Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series, “Activist Edition,” where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore music from the 60’s to today. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!
Activism, organizations, and social movements have existed for many years, well before they were even given those identities. When you think about major figures who had significant influence on impactful change, activists like Mahatma Gandhi, Rosa Parks, and Martin Luther King are a few names that come to mind.
Many movements and their leaders come about in conjunction with a fundamental issue in society. From the Counter Culture to the Civil Rights Movement, there have been many culturally significant social change revolutions in our history. Beyond those movements that have remained prominent throughout history, individuals are making a difference in various ways throughout the world. Whether you start an organization, donate to a cause, or even make your voice heard, you are contributing to beneficial change, no matter how small it may seem.
Causes and social movements are especially more powerful when celebrities get their message out in the public. It is true that social media has made unfathomable strides in delivering messages and making a strong impact for even the average web user. In fact, there is an overwhelming amount of resources out there that you have to wade through the garbage to get to the important information. With the help of popular figures however, the bulk of the population has a better chance of seeing the message. In fact, many musicians have taken leadership roles in multiple facets.
Throughout the years, musicians of every generation and genre have participated in cultural and social change movements. Especially in the famous Counter Culture movement of the 60’s, many artists sang of anti-war sentiment, dismantling of the establishment, and overhauling the US government. These figures use their powerful voices (the pun was probably intended) to spread vital messages and causes so they can have a chance of thriving in the hectic mainstream.
There are countless amounts of celebrities who use their influence in a great way, donate, or begin non-profit organizations or social change groups. Let’s take a look at a few notable musicians who have dedicated their time and resources to making impactful changes for our society.
The famous front man of the biggest rock band in history was certainly not the last outspoken anti-war musician, but he was one of the most memorable and impactful. Lennon was notably an activist against the Vietnam war, writing many songs about warfare, peace, and love. In fact, when the term peace comes up, the image of Lennon pops into most people’s heads.
As Lennon himself explains, “What we’re really doing is sending out a message to the world, mainly to the youth, especially the youth or anybody, really, that’s interested in protesting for peace or protesting against any forms of violence.” Lennon never waivered in his anti-war message and kept fighting up until the day he was gunned down on December 8,1980.
I’ve attempted to stray away from talking about U2, but in this case, it is unavoidable. Paul David Hewson, codename Hewson, known as the lead singer of the Irish rock band U2, is heavily active as an activist and philanthropist. He is especially focused in raising money and awareness for all of the atrocities that occur in Africa every day. He has co-founding multiple foundations including DATA, EDUN, the Product Red, and the ONE Campaign which was founded in 2004 and has 9 million people around the world dedicated to preventing diseases and fighting poverty in Africa.
Over the years, Bono has put on several benefit concerts, raised millions, if not, billions of dollars, and is involved with well over 60 charities and cause groups.
Besides fronting one of the most well-known rock jam bands around, Dave Matthews founded the Bama Works Fund in 1999 in order to bring awareness to environmentalism. The ideas was to focus primarily on their hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia. But, since the company’s inception, it has spread all over the world and donated 8.5 million dollars to various charities.
By putting on concerts and raising awareness, the band is spreading knowledge of global warming and the importance of green initiatives.
Joan Baez is a brilliant folk singer and guitarist whose prominent career stretches back to Woodstock and beyond. Throughout the 60’s, amid the political and social turmoil, Baez used her position in the limelight and on the radio to “express her views.” She participated in many movements including free-speech rallies at colleges and anti-Vietnam protests.
With the arts programs being threatened in schools every year, the fight to keep music alive for our kids is very important. But, since there are a lot of other causes that are deemed “more important” than music, this often gets over looked.
However, there is hope that rests with some musicians who dedicate time and resources to keeping music programs in schools. For example, blues-rock titan Joe Bonamassa started the non-profit Keeping the Blues Alive in 2011.The organization aims to “Pass the torch to the next generation of music listeners” and has funded various music projects all over the country.
Bob Dylan has been a major popular musician ever since he busted on the scene in 1959. Despite his reluctance, he became the “voice of a generation” and many of his songs became themes for the Civil Rights and anti-war movements.
Dylan continues to write many songs that provoke thought and ambitious social actions.
Jon Bon Jovi
Jon Bon Jovi is actively involved in various organizations including the American Red Cross, the Special Olympics, Habitat for Humanity, and many others. He founded the JBJ Soul Foundation (formerly the Philadelphia Soul Charitable Foundation) in 2006 which looks to “break the cycle of poverty and homelessness.”