250 words

Sam Cooke (1964)
The song was partially inspired by Cookes experience being denied a room at a whites-only Holiday Inn in Louisiana, and when they moved on to a different hotel, the cops were there waiting to arrest them. How does this song critique the racial segregation and discrimination that were pervasive throughout the U.S. in the 1950s and 1960s?

sung by the Kingston Trio (1961)
Also written by Pete Seeger, in 1955, The Kingston Trio recorded their own version in 1961, which made the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Think about the cyclical nature of the events in the songs–how can that process be seen as a critique of U.S. culture and/or foreign policy?

  • Listen to the two songs from the 1960s then answer the questions below
  • What critique or commentary on American society, culture, politics, or foreign policy does each song express?
  • How are the songs similar or different in their style, tempo, message, or critique?
  • How important do you think music is in American culture and/or how does music reflect the culture of a specific time and place? What can the songs you chose tell us about the 1950s and/or 1960s?
  • Do you have a favorite modern song that contains a similar critique or commentary about American life today (or whatever era in which it was written)? How is it similar or different?
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