"Deviation from the Norm": American Musicians and Political Progression

Document Type



Master of Arts


History, Museum Studies

Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

Lara Kelland


Lara Kelland

Andrew Hurley

Jeanne Zarucchi


Throughout the 20th and into the 21st century, popular American musicians have supported progressive political movements through their music and actions, providing a unique lens through which to view historical phenomenon. This research is presented as a digital exhibit and, for the sake of scope and public accessibility, has been narrowed to examining the political actions of musicians in the United States from the 20th century on.

Through a survey of secondary works by social and music historians and analysis of popular songs, the exhibit offers a broad overview of political activism through popular music. However, this study does not aim to quantify the effectiveness of such efforts.

In attempts to challenge the status quo, popular American musicians have engaged with politics through their music and direct action to address issues of censorship, differing definitions of what it means to be American, and various social movements – like the Civil Rights Movement or anti-war movement in response to Vietnam.


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