Where have all the protest singers like Bob Dylan gone?

What ever happened to the protest songs and singers?

The nation's senses are dulled with a diet of pop pap while daily we hear rumours of war. Clinton and Blair, smiling smugly, parade on our screens. It could be the recipe for a certain type of performer/writer but where are they?

Bob Dylan and Joan Baez

Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C. closeup view of Joan Baez and Bob Dylan.
Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C. closeup view of Joan Baez and Bob Dylan.

Buy Tempest by Bob Dylan on Amazon

Universal Soldier By Buffy Sainte Marie

Bob Dylan's Masters of War

We are all supposed to live in fear and look to modern saviours for future security and well-being. We identify the good guys and point the finger at the evil dictator and his huge stockpiles of weaponry.

Way back in the Sixties, Dylan gave us songs like Masters of War and his classic Blowin' In The Wind . The wind of the apocalypse is still blowin' but the answer has eluded us so far.

Bob Dylan was the voice of a generation that didn't think twice about holding demonstrations against war, in Vietnam, or war in general. Nowadays he sings the blues on Time Out Of Mind but the wailing harmonica and angry young man has gone. Now Bob tells us he is "love-sick."

Once though, his songs went directly into the public consciousness, hammering home their message. Joan Baez, Tom Paxton, and from our shores, Donovan, with Universal Soldier were Dylan's contemporary protesters.

P.F. Sloan with Eve Of Destruction and Hedgehoppers Anonymous with Good News Week were hitmakers of the period.

John and Yoko

John and Yoko took a big anti-war stance and staged their famous "bed-in." Now Lennon provides inspiration for Oasis, although I don't see much of his depth of feeling in their lyrics or lifestyles. Power To The People has become a joke and Citizen Smith is a comedy character.

It's a fine thing for people to have a good laugh but a sad affair when they have given up on life and given their power to crazy rulers who act more like spoilt grown-up bully boys.

At the cutting edge of current protest we have pop star anarchists like Chumbawumba throwing water over a "Tory" at a ceremony and performing songs about being totally legless.

Meanwhile the masters of war continue to "build their death planes" and to "hide behind desks" (Dylan's lyrics).

New World Order

The New World Order continues to bring us closer to a one-world government, a global police state and we, the people, let them.

An old song asked Where Have All The Flowers Gone? I'd like to know where all the peak-capped, harmonica blowing, guitar toting, protest singers are hiding.

Actually I do know. Big record companies no longer give them a contract so they are forced to scrape a living busking on our streets.

Footnote: First published in Big Issue Cymru No. 88, Feb 16-22, 1998. Re-published because although the political leaders may have changed and Dylan is now singing Xmas songs, the subject matter of this article I feel is just as relevant now as it was then.

Eve of Destruction by P.F. Sloan

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Comments 22 comments

pgrundy 6 years ago

Hey a few weeks ago I heard Buffy St. Marie on the radio--she has a new CD out and she is still writing. Here's a link to her web page:

http://www.creative-native.com/

I meant to write a review and I forgot. Now I'll do it! Thanks!

PS--Listen to Cho Cho Fire. It's awesome.


Green Lotus profile image

Green Lotus 6 years ago from Atlanta, GA

Right on brother!


Lou Purplefairy profile image

Lou Purplefairy 6 years ago from Southwest UK

I'm a big fan of the very wonderful Mr Chris TT who sings some brilliant protest songs. You can find him here at http://christt.com/

Brilliant hub Steve!


Uninvited Writer profile image

Uninvited Writer 6 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

Billy Bragg is still doing the protest song thing :) And Green Day in their way...

I love this version of Eve of Destruction.


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 6 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Thank you for posting, Pam, GL, Lou and UW!

Yes, Lou, I know Chris TT and agree he is excellent but didn't when this article went out back in 98 so it was right for its time. I found it over at Dad's house.

UW, the version of Eve of Destruction is special because it is by the guy who wrote it!


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD

Great Hub & great songs. You may enjoy my "How Does It Feel?" Hub.


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 6 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Thank you, Ken!


Aqua profile image

Aqua 6 years ago from California

You're right! Where the heck did they go? Actually, the Dixie Chicks did that song about Bush and they got a ton of flack about it for quite some time. That's the last protest song I can remember hearing. Nice hub!


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 6 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Thank you for posting, Aqua!


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 6 years ago from Kyle, Scotland

There's an opening for you, Bard - step up to the mic please!


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 6 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

I have already tried it! lol


E. Nicolson profile image

E. Nicolson 6 years ago

The real protest songs started to disappear when we all became too careful and too greedy.


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 6 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Thank you for your comment, E. Nicholson!


Godslittlechild profile image

Godslittlechild 6 years ago

I miss the music and the times. Good hub!


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 6 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Me too! Thanks for posting!


Clara Ghomes profile image

Clara Ghomes 6 years ago

I enjoyed the video and the hub as well.. missed the music though..


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 6 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Thanks for letting me know, Clara!


AdeleCosgroveBray profile image

AdeleCosgroveBray 6 years ago from Wirral, Cheshire, England.

How about The Levellers...? I agree with what you're saying here, though. People don't protest, in general, as they've become psychologically addicted to gadgets (apps, mobile phones, online trivia, etc.)


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 6 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Great band and I saw them at Glastonbury once, and good point, although I don't think many people would think of them as "protest singers."


tapasrecipe profile image

tapasrecipe 4 years ago from Spanish tapas land

Hi Bard of Ely,

So true, where are they all, was Billy Brag maybe the last one as mentioned, or is rap music perhaps the new protest music, i try to listen to rap to maybe understand more, but i get half way through and feel a migraine coming on, so of it goes and on comes Joni, that´s age maybe lol Carrie ;-)


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 4 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Yes, some rap and hip hop has protest lyrics but it all sounds the same to me and I don't like it either.


tapasrecipe profile image

tapasrecipe 4 years ago from Spanish tapas land

It seems so angry, more a 'let´s beat up the police' rather than 'lie down in the road and stop the police' I´m sure my mum used to say that to me about, x ray spec, clash, and gang of four,

my worst nightmare coming true i´m´turning into my mum, Noooooooooo lol

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