Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Where were you?

            Sometimes a piece of news can become hugely famous because a song is written about it. Sometimes a song can become hugely famous because it’s written about a piece of news. Either way, there is no doubt that music is often used as a form of political expression. Today, the musical embodiment of political expression is seen overwhelmingly in the music of many hardcore punk bands, including the bands Anti-Flag and Rage Against the Machine, expressing sentiments protesting war and corporate America, respectively. I think people forget that this isn't the first time we've seen political expression in music. I like to take a look back at some slightly older examples of this trend.
            In Bob Dylan’s song “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll”, William Zantzinger is captured as a brutal murderer. This song surely haunted Zantzinger for the rest of his life, undoubtedly making his name known to many more people than those who would have heard of him solely through the press. Dylan used his musical influence to make known the brutality of Hattie Carroll’s murder and the injustice of society, that those with wealth usually have greater influence in the judicial system, among other things.
            One of my favorite songs that shows a link between politics and music, is Sublime’s “April 29, 1992 (Miami)”. This song is about the 1992 Los Angeles Riots. On the night of March 2, 1991 four police officers beat a man named Rodney King with batons as he resisted arrest. A man named George Holliday videotaped much of the incident.
This video spread rapidly across the country, causing public outrage at what was considered by many to be police brutality. A blood test revealed that King was intoxicated during the initial incident. Whether the incident was actually police brutality or if the officers were justified in their attempts to subdue King became a controversial issue.
          The district attorney charged the officers involved in the incident with use of excessive force, but the officers were acquitted of the charges on April 29, 1992. At the news of the acquittal, all hell broke loose in Los Angeles. These riots included an overwhelming amount of looting, arson, and general violence. The local police were outnumbered. The riots lasted six days, until ordered was restored by the police, Army, Marines, and National Guard. By that time, more than 7000 fires, 2383 injuries, and 53 deaths had occurred.
          Sublime's song may be criticized for encouraging such violence, but I like the song for the way it attempts to capture the emotions behind the riot. The song doesn't really comment on the political facts and details of the incident, but it expresses the passionate anger felt by the lower class. While I like the political awareness caused by Dylan's song about Hattie Carroll, I love the raw emotion that is expressed in Sublime's song about the riots. To me, emotion is the most important aspect of any music.


Jack Cartwright said...

This is great Ginger! It really relates Bob Dylan's song to a relatable event that many of us know about. I'm really glad you took your extensive knowledge of history and applied it to this blog post. It really gives us insight on something that is similar to the topic of Dylan's song "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll."

Brunette said...

Love it! So interesting, Ginger :) You're awesome! All your blogs are great! I love how you relate it to what we studied in class, what went on in history, and what is going on now. So goood!

bbunton said...

This post was really interesting! I loved the connection of poetry/music and the news. Your incorporation of modern bands such as Sublime was really cool too. Great post! :)