Category Archives: Peace Love and Activism

Early 20th Century News Music

Early 20th Century News Music

Early 20th Century News Music

I once did a project on what is usually called protest music of the 1960s. What I quickly discovered was that protest music is not limited to the 1960s (as much as we Boomers would like to think it is since we "invented" it--insert funny face emoji). 

Eventually, I also realized that protest music comes in a variety of approaches. The 1960s protest music was typically obvious in its approach: Masters of War, I Ain't a'Marchin' Anymore, Eve of Destruction, et cetera. 

Earlier versions were equally powerful in their own way and I eventually settled on the term "News Music" to describe the genre. I'm not sure whether it is be best description, but one of the things that the songs and songwriters seemed to share was a reaction to current conditions. In other words, they were reacting to a current situation far more often than a past occurrence. Thus "News Music."

Here are some examples of what are early 20th century news music:

Harry Dixon

Around 1920:  Harry Dixon (1895 – 1965) wrote "This Little Light of Mine" as a gospel song. It became a common one sung during the civil rights gathering of the 1950s and 1960s. It continues to be a song of hope today. (BH, see January 4, 1920)

Fats Waller

Early 20th Century News Music

In 1929: composed by Fats Waller with lyrics by Harry Brooks and Andy Razaf, Edith Wilson (1896 – 1981) sang "(What Did I Do to Be So) Black and Blue.”. It is a protest song that did not speak of how something should change so much as it spoke of what life was like for those who suffered inequities.

Blind Alfred Reed

Early 20th Century News Music

In 1929: Blind Alfred Reed (1880 – 1956) wrote “How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live?” The song describes life during the Great Depression.

Florence Reece

In 1931: Florence Reece (1900-1986) “was a writer and social activist whose song ‘Which Side Are You On?’ became an anthem for the labor movement. Borrowing from the melody of the old hymn ''Lay the Lily Low,'' Mrs. Reece wrote the union describe the plight of mine workers who were organizing a strike in Harlan County, Ky. Mrs. Reece's husband, Sam, who died in 1978, was one of those workers. Pete Seeger, the folk singer, recorded the song in 1941. It has since been used worldwide by groups espousing labor and social issues.” -- New York Times Obituaries, August 6, 1986. (Labor, see March 3; Feminism, see Dec 10)

Early 20th Century News Music

Brother Can You Spare a Dime

In 1931:  “Brother Can You Spare a Dime” by lyricist E. Y. "Yip" Harburg and composer Jay Gorney., the song asked why the men who built the nation – built the railroads, built the skyscrapers – who fought in the war (World War I), who tilled the earth, who did what their nation asked of them should, now that the work is done and their labor no longer necessary, find themselves abandoned, in bread lines.

Harburg believed that “songs are an anodyne against tyranny and terror and that the artist has historically always been on the side of humanity.” As a committed socialist, he spent three years in Uruguay to avoid being involved in WWI, as he felt that capitalism was responsible for the destruction of the human spirit, and he refused to fight its wars. A longtime friend of Ira Gershwin, Harburg started writing lyrics after he lost his business in the Crash of 1929.

Jimmie Rodgers

In 1932: Jimmie Rodgers (1897 – 1933) was born in Meridian, Mississippi worked on the railroad as his father did but at the age of 27 contracted tuberculosis and had to quit. He loved entertaining and eventually found a job singing on WWNC radio, Asheville, North Carolina (April 18, 1927). Later he began recording his songs. The tuberculosis worsened and he died in 1933 while recording songs in New York. In 1932 he recorded “Hobo’s Meditation.”

Lead Belly

in 1938: Lead Belly (born Huddie William Ledbetter) (1888 – 1949) sang about his visit to Washington, DC with his wife and their treatment while in the nation’s capitol in his song, “Bourgeois Blues." (BH, see Nov 22)

Woody Guthrie

“Do Re Mi”
In 1939: During the Great Depression, Woody Guthrie (1912-1967) wrote many songs reflecting the plight of farmers and migrant workers caught between the Dust Bowl drought and farm foreclosure. One of the best known of these songs is his  “Do Re Mi.”

Tom Joad
In 1940: Woody Guthrie wrote Tom Joad, a song whose character is based on John Steinbeck’s character in The Grapes of Wrath. After hearing it, Steinbeck reportedly said, “ That f****** little b******! In 17 verses he got the entire story of a thing that took me two years to write.” * (see Feb 23)

Early 20th Century News Music,  Early 20th Century News Music,  Early 20th Century News Music,  

October Peace Love Activism

October Peace Love Activism


Dred Scott
In October 1837:  the Army transferred Dr Emerson to Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis. Because the trip down the Mississippi at that time of year was dangerous, Emerson left Dred and Harriet Scott at Fort Snelling, Wisconsin Territory where he rented them to other people. This fact could have significantly buttressed their subsequent claims to freedom. By leaving the Scotts at Fort Snelling and hiring them out at a profit, Emerson was in fact bringing the system of slavery itself into the Wisconsin Territory, a free territory. If a master worked a slave or hired a slave out, then the institution of slavery itself would have been in a free territory and the slave might legitimately claim their freedom.

