Protest song: music as a tool for social activism
The Protest Song emerged in the US in the 30s at the hands of Woody Guthrie, an American singer and songwriter committed to social reality who was a pioneer in using his music as a tool to fight against oppression. During the 30s-40s he wrote an opinion column for the newspaper of the Communist party, People's Daily World, about the problems suffered by immigrants in California, and in 1940 wrote the famous song THis Land Is Your Land, inspired by her travels around the US and as a response to the song God Bless America, Irving Berlin, which promoted patriotic exaltation.
His work was rediscovered by a new generation of folk musicians: Bob Dylan wrote a five-page tribute to Guthrie, Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie, and dedicated Song to Woody, one of the songs from their first album. Joe Strummer, lead singer of The Clash he named him as one of his biggest influences, and even used the pseudonym Woody Mellor during his early years as a musician.
This protest song is a genre with clear ideological objects, focusing on the working class and seeking social and economic change. Some songs like Strange Fruit by Billie Holiday address oppression; more recent ones like American Idiot of Green Day suppose springs of critics to the political situation of the moment.
Others like Get Up, Stand Up Bob Marley's 1973 song was seen as a cry for survival and the defense of human rights as a result of Marley's trip to Haiti, where he was shocked by the poverty of the Caribbean island (it was also the last song that Marley played in life ).
In Spain, this genre had a great development at the end of the 60s due to the political repression during the Dictatorship, with an increase in voices calling for democracy and freedom of expression. The cry for forgotten dialects and the first feminist aspirations were reflected in music, giving rise to various movements in all Spain. One of the most important was the Catalan Nova Canço, born in 1961 and with Serrat as an absolute reference. Easta Nova Canço caused an enormous stimulus throughout the country, from Galicia to Andalusia. Later La Transición could already be sung: own songs or adaptations of texts by poets such as Miguel Hernández, Alberti, Lorca or even Góngora with Paco Ibáñez putting music to his poem the most beautiful girl. Although they were lyrics that on many occasions had to wait to see the light, they are songs that are still just as present and that have become shared generational hymns.
As referents we can name figures in the USA such as Joan Baez, Peter Seeger o Bob Dylan; in Latin America to Violet Vine, Victor Jara, Pablo Milanés o Silvio Rodríguez; France has examples in Édith Piaf o Jacques Brel and in Spain they stand out Paco Ibanez, Jose Antonio Labordeta, Luis Eduardo Aute, Victor Manuel o Joan Manuel Serrat.