Although the cover gives a nod to the folk music revival with the band members holding a banjo, flute, and fiddle, none of these instruments can be heard on the album.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Are You Experienced? LP. Reprise, [1967].

Gift of Peter J. Levinson.

This debut album began Jimi Hendrix's tragically brief reign as superstar. Although he is best remembered for his virtuoso guitar work, which explored previously uncharted territory of distortion and pure volume, songs like "Foxy Lady," "Purple Haze," and "The Wind Cries Mary" testify to his superior songwriting skills.

Big Brother and the Holding Company. Cheap Thrills. LP. Columbia, [1968].

Gift of Peter J. Levinson.

Janis Joplin's roots reached back to the early blues divas like Bessie Smith. Cheap Thrills, her second and final album with Haight-Ashbury-based Big Brother and the Holding Company, contains her emotionally wrenching renditions of "Ball and Chain" and "Piece of My Heart." Today collectors also prize this album for its cover art, Robert Crumb's only contribution to the genre.

MacDermot, Galt. Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical. LP. RCA Victor, 1968.

Gift of Peter J. Levinson.

In this quintessential piece of 1960s counterculture, a "pro-love, pro-drugs, pro-sex and anti-establishment tribe ... attend be-ins, scare tourists, protest at induction centers, re-create a war or two, smoke pot, take off their clothes, sing in the streets, make love, and otherwise amuse themselves." In other words, this rock musical set out to shock the theatre establishment of the day.


Gibson SG Special. 1961.

On loan.

Though not immortalized in the annals of electric guitar playing like the Gibson Les Paul and Fender Stratocaster, the SG (or "Standard Guitar") has graced the stages of the rock-and-roll world over the years. Artists who have played this style guitar include Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana, Duane Allman, Frank Zappa, Angus Young, and, most notoriously, Pete Townshend. Film footage of the Who's 1969 performance at Woodstock shows Townshend's penchant for roughly handling his guitars when, after an energetic performance, the guitarist casually tosses his SG Special into the audience.

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