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Music As the Voice of People

Art, in general, serves as a means for people to express themselves in the face of difficult circumstances. When difficult situations arise in societies as a result of political decisions, all forms of art can be used to communicate people's views. Music, being a kind of art, plays an important part in portraying such thoughts and sentiments. In this article, we will examine songs by artists from around the world who, via their songs, attempt to communicate a message to people in the face of adversity.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono in the bed as protest again the Vietnam War
Figure 1: John Lennon and Yoko Ono in a hotel in Amsterdam (1969)

"Give Peace a Chance" by John Lennon will be the first song we analyze. Before the Beatles' breakup in 1970 and before the publication of their final album, Let it be, John Lennon performed with the Plastic Ono Band, who released the song as a single in 1969. Songs like "Give Peace a Chance" were composed in the midst of the Vietnam War. Between then-North Vietnam, supported by China and the Soviet Union, and then-South Vietnam, supported by the United States, a conflict known as the Vietnam War was waged from 1955 to 1975. One of the most significant conflicts of the Cold War, which lasted from 1947 to 1991, was this protracted and violent war, which cost millions of lives on both sides, including soldiers and civilians. The term "Cold War" refers to a period of time when the capitalist United States and the communist Soviet Union did not directly engage in combat; however, despite this lack of direct conflict, the two superpowers engaged in indirect conflict in other American, African, and Asian countries' territories, as demonstrated by the Vietnam War, which is seen as the defining example of this. Lennon served as a spokesperson for everyone who opposed the conflict between the two powers at the time, which was having an impact on the entire world due to the fight between communism and capitalism. Some of the lyrics are listed below:

[… Ev'rybody's talking 'bout Bagism, Shagism, Dragism, Madism, Ragism, Tagism This-ism, that-ism, is-m, is-m, is-m

All we are saying is give peace a chance All we are saying is give peace a chance

Hit it C'mon, ev'rybody's talking about Ministers, sinisters, banisters and canisters Bishops and Fishops and Rabbis and Popeyes and bye-bye, bye-byes

All we are saying is give peace a chance All we are saying is give peace a chance… ]

In the first part of the lyrics, the author criticizes all fundamentalisms, giving examples of many of them. And in the refrain, which is repeated in several fragments of the song, he concludes by giving an opportunity for peace. This is a repeated pattern in Lennon's songs which can be found in another of his world-famous compositions, perhaps the greatest of them all, Imagine, which was released in 1971 on the album of the same name. In the song can be found several lines that speak of imagining a world without countries, nothing to kill or die for, clearly alluding to war, and sharing a message of peace where the man treats others as equals. John Lennon, like many musicians from the seventies, was a public voice for all the people who were dissatisfied with the global political decisions that were happening at that time.

Iconic picture of a march in Washington against the Vietnam War were a flower is in front of a gun
Figure 2: Pacifist march in Washington against the Vietnam War

The next song under analysis will be one from an Argentinian artist called Litto Nebbia called "Solo se trata de vivir".Litto Nebbia was one of the pioneers of Argentinian Rock in the sixties and a great influence on all the Argentinian musicians that were to come. He is a well-known admirer of John Lennon and he showed this admiration in one of his songs called Para John (For John) which was released in 1981, one year later the ex-Beatle was murdered. The song chosen is called Solo se trata de vivir (it's All about Living), a song that was written at the beginning of the 80s while the author was living in Mexico. This song was chosen because it has become a very representative work for all those artists who have had to go into exile from their countries for political reasons. In the case of the author, he had to leave Argentina in 1978 because he had been subject to political persecution by the military government of the time (1976-1983). Litto's case was one of many in which renowned artists were persecuted and forced to leave their countries because they were considered dangerous means of disseminating ideas antagonistic to the government's plans. Here are some fragments of the song:

Dicen que viajando, (They say that travelling)

Se fortalece el corazón, (Strengthens the heart)

Pues andar nuevos caminos, (For walking new roads)

Te hace olvidar el anterior, (Makes you forget the old one)

Ojalá que esto pronto suceda (I hope this will soon happen)

Así podrá descansar mi pena (So my sorrow can rest)

Hasta la próxima vez. (Until the next time.) … ]

In the selected fragments we can glimpse a hint of melancholy and sadness in the author. It was written some years before the author returned to Argentina in 1982 when the military process of that time was coming to an end. The case of Litto Nebbia was one of the many existing ones, like León Gieco, Mercedes Sosa, and other musical references of Argentinean music who were pushed to live the country because of the political context.

Picture of the Record Litto "Nebbia / Litto Nebbia Vol.2"
Figure 3: Litto Nebbia in 1969

This article tries to demonstrate how, in the face of challenging circumstances like those described in the preceding paragraphs, various societal problems are brought to light via songs. The song by John Lennon was an illustration of resistance in the midst of a world war that was raging between the United States and the former Soviet Union. All those voices that had something to say about that reality and those regimes were brought together via music. In the second given example, Litto Nebbia stands in for a sizable number of voices that were forced to flee totalitarian governments in their own countries. This song, which accurately captures the feeling of loss, melancholy, and desire, echoes all those emotions. Art and music have historically collaborated on a variety of societal demands that are frequently ignored by the world's decision-makers. Because of this, using art to convey truth is crucial. And maintaining as much of its freedom as possible is as crucial.

Bibliography references

Amerise, A (2023) Guerra de Vietnam: por qué Estados Unidos perdió el conflicto pese a su contundente superioridad militar. BBC

Blackmore, E (2022) ¿Qué fue la Guerra Fría? National Geographic

Boilen, B (2009) Old Music Tuesday: 40 Years of Giving Peace a Chance. NPR

Calvo, G (2018) El rock nacional y el exilio: los músicos argentinos que dejaron el país en plena dictadura. Infobae

(2009) John Lennon´s sons and Yoko Ono revive “Give Peace a Chance” to help UN. United Nations,at%20the%20Amsterdam%20Hilton%20Hotel.

(2016) 4 claves para entender el Plan Condor, la empresa de la muerte creada por regímenes militares en Sudamérica. BBC Mundo

Visual sources

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Music truly is a universal language that speaks to our souls. I believe that it is the voice of the people, expressing emotions and experiences that cannot be expressed in words. In this digital age, platforms like SoundCloud have become vital for independent artists to share their stories. If you want to expand your presence on SoundCloud, then you can buy soundcloud followers on this resource. This is a game changer for emerging artists looking to make their voices heard. Check it out and let the music speak for itself!

Author Photo

Baldomero Villamil

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