Music and Politics

In March of 1971 something amazing happened. The House of Representatives and Senate approved the 26th amendment, which lowered the voting age from 21 to 18 (Liptak 1). “Young people had begun to assert themselves politically during the civil rights movement in the early 1960s, taking part in demonstrations against racial segregation and poverty,” said Adam Liptak, a national legal correspondent for The New York Times. (Liptak 2) However, since then fewer members of today’s younger society are politically active, and there has been a decrease in voting among them.

According to the University of Maryland’s Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, 37 percent of voters between the ages of 18 and 24 cast a presidential ballot in 2000, down from 52 percent in 1972,” says Brook Corwin, a 2004 graduate of the University of North Carolina. (Corwin 3) In saying this, it seems that although the young voting has declined the young music listening has remained consistent. Because popular musicians have such a large fan base and a strong influential impact on their fans, they should openly promote and support political candidates as well as political causes.

Popular musicians have an extremely large fan base among the younger members of society, which means they have the power to bring political awareness to a vast majority of the population. “When a musician lends his name to an effort, or issue or candidate, that’s going to bring more eyeballs to it. Because of their position, they obviously have a vehicle and ability to get a large number of people to hear that message,” says Rock the Vote President Jehmu Greene (Brownfeld 1).

While it seems many younger members of society rarely keep up with current events consistently, most of them concern themselves with their favorite entertainers and care about their interests and opinions. The Pew Research Center for People and the Press states, “Young people those age 18-24 are considerably more likely than those in other age groups to be disengaged from hard news, with 25% saying they do not follow any of the four types of news. ” (Pew 1) Because of this, and the ever-growing access to media, musicians can use their powerful and influential voices to popularize many important political causes.

Musicians can also inform listeners of the political candidates they support and their reasons for supporting them. Which, in turn, allows more of the population to become aware of what each politician represents and whether or not they choose to become a fellow supporter. “The connection between pop culture, music and politics is propelled by a technological leap, with blogs, social networks and YouTube all being tapped by artists wanting to participate in the political process,” says Zahra Hankir, a student of Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

(Hankir 2) Having other means of promoted awareness causes more of the population to hear several important issues that are causes for concern. Moreover, because musicians have a large fan base within the younger population, they are capable of creating a trend in political awareness. Fans view their beloved entertainers as “cool” and powerful. Musicians, considering they address the issue at hand wholeheartedly, have the power to make environmental issues trendy or world famine a bigger concern.

“Musicians can create a sense of culture around the politics,” says Hans Reimer, Washington director of Rock the Vote. He adds, “If musicians are politically engaged, then young people are going to be politically engaged. ” (Brownfeld 1) Today, there are several different organizations whose efforts are to gain voting popularity in the youth of our nation by using popular musicians and other public figures. Among them is Rock the Vote, a non-partisan, non-profit organization that encourages musicians “to make political participation cool.

” (Hawes 1) These issues being brought to the public eye as a trend can bring about greater awareness causing more of the younger population to take action and more much needed change to occur. Furthermore, musicians are capable of putting political matters into a perspective that the younger population can better understand. Because music is often used as a motivational tool, incorporating political matters into lyrics can “ignite a fire” in any listener, which can cause him or her to feel more strongly about the issue and take a stand for what is important.

“The power of music to move us is something quite special as an artistic phenomenon,” says Aaron Copeland, conductor, composer, author, and lecturer, who has won a Pulitzer Prize along with an Academy Award for the musical score of the film, The Heiress. (Tomasino 4) Hearing lyrics with catchy lyrics and tunes is much more enjoyable to the younger population than listening to a speech regarding the very same issue. Change is a Sound is an album from a punk band, Strike Anywhere.

“Their music and vocals are loud and angry, but they blend it with honest, amazingly written lyrics and gorgeous melodies,” says Laura McDowell, a regular writer for Sex, Drugs, and Violence Newspaper. (Protest 4) Many people feel that musicians should just “stick to music” because they do not care to hear what the musician believes in; they just want to hear the product of their musical talents, but musicians are more than just music making machines (Gluckman 1). They are citizens who, just as the rest of the population, have the right to freedom of speech.

A Bona Venture writer states, “I believe the day when an American citizen, musician or otherwise, can’t voice an opinion on how the government is run is a day when freedom is truly dead. ” (McKoewn 2) Any fan can choose whether or not to agree with the musician, but each musician is entitled to speak his or her own opinion. Some musicians choose not to voice their opinions because it may affect the amount of fans they maintain, but I respect the musician who chooses to speak his or her own beliefs in spite of this.

Some feel that musicians should not promote political concerns because they have an unworthy influence on their fans (Art 13). They believe that some fans mistake fame for wisdom. In arguing this position, I must state that musicians are not experts. What I am arguing here is that popular musicians should be openly political, and that their fans should make their own decisions on whether or not to stand by the musician’s beliefs or to formulate their own. Adam Anthony, project director of the Campaign for Young Voters, says, “Kids are very strong insincerity detectors, and they know when someone is speaking with credibility.

” (Brownfeld 2) Musicians should not “push” their beliefs onto the public. Instead, they should only state what they believe in and leave it up to the fans to decide if they too feel the same way. Fans of popular musicians should not accept the beliefs of the musician based solely on their affection for the artist. They should instead become aware of the issues being brought into perspective and gain more knowledge for themselves. In conclusion, popular musicians are powerful motivators and influential leaders.

Because the music they produce has such a captivating affect on their fans, their words and actions do as well. A blogger in The Art of Noise makes a significant point, “If you’ve got that position of influence, and don’t feel the need to try and exploit it, I think that’s a shame. ” (Art 8) While musicians should exercise this power they possess, they should not be overly advantageous of the influence they have on their fans. I believe that if a musician chooses to promote his or her political beliefs, he or she should back words with actions.

The younger members of yesterday’s society fought hard for their right to have their voices heard, and more and more of the younger population today are taking that right for granted. “The sense of urgency, and on the flip side, opportunity, is even greater now for musicians and audiences hoping to see a change that goes beyond style,” says Mark Pedelty. Mark is a professor at the University of Minnesota who has studied the relationship between music and politics. ” (Hankir 1) In today’s society there is an ever-increasing need for change, and musicians should use their loud and melodic voices to promote that much needed change.