Grade Level: 11-12 Subject

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Protest and Message Music of the 1960s and 70s

Grade Level: 11-12


American History

 Duration: 2-3 class periods  Date: Teacher:

Arizona Social Studies Standards:

American History

Postwar United States

S1C9PO3(b, c)

Big Idea: (Targeted, enduring, transferable ideas at the heart of the discipline.)
The counterculture of the 1960s developed in the United States between 1960 and the mid- 1970s.

As the 1960s progressed, widespread tensions developed in American society that tended to flow along generational lines regarding aspects of the society such as the war in Vietnam, race relations, traditional modes of authority, and differing interpretations of the American Dream.

This lesson focuses particularly on “protest” or “message” songs associated with the civil rights and anti-war movements of the 1960s, a cause which inspired large numbers of Americans--and performers in particular--to civil disobedience and significantly influenced subsequent events and attitudes in this country.

Essential Question(s): (Questions that spark meaningful connections, provoke inquiry, and encourage transfer.)
How does popular music reflect the diverse attitudes of the American public at different times in history?

Arizona 2010 ELA & Literacy in History/Social Studies Standards:

Grades 11-12


W. 4 (AZ addition)

SL. 1-5

Ethnic Group and Contributions: (Identify contributions to the culture and history of America from individuals and/or groups that represent ethnic minorities.)

The music of the 1960s and 70s had a great impact on the counterculture movement and often reflected the views of young people from diverse backgrounds in the changing American society.

Key Vocabulary:

Civil rights

CDs, tapes, records of selected civil rights music; lyrics to selected songs; primary source material (i.e. newspaper/magazine articles, photographs, etc.)
Suggested websites (see below)
Lyrics to “Blowin’ In the Wind” (attached)

Learning Objectives/Goals
(What will students know or be able to do? Use a Cognitive Taxonomy)

  1. identify connections between particular songs and historical events, attitudes and/or figures;

  2. recognize multiple points of view toward the issue of race relations in America both historically and in contemporary society;

  3. evaluate selected songs as effective tools for social protest and as historical documents;

  4. describe the role music played in the war protest and civil rights movements of the 1960s

Anticipatory Set
(Engage student’s attention. Connect to prior learning/ experience. Establish relevance. Why is it important for students to learn this?)

Play Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” (also recorded by Peter, Paul and Mary, Joan Baez, and Stevie Wonder) as an introduction to the period and to the idea of a “protest” song. Put these questions on the board/screen for viewing as students listen to the song:

What are the main themes and attitudes expressed? Why would this song become an anthem of civil rights movement?

Lead class discussion-students can share answers to the questions. Ask the students to think of other songs from today or the past that they think carry a message about civil rights.

Lesson Outline

Exact procedures will vary depending on how material is incorporated into existing curricula and from teacher to teacher. For example, are you concentrating on civil rights, the Vietnam War, or protest/change in general from the 60s/70s era?

It is assumed that students will have some previous knowledge of the Civil Rights Movement prior to this lesson. Incorporate songs related to discussion topics/material previously covered in class and in the textbook. Some songs should refer to specific events, people or issues (e.g. “Abraham, Martin and John” written in response to assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King) while others should express more universal issues ("If I Had a Hammer").

There is a list of possible songs and resources in the “Sources” section of this lesson.

Variation 1: Divide class into small groups of 3 to 5 students. Assign one song to each group and distribute the lyrics. Instruct each group to listen carefully to the song and relate it to material covered in class, keeping in mind the questions on the handout (attached).

Variation 2: Divide class into small groups of 3 to 5 students. Allow students to pick one song and find the lyrics and some information about it. Instruct each group to listen carefully to the song and relate it to material covered in class, keeping in mind the questions on the handout (attached).

Variation 3: Pick one of the methods above-but just have students analyze the lyrics. Then, you can listen to each song as a whole class. Afterwards, each group can present their analysis.

Variation 4: You can do a whole class analysis of one or more songs instead of in groups.

Differentiated Instruction (ELL, SPED, Gifted & Talented)
The size of the group can vary. Variations 1, 2, 3, or 4 can be used, depending on the needs of the students.

Gifted & Talented can compare and contrast two songs that address a similar issue.


(How will you know that each student achieved the objective? These are formative in nature – informal and formal, unless you are concluding a unit and will administer a summative assessment in addition to your formatives.)

As a culminating activity, have each group report their analysis of their song to the class. This can be done on a poster, as a Power Point, or some other means. (See attached rubric) If you do a whole class analysis, students can pick one of the songs to create a poster, short critique, or some other product to show their analysis.

Cognitive Closure
(How will you close your lesson? Summarize, tie it together, learning conversations, ticket out of class, relevance to next lesson, etc.)
Ticket out the door

Students will respond to the following question: Can a song written in response to a specific event or during a certain time have lasting appeal even years later? In your opinion, which of the songs listened to in class have such an appeal and why?

Extended Learning Opportunities
(How will you re-teach students who did not meet the objective? How will you challenge students who have mastered the objective?)
Have class compare and contrast the multiple points of view found in the songs the different groups presented. This can be done on the whiteboard, chart paper, or by other means.

Students could do a similar exercise with contemporary songs, such as rap (make sure to preview lyrics).

Compare attitudes found in 1960s protest songs to attitudes toward race relations as found in contemporary popular music. Ask students to consider the lasting impact of the civil rights movement. Suggested songs include: “Fight the Power” by Public Enemy, “Black Is Black” by Jungle Brothers, “Black to the Future” by Def Jef, “Black or White” by Michael Jackson and “Ebony and Ivory” by Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder. Students may also have suggestions.

