When Music Makes History

Sometimes a song or artist becomes inseparably intertwined with an historical moment. Join WETA as we examine some of these times When Music Makes History.

A Change is Gonna Come

1m 55s

After being victimized by racial discrimination, R&B star Sam Cooke taps into the growing civil rights movement to write a timeless and hopeful ballad.


  • A Change is Gonna Come: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    A Change is Gonna Come

    1m 55s

    After being victimized by racial discrimination, R&B star Sam Cooke taps into the growing civil rights movement to write a timeless and hopeful ballad.

  • If I Can Dream: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    If I Can Dream

    1m 53s

    In December 1968, Elvis made a dramatic return to live television on his NBC “Comeback Special.” Instead of closing the show with a Christmas carol, he delivered a moving tribute to the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

  • Ramblin' Man: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    Ramblin' Man

    1m 24s

    In 1975, the Allman Brothers Band, based out of Macon, GA, began performing fundraiser concerts for their fellow Georgian Jimmy Carter, injecting much-needed cash into his long-shot presidential campaign.

  • Fight the Power: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    Fight the Power

    1m 16s

    Director Spike Lee enlisted hip hop artists Public Enemy to write a theme for his 1989 film Do The Right Thing. The resulting song, Fight the Power, became a hit single and a vital modern-day protest anthem.

  • We're Not Gonna Take It: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    We're Not Gonna Take It

    1m 28s

    In 1985, an organization co-founded by Tipper Gore called the Parents Music Resource Center released “The Filthy Fifteen,” a list of songs deemed outrageous for their violent, sexual, and drug-themed lyrics. Dee Snider, the lead singer of Twisted Sister, one of the PMRC’s targets, testified at a high-profile Senate hearing to combat perceived censorship.

  • Don't Stop: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    Don't Stop

    1m 12s

    In 1992, Bill Clinton chose Don’t Stop by Fleetwood Mac as his presidential campaign theme song. The hit song from 1977 appealed to his fellow baby boomers.

  • Say It Loud (I'm Black and I'm Proud): asset-mezzanine-16x9

    Say It Loud (I'm Black and I'm Proud)

    1m 25s

    In 1968, James Brown released Say It Loud (I’m Black and I’m Proud). The song tapped into the emerging “Black is Beautiful” movement and went on to become an unofficial anthem of the Black Power movement.

  • What's Going On: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    What's Going On

    1m 25s

    In January 1971, Marvin Gaye released the landmark protest anthem What’s Going On. The song reflected a new socially conscious approach to songwriting for the DC native.

  • Not Ready to Make Nice: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    Not Ready to Make Nice

    1m 27s

    In 2006, the Dixie Chicks released Not Ready To Make Nice. The song is a defiant response to a controversy over remarks that their lead singer, Natalie Maines, made during the run-up to the Iraq War.

  • This Land is Your Land: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    This Land is Your Land

    1m 34s

    In 1940, folk icon Woody Guthrie wrote the lyrics to This Land Is Your Land as a sarcastic response to Irving Berlin’s God Bless America. The song has been covered hundreds of times, but often without several controversial verses found in Guthrie’s original lyrics.

  • America the Beautiful: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    America the Beautiful

    1m 19s

    In 1984, Ray Charles delivered a stirring rendition of America the Beautiful at the Republican National Convention, echoing President Reagan’s optimistic campaign message.

  • Ohio: asset-mezzanine-16x9


    1m 21s

    Just weeks after the May 1970 massacre of anti-war protestors at Kent State University, Neil Young wrote the song Ohio and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young rushed out a recording of the single.

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