Rock and Roll and Society

The influence of War/Protests on Rock and Roll Music

Rock and Roll music is a powerful genre of music that has a controversial nature. It has been used to respond to various social and political issues affecting the society. Its controversial nature has made it very popular. From 1955 to 1966, wars and protests significantly influenced Rock and Roll music. This period was characterized by the Vietnam War which killed more than three million people. The United States got involved in the Vietnam War to support South Vietnam against the communist regime (Lamb, 2012). However, due to the high number of young American people who were dying, the public approval of the war began to dwindle. Rock and Roll music which was very popular among the younger American generation at that time became a tool of expressing anti-war protests. This paper will illustrate how war/protests influenced Rock and Roll music between the year 1955 and 1966.

Rock and Roll music was the most popular music genre among the American youths during the war. According to Sarappa (2011), most of the soldiers were youths below the age of 23. The screaming guitars, rhythm and raw energy of Rock and Roll music provided the soldiers with a perfect reflection of the confusion and chaos of the fire fight battles and the jungle warfare. Rock and Roll music provided the ultimate anthem for the youths to demonstrate their anti-war sentiments. This is because most of the young soldiers had been separated from family and friends and were loosing their lives in Vietnam.

As proven by history, a generation can be defined by music. The soldiers imported Rock and Roll music into the battle field. Also, Rock and Roll was used to express lyrical calls of putting an end to the war and promote peace. For instance, McGuire released the song “Eve of Destruction” in 1965. The song was a protest song about American political concerns of the 1960’s. The first stanza of the song speaks about the horrors of the war and criticizes the inclusion of young men into the military. One particular line in the song goes “You’re old enough to kill, but not for votin’” (McGuire, 2009). The song was banned in many radio stations in America and was restricted by the BBC due to its anti-government lyrics (Sarappa, 2011).

Several influential rock artists rose to express their disaffection with Vietnam War and emphasized on love and peace during the 1960’s. The Vietnam War influenced Bob Dylan’s song “The Times They Are A – Changin’” which was written in 1963. According to Hopkins (2012), Dylan’s song has a line that goes “There’s a battle outside/and it’s raging/it will soon shake your windows/rattle your walls”. This was used to refer to the chaos of the Vietnam War. He goes on to sing “Come mothers and fathers/throughout the land/ and don’t criticize/what you can’t understand/your sons and daughters are beyond your command” (Dylan, 2010). Rock and Roll music inspired hope among family and friends of the young soldiers. It inspired hope that the war would end and things would return to normal for their reunion. Bob Dylan’s song portrayed the frustrations, anger and confusion among many parents whose children were involved in the war as soldiers.

The Vietnam War also influenced popular rock groups such as Mystery Trend and Jefferson Airplane. The two rock groups used an anti-war music poster to advertise their show which was to be staged at the University of California, Berkley on 25 March 1966. According to Hopkins (2012), the poster showed a dance scene colored in red and black and featured combatants who wore helmets and held machine guns while trying to evade explosions produced by bombers flying above their heads. The words “Vietnam” and “Peace” could be read on the poster printed in white letterings. The red background of the poster reflected the blood of the soldiers. The group used the concert to express the simple message that they wanted the Vietnam War to come to an end.

The influence of war on rock music can also be observed in the song “I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ to Die Rag by Country Joe and the Fish. The band used their Woodstock performance to protest against the Vietnam War. The song blames the U.S military leaders and politicians for the war and also expresses the horrors of the war in a sarcastic humor. The influence of war on Rock and Roll music is also demonstrated in many rock songs released after 1966. For instance, John Lennon’s masterpiece “Give Peace a Chance” which was released in 1969 became an Anti-Vietnam War anthem.

In conclusion, it can be argued that Wars/Protests had a major influence on Rock and Roll music. Rock and Roll music is a powerful genre that changes the mood of people. Several rock artists and bands such as McGuire, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon, Country Joe and the Fish and Jefferson Airplane among others effectively used rock music to make non-violent protests against Vietnam War. The music provided a means through which young people could make their voices be heard without using guns.


Hopkins, A. (2012).Protest and Rock ‘n’ Roll During the Vietnam War. Student Pulse, 4(11). Retrieved February 7, 2013 from, < and-rock-n-roll-during-the-vietnam-war >.

Sarappa, P. (2011).The Vietnam Conflict: The Rock ‘n’ Roll War. Retrieved February 7, 2013 from, < %E2%80%98n%E2%80%99-roll-war/ >.

Dylan, B. (2010). The Times They are A- Changing. Retrieved on February 7,2013 from, < >.

Lamb, J.B. (2012).Vietnam War Protest Music. Retrieved February 7, 2013 from, < >.

McGuire, B. (2009). Eve of Destruction. Retrieved on February 7, 2013 from, < >.

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