The Times They Are a Changin’: How Protest Music Helped Shape America

Boston University

William McKeen is the Chair of the Department of Journalism at Boston University, where he also teaches media history, literary journalism, and rock ‘n’ roll history.  He is the author or editor of 13 books, including Everybody Had an OceanToo Old to Die Young and Rock and Roll is Here to Stay.  



Music has always advanced the agenda of change. Rock ‘n’ roll did not invent the concept of protest music, but artists such as Chuck Berry, Eddie Cochran and Bob Dylan helped shape the changing country in the last half century. This course begins with the pre-rock traditions of protest found in folk music and in the social commentary of singers such as Billie Holiday. Chuck Berry imbued his early, classic rock ‘n’ roll songs with sly social commentary and Bob Dylan crafted anthems that endure: songs as relevant in 2020 as they were in the early Sixties. Professor McKeen will also explore how modern artists, such as Childish Gambino, carry forward the American tradition of music with a message.



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Suzanne Brana

Super lecture!

Interesting and worthwhile lecture illuminating the Vocal Artists’ role in telling the truth about a segregated society and “democracy”.

2 years ago

Rock and roll history

Thank you very much for this lecture, I have learned a lot about musicians that shaped the rock and roll era and at the same time American history.

1 year ago

Pleasant, if unchallenging lecture

A good overview of rebellious pop music from the early twentieth century to the present, with a cross-reference to the social and political crises of the times. I agree with just about everything he says, and there’s some good music to illustrate it

6 months ago

Very interesting and illuminating

As a person who grew up during the 40s and 50s during the ages of big bands and then the metamorphosis to rock and roll, I wonder, in your opinion, what roll Dance Band with Dick Clark had on the integration of our society?

3 months ago
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