Historical Background


Beginning and End of Unit Activities; Assessment Strategies

"Chocolate City"
Parliament, 1975
A funk song describing Washington D.C.

"Born in the U.S.A."
Bruce Springsteen, 1984
A hit rock song describing the non-heroic return of a Vietnam veteran

"Gangsta's Paradise"
Coolio, 1995
A rewrite of Stevie Wonder's "Pastime Paradise" about the gang environment

"What's Going On?"
Renaldo Benson, Al Cleveland, and Marvin Gaye, 1971
A call for peace abroad and at home

"If We Must Die"
Music by Olly Wilson, 1991; Poem by Claude McKay, 1918
A call for the oppressed to resist

"AIM Song"
Severt Young Bear and the Porcupine Singers, 1977
A staple of Native American protests and intertribal powwows

"Self Destruction"
KRS-One, et. al., 1988
A collaboration created to spread the message of Stop the Violence Movement.

"Ladies First"
Queen Latifah with Monie Love, 1989
A celebration of trailblazing women

"Oye mi canto"
Gloria Estefan, 1989
A song encouraging tolerance for people of differing backgrounds and viewpoints

"To Be Young, Gifted, and Black"
Nina Simone, 1969
A tribute to Lorraine Hansberry, intended to instill confidence in black children

"Yellow Pearl"
Chris Kando Iijima, Nobuko JoAnne Miyamoto, and William "Charlie" Chin, 1973
A call for an end to anti-Asian racism

"In America"
Charlie Daniels, 1980
A song of unification during the Iran Hostage Crisis

Sting, 1985
A peace song from the last decade of the Cold War

"Menominee Vietnam War Song"
Myron Pyawasit, ca. 1973
A tribute to Native American veterans of the Vietnam War

Music by Norman Whitfield, lyrics by Barrett Strong, 1970
A powerful anti-Vietnam War song originally written for The Temptations

"9 to 5"
Dolly Parton, 1980
The trials of women in underpaid clerical jobs

Billy Joel, 1982
Coming of age in a rusting steel town

"Contrabando y traición" (Smuggling and Betrayal)
Angel Gonzalez, ca. 1972
The first popular narcocorrido

"Small Town"
John Cougar Mellencamp, 1985
Rock looks at the virtues of living in a small town, rather than a big city

"Mountains O' Things"
Tracy Chapman, 1988
Comment on the fruitlessness of yuppie conspicuous consumption

"Information Undertow"
Dada, 1998
A look at how our lives are being ruled by technological advances

"At Seventeen"
Janis Ian, 1975
A song about the difficulties of being a teenage girl

"Dear Mama"
Tupac Shakur, 1995
An autobiographical tribute to Shakur's mother.

"The Message"
Ed "Duke Bootee" Fletcher and Melle Mel, 1982
A lament about wanting to leave the ghetto but not having the money to do so

"Mother Earth"
Music by Amos and Alfred Key; Lyrics by Sadie Buck, 1995
A lament for what the white man has done to Mother earth

Ruben Blades, 1977
A criticism for those who live artificial lives and prioritize artificial things

"I Was Born This Way"
Music by Chris Spierer, lyrics by Bunny Jones, 1975
The first commercial available gay anthem

"Love Child"
R. Dean Taylor, Frank Wilson, Pam Sawyer, Deck Richards, 1968
A woman doesn't want to repeat the mistakes of her parents

"Mercy, Mercy Me (The Ecology)"
Marvin Gaye, 1971
A vivid description of the environmental crisis

Words by Bill Fries; music by Chip Davis, 1976
Truckers' protest against gas prices and speed-limit changes caused by the oil embargo

Manu Chao, 1998
The difficulty of living undocumented between the borders of two nations

"God Bless the U.S.A."
Lee Greenwood, 1983
Patriotic campaign song revived after the 2001 terrorist attacks

"From a Distance"
Julie Gold, 1985
A song about a peaceful Earth as seen from space, popular during the Gulf War

Prince, 1981
Prince's attempt to address the controversy related to his sexual and spiritual ambiguity

"The Greatest Love of All"
Michael Masser, Linda Creed, 1986
An inspirational ballad that rocketed Whitney Houston to fame

"Fight the Power"
Public Enemy, 1989 and 2020
A call for listeners to rebel against racial discrimination and economic inequality, even if it means turning to violence

"Man in the Mirror"
Michael Jackson, 1988
A song about self-transformation and the ability for everyone to make a difference in the world

"We Are the World"
Lionel Richie and Michael Jackson, 1985
A call for people of all backgrounds to support people in need in Africa

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