The Power of Politics in Popular Music

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Next summer's arrival of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland has inspired a new exhibit coming to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  ideastream's David C. Barnett reports that the museum plans to explore the connections between politics and popular music.

For years, US politics were debated in public meetings, labor rallies and on the news, but in 1963, the debate entered the pop charts.  Bob Dylan's civil rights and anti-war ballad, Blowing in the Wind, was recorded by several performers, and competed in the Top 40 with the likes of the Beatles and the Ronettes.  Political songs have been a regular part of popular music ever since.  The Rock Hall is collaborating with the Newseum in Washington DC to examine the impact of that connection in a new exhibit called: "Louder Than Words: Rock, Power and Politics."  Spokesman Todd Mesek says it will roughly cover protest music of the 1960s up to and including present day events.  And not just the songs you might expect.

"A lot of times," says Mesek, "when you talk about Civils Rights, or May 4th, or Woodstock, it's really easy to say that everyone was against the war, and that music had a major impact.  But, you also had other people who were challenging that in songs like The Ballad of the Green Berets.  So, we want to look at both sides of things, maybe surprise people, maybe challenge people, and really dig deep into it."

Mesek says the exhibit will open in May and run through the end of 2016, before moving to the Newseum just in time for the Presidential Inauguration, the following year.

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