Not the movements you learn about in music theory class, but movements that change the course of history, or at least make a really big impact.
Music has long been a vehicle to shed light into darkness, to bring attention to those in need and to simply speak for those who otherwise have no voice. Music brings us together, like almost nothing else in the world.
Now let’s be clear that not everyone needs to use the platform that music can afford. Being a famous musician does not automatically translate to having a proper capacity for inciting the right kind of change. However, if one has achieved a level where they have the ear of a large crowd, they have the right. And just because you may not agree with the viewpoint or the politics of said musician (or actor, author, sports-figure, etc.) does not take away from the power contained in their work to rally a people.
The power of music hit me in the face when my dad took me to see Forrest Gump in 1994. A movie that weaves together politics and music in a powerful way. I missed the Hippie generation, Vietnam and the murder of JFK, MLK and RFK. I was not alive during the original Woodstock, didn’t go to San Francisco with flowers in my hair and will hopefully never have to experience the draft.
All of this to say that without the music from prior generations, I would feel little to no connection with these enormous moments in time. But I can listen to Dylan, The Byrds, The Five Man Electrical Band, Pete Seeger and Joan Baez, and in some unexplainable way, be connected with bygone events that have helped shape the world I live in.
One of music’s most outspoken members, David Crosby, has long been an example on the topic at hand. In his book, Stand and Be Counted, he shares:
“Nobody kids themselves into believing that they can solve the world’s problems. We’re just trying to make a difference, to change things for the better wherever we can. And if it takes a long push, then we’re in it for the long haul. A lot of times this isn’t about the genius of the moment. It’s about persistence. It’s about being in there and staying in there.”
Movements don’t necessarily start with musicians. But combine the ideal with a work of literary and musical genius, and its chances of fading away subside immensely.