5 Rock Legends That Fought For Civil Rights

5 Rock Legends That Fought For Civil Rights | Society Of Rock Videos

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Bringing Forth Change

Especially in the 1960s, music played a huge role in Civil Rights Movement. Artists like rockstars and other musicians used their platform to make a stand and be the voice against injustice, inequality, harassment, and brutality. There was growing resistance against racial segregation and violence. The following rock legends did their part to bring forth change – whether it’s writing powerful lyrics or participating in marches.

Sly Stone

For Sly & the Family Stone’s fourth album Stand!, they perfectly captured the ’60s sound. Besides, not only does their music sound fresh and infectious even after all these years but their message remains relevant today. Guitarist Freddie Stone said, “Stand! was the album that said, ‘This is what we’ve been wanting to tell you in the other albums, and we’re at a place now where we can’ – plus things were happening in our country at that time. We felt like we were taking a stand, and we wanted to encourage our fans to do the same, hence ‘Sing a Simple Song,’ and we wanted people to remember who they were with a song like ‘Everyday People.'”

Sly Stone’s lyrics still resonate to people. He once said, “What I write is people’s music.” Even beyond Stand!, Stone’s songs reflected his black pride. The tunes may be, at times, cheerful and uplifting but his message has always been straightforward.

Jimi Hendrix

When Jimi Hendrix reinvented “The Star Spangled Banner” at the Woodstock Festival in 1969, he didn’t need to say anything because his music effectively said what words cannot. In his show, host Dick Cavett told Hendrix: “When you mention the national anthem and talk about playing it in any unorthodox way, you immediately get a guaranteed percentage of hate mail.” But Hendrix responded, “It’s not unorthodox! I thought it was beautiful.”

And then of course, there’s “Machine Gun” which was mostly a protest against Vietnam War but according to Hendrix, it was also dedicated “to other people that might be fighting wars too, but within themselves, not facing up to the realities.”

Bob Dylan

He didn’t just write some of the most powerful protest songs in the ’60s with messages that continue to resonate today, Bob Dylan was also present at Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington. Held on August 28, 1963 at the National Mall, it’s often remembered for MLK’s “I have a dream” speech but Dylan was there along with other musicians – Mahalia Jackson, Marian Anderson, Joan Baez, Peter, Paul and Mary. Dylan played a set that included “Only a Pawn in Their Game”, “When the Ship Comes In”, “Blowin’ in the Wind,” and “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize.”

Dylan later recalled, “I looked up from the podium and I thought to myself, ‘I’ve never seen such a large crowd’. I was up close when King was giving that speech. To this day, it still affects me in a profound way.”

Sam Cooke

After listening to Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind”, Sam Cooke was inspired to write and record a song that not only stood the test of time but has remained relevant in 2020 and was used in protests amid the murder of George Floyd. “A Change Is Gonna Come” developed from Cooke’s strong desire to write a song that helped him speak to African Americans. It was a modest hit upon its release but it remains one of the greatest compositions of all time and it became an anthem for the Civil Rights Movement.

Marvin Gaye

The enduring relevance of his classic hit “What’s Going On?” cannot be stated enough. Marvin Gaye himself became an influential and inspirational figure in the Civil Rights Movement. Released five decades ago, it’s still as poignant and beautiful as ever. This song sparked conversation with its timeless and universal message.

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