(What sources, paper or electronic, did you use to support this lesson?)
There are many songs which could be used in this unit.

“Abraham, Martin and John" Dion (Laurie, 1968)

“If I Had a Hammer (The Hammer Song)” Peter, Paul and Mary (Warner, 1962)
“The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll" Bob Dylan (Columbia, 1964)
“Keep On Pushing" Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions (ABC-Paramount, 1964)
“People Got to Be Free” The Rascals (Atlantic, 1968)
“Respect Yourself" The Staple Singers (Stax, 1971)
“Say It Loud—I’m Black and I’m Proud(Part 1)" James Brown (King, 1968)
“Stand" Sly and the Family Stone (Epic, 1969)
“Think" Aretha Franklin (Atlantic, 1968)
“We Shall Overcome” Joan Baez (Vanguard, 1963)

“Papa Was A Rolling Stone” The Temptations (Motown, 1972)

“Ball of Confusion (That’s What the World is Today)” The Temptations (Gordy, 1970)

“In the Ghetto” Elvis Presley (RCA Records, 1969)

“Pleasant Valley Sunday” The Monkees (RCA Records, 1967)

“What’s Going On?” Marvin Gaye (Tamla, 1971)

“Smiling Faces Sometimes” Undisputed Truth (Gordy, 1971)

“The World is a Ghetto” War (United Artists Records, 1972)

“A Change Is Gonna Come” Sam Cooke (RCA Victor, 1964)

“Color Him Father” The Winstons (Metromedia, 1969)

“Indian Reservation (The Lament of the Cherokee Reservation Indian)” Raiders (Columbia, 1971)

“He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” The Hollies (Epic Records, 1969)

“Why Can’t We Be Friends?” War (ABC, United Artists Records, 1975)

Websites that can be accessed to find these songs or information about these songs include (but are not limited to): (click on “Music” on the sidebar)

Evaluation/Modifications of Lesson
(Looking back on this lesson, what worked well and what didn’t work so well?  What changes would you make to improve instruction?)


Blowin' In The Wind

Bob Dylan

How many roads must a man walk down

Before you call him a man?
Yes, ’n’ how many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand?
Yes, ’n’ how many times must the cannonballs fly
Before they’re forever banned?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind

How many years can a mountain exist

Before it’s washed to the sea?
Yes, ’n’ how many years can some people exist
Before they’re allowed to be free?
Yes, ’n’ how many times can a man turn his head
Pretending he just doesn’t see?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind

How many times must a man look up

Before he can see the sky?
Yes, ’n’ how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, ’n’ how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind

Copyright © 1962 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1990 by Special Rider Music

Song Study

Your group has been given the lyrics to a “protest” or “message” song associated with the protest and/or civil rights movement of the 1960s and 70s. Listen carefully to the song and study the lyrics. The following questions will help you relate it to material covered in class:

What emotions are expressed by the song (lyrics and/or music)?

To who is the song addressed?

What issues, problems, or events are presented in the song?

Does the song seem to be written in response to a specific event? If so, how do you know?

What is the point of view/attitude of the songwriter as revealed by the lyrics and music?

What was going on in the country in general at the time the song was released?

Does this song suggest any solutions to the issues/problems addressed?

How effective is this song as a social protest?

What, if any, relevance does this song have to American society today?

Oral Presentation Rubric








Holds attention of entire audience with the use of direct eye contact, seldom looking at notes.

Consistent use of direct eye contact with audience, but still returns to notes.

Displayed minimal eye contact with audience, while reading mostly from the notes.

No eye contact with audience, as entire report is read from notes.


Movements seem fluid and help the audience visualize.

Made movements or gestures that enhances articulation.

Very little movement or descriptive gestures.

No movement or descriptive gestures.


Student displays relaxed, self-confident nature about self, with no mistakes.

Makes minor mistakes, but quickly recovers from them; displays little or no tension.

Displays mild tension; has trouble recovering from mistakes.

Tension and nervousness is obvious; has trouble recovering from mistakes.




Demonstrates a strong, positive feeling about topic during entire presentation.

Occasionally shows positive feelings about topic.

Shows some negativity toward topic presented.

Shows absolutely no interest in topic presented.


Student uses a clear voice and correct, precise pronunciation of terms so that all audience members can hear presentation.

Student’s voice is clear. Student pronounces most words correctly. Most audience members can hear presentation.

Student’s voice is low. Student incorrectly pronounces terms. Audience members have difficulty hearing presentation.

Student mumbles, incorrectly pronounces terms, and speaks too quietly for a majority of students to hear.




Student demonstrates full knowledge by answering all class questions with explanations and elaboration.

Student is at ease with expected answers to all questions, without elaboration.

Student is uncomfortable with information and is able to answer only rudimentary questions.

Student does not have grasp of information; student cannot answer questions about subject.


Student presents information in logical, interesting

sequence which audience can follow.

Student presents information in logical sequence which

audience can follow.

Audience has difficulty following presentation

because student jumps around.

Audience cannot understand presentation because there is

no sequence of information.


Presentation has no misspellings or grammatical errors.

Presentation has no more than two misspellings and/or grammatical errors.

Presentation has three misspellings and/or grammatical errors.

Student’s presentation has four or more spelling and/or grammatical errors.


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