The artist, the song, the sound, the tone, the beat, the moment and the movement.
The music sets the tempo of the march; and the sounds memorialize the time. Impactful American marches have had certain necessary factors, including a clear cause; a diverse solidarity and live music. Music gives context to culture.
Last Saturday, there was the “March for Our Lives” in Washington and other locations across the country and internationally. The protest was about young people protecting their young lives from gun related violence. It was the latest most media publicized protest.
The cause was the access and excess of guns, or killing instruments, that are needlessly killing our children inside of schools and OUTSIDE of schools. Gun laws should protect society, and not protect capitalism, racism, or any other ism.
Even though this march was labeled a young people’s march, the diverse solidarity included the old, the young, (the even younger), black people, white people, brown people, people from many shades and cultures, rich people, poor people, famous people, unknown people, voters, non-voters, and not-yet voters. This potpourri of people was sharing space and time for a similar cause.
Then there was the music, bringing its own potpourri of sounds. Live music leaves the imprint of the times; marks the impression; and symbolizes the movement. Movement music is timeless.
There were today’s popular artists including Andra Day, Common, Ariana Grande, and Demi Lovato stamping the time. There was Jennifer Hudson singing a Bob Dylan song (The Times are Changing) that was written over 50 years ago; long before Jennifer, and the young marchers were born. Not only was Jennifer Hudson’s beautiful voice moving and soulful; she was singing this timeless song while living her own personal pain caused by gun violence. Movements need music that speak to people in a language the people are accustomed to listening to. Live voices by young current and popular artists sets the climate that energizes your marchers.
Live music performed by artists that are most heard, by those who are most affected by the cause, is a necessity to an impactful march. This fact is true now and it was true then.
In 1963, there was the most famous of marches, the “I Have a Dream” march. This march was also known as the March on Washington in August of 1963. Like sound itself, the speech delivered by Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, during that march will resonate forever.
The cause of the 1963 march was for jobs, civil and economic rights for black people. There was diversity, but most of the marchers were black. But the live music performers were largely white including popular folk singers Joan Baez; Peter, Paul and Mary; and Bob Dylan, providing the sounds of the time. Odetta, an African American folk and blues singer performed as well. There was Mahalia Jackson, the most powerful gospel singer during her time and even now, years after her passing. Mahalia Jackson’s voice was deeply moving as she sang two songs including the spiritual hymn How I Got Over. When Mahalia sings this song, the performance can bring a soul to the forefront of a being. Music has that kind of power.
Music is powerful to a moment, a march and a movement. Listen to music.