AMST 430.02
Songs of Protest, Songs of Praise
Roger Williams University
GHH 208, 
M, TH 2:00 -3:20
Spring Semester 2013
Michael R. H. Swanson, Ph. D.
Office:  GHH 215
Hours: T, TH 9:00 - 11:00
M, W, 1:00-2:00
(401) 254 3230
Required Books (In order of use)

Randall, Linda K.
Finding Grace in the Concert Hall: Community and Meaning among Springsteen Fans.
Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press, Inc.  2011

Heilbut, Tony
The Gospel Sound: Good News and Bad Times
New York: Proscenium Publishers, Inc.  2002

Weissman, Dick
Talkin’ ‘Bout a Revolution: Music and Social Change in America
Milwaukee, WI: Backbeat books, 2010

Dunaway, David King, and Beer, Molly
Singing Out: An Oral History of Folk Music Revivals
New York: Oxford University Press, 2011
The Rationale for The Course. 

I’ve wanted to teach a course like this for a number of years now.  It is my belief that cultural history and political history need to talk to each other–or perhaps I should say “sing to each other.”  Song has played a major role in American Religious History and in American Political History, and frequently has connected the two with each other.  What was the first “Song of Protest”?  One might argue that Yankee Doodle fills that bill.  How many know that it was originally anti-revolutionary”.
We all know the first verse.  But probably nobody knows the rest of the verses today.  Here's one of them which shows the satirical quality of the song.  The rest is under the picture, top left.

And there was captain Washington, 
   And gentle folks about him; 
They say he's grown so tarnal proud, 
   He will not ride without ’em.
Yankee doodle, &c

We won’t spend much time being colonial revolutionaries, however.  We’re going to be looking at subsequent “revolutions” abolitionism, contributions of the Black Church to the American political and religious traditions, the revolt of labor during the Populist and Progressive Eras, Songs of the Depression, and the revival of all these kinds of song during the turbulent 1960s and 1970s.  We’ll look at Urban versions of what was originally music of the country when we listen to Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band, among others.

While many of these songs are “anonymous,” and others have an association with a particular singer/composer, they all have one thing in common.  They were not only listened to by passive audiences; they were also sung–in marches, congregations, sit-ins, and concerts by audiences who really “got-into” the songs.  They were motivators and morale builders, and this is the phenomena we’ll investigate, among others.

From there, we’ll transition to Tony Heilbut’s book The Gospel Sound: Good News and Bad Times. As Heibut writes in the introduction, “The very existence of hymns like "Amazing Grace" and "The Day Is Past and Gone" symbolizes the awful consciousness black Americans have always lived with. It also should forever banish the notion of the "contented darkie" still propagated by some historians. People who moan about dangers, toils and snares, and death disrobing us all, are scarcely unaware of the lives they lead. The Dr. Watts hymns seldom contain the lavish imagery of the spirituals, but the stark language speaks to the most desperate side of black life. In bad times, gospel lovers always go back to "Amazing Grace" or "Must Jesus Bear the Cross Alone." The public keeps hearing about new civil-rights laws. But the fact that Dr. Watts hymns continue to matter tells something about the political and social conditions in this country. For the gospel poor, things have scarcely changed.”
These four, plus sources on the “Webliography” should give us plenty to work with over the next several months.  Of course a good portion of our work shall be listening and watching as well.  I haven’t quite decided whether to show off the collection I’ve been assembling over the past year during our first class.  Maybe I will, Maybe I wont.
Work for the Course.

I want to develop this in concordance with you.  The skills we’ll use are anaysis of events, texts, and tunes,with a key to understanding how music has shaped social conscience and political and spiritual points of view in the United States.  Precisely how to do this, or rather to demonstrate this, will probably take the form of writing and a possible project.  I’m thinking of offering students the chance to create a website as a project.  Http:// would be the likely place.  It’s free and you can sign up using your RWU e-mail address.  We’ll spend some time talking about this the first days of the class.


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