While at the military post, Emerson might have claimed an exemption, but once he left and hired out the Scotts  it was an unequivocal violation of the Missouri Compromise, the Northwest Ordinance, and the Wisconsin Enabling Act. (BH & Dred Scott, see Nov 1837)

In October 1838: The Army transferred Dr Emerson back to Ft Snelling (Wisconsin). During the trip on a Mississippi River steamboat that was north of the state of Missouri—that is, in territory made free by the Missouri Compromise—Harriet Scott gave birth to her first child, who she named Eliza after Mrs. Emerson. Thus, Eliza Scott was born on a boat in the Mississippi River, surrounded on one side by the free state of Illinois and on the other side by the free territory of Wisconsin. Under both state and federal law Eliza was born “free.” (Dred Scott, see May 1840; Black History, see July 2, 1839)
see ”SCOTTSBORO BOYS” Travesty for more
In October 1938: the Alabama Pardon Board denied the pardon applications of Clarence Norris, Charlie Weems, and Roy Wright. (SB, see in November)

In October 1946: the work the parole board had found seemed no better than prison to Andy Wright and he fled north. Allan Knight Chalmers, the chairman of the Scottsboro Defense Committee  persuaded him to return south, in part so that Patterson and Powell's parole hearings might have more favorable results. When Wright returned, he was imprisoned despite promises of leniency. (see “In July 1948”)
Muhammad Ali
In October 1954: Cassius Clay’s bicycle was stolen outside Columbia Auditorium during the Louisville Home Show. Clay found Joe Martin, a Louisville policeman, and told him he wanted to “whup” whoever stole his bike. By chance, Martin also trained young boxers at a Louisville gym. “Well, you better learn how to fight before you start challenging people that you’re gonna whup,” Martin told Ali. Martin began to train Clay, who soon madehis amateur ring debut—a three-minute, three-round split decision over another novice named Ronnie O’Keefe. The future world heavyweight champion earns $4 for the fight. (BH, see Oct 30; Ali, see "In August" 1960)
Nina Simone
In October 1967: Nina Simone released “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free.” (see Oct 7)


Voting Rights
In October 1917: Lucy Burns, inspired by several Socialist Party suffrage prisoners, leads campaign in prison demanding suffragists be treated as political prisoners; threatens hunger strike if demand not met. Petition secretly circulated among inmates, smuggled out, and presented to commissioners of District of Columbia. Every woman signing petition put in solitary confinement. (see Oct 22)

Emma Goldman

In October 1926: Goldman sailed for Canada to lecture; its proximity rekindled her hope for readmission to the U.S. (request to visit

In 1930, journalist H. L. Mencken petitioned the U.S. Department of State to revoke Goldman's deportation and grant her a visitor's visa. He also requested that the Department of Justice return her personal papers seized in the 1917 raid on the Mother Earth office, to no avail. (see March 26 – April 4, 1933)


October Peace Love Activism

In October 1954:  the U.S. Post Office Department declared the One magazine 'obscene'. ONE sued. (see September 21, 1955)

October Music et al

Green Onions
In October 1962: Southern soul has its first major hit with the instrumental "Green Onions" by Booker T. & the MG's.
Paul Butterfield
In October, 1965: The Paul Butterfield Blues Band album released. (Paul Butterfield age 23)
Jimi Hendrix
In October 1965: recorded a single with Curtis Knight, "How Would You Feel" backed with "Welcome Home"  (see In December 1965)
In October: Ken Kesey sneaked back into the US. (see Oct 2)
Sly and the Family Stone
In October 1967: Sly and the Family Stone released first album, “A Whole New Thing.” (Sly Stone, 24)

United Farm Workers

In October 1965: Grape boycott begins. (see March 17, 1966)

Native Americans

Senator George McGovern
In October 1966: Senator George McGovern introduced a resolution highlighting increased desire of Indian people to participate in decisions concerning their people and property. (see April 11, 1968)
In October 1999: nearly 2000 American Indians, Canadian First Nation peoples and Alaskan Natives returned to Alcatraz, some for the first time since 1969, to mark the 30th anniversary of the occupation during a day of spiritual, cultural and musical celebration. (see January 16, 2000)


In October 1966: Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara announced “Project 100,000” a so-called Great Society program that would allow the US to draft men whose physical and/or mental skills fell below standards normally required for entrance. Those brought into the armed service via this program would receive remedial training. While they were officially referred to as “New Standards,” regular soldiers referred to the new entrants as the “Moron Corps.”  40% were Black (compared to the normal 9%) 47% were from the South (compared to the normal 28%). According to a 2006 report by Kelly M Greenhill “In the program's first three years, nearly half of the Army's and well over 50 percent of the Marines' New Standards Men were assigned to combat specialties. The results were not surprising: a Project 100,000 recruit who entered the Marine Corps in 1968 was two and a half times more likely to die in combat than his higher-aptitude compatriots. After all, they tended to be the ones in the line of fire.” ( see Oct 13)


October Peace Love Activism


People First
In October 1974: the first convention for People First was held in Portland, Oregon. People First is a national organization of people with developmental disabilities learning to speak for themselves and supporting each other in doing so.
Education for Handicapped Children Act of 1975

October Peace Love Activism

In 1975: The Education for Handicapped Children Act of 1975—now called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) signed into law. It guaranteed a free, appropriate, public education for all children with disabilities in the least restrictive environment. (see  June 26)

Fair Housing

In October 1977: The Urban Development Action Grant (UDAG) program was passed. Urban Development Action Grants (UDAG) give distressed communities funds for residential or nonresidential use. (see March 31, 1980)


In October 1996: the AIDS Memorial Quilt  displayed in its entirety for the last time. It covered the entire National Mall in Washington, DC. (see Nov 5)

October Peace Love Activism, October Peace Love Activism, October Peace Love Activism, October Peace Love Activism, October Peace Love Activism, October Peace Love Activism, October Peace Love Activism, October Peace Love Activism, October Peace Love Activism,  

Victor Lidio Jara Martínez

Victor Lidio Jara Martínez

Victor Jara

September 28, 1932 – September 16, 1973
Victor Jara was born in Lonquén, Chile which is approximately 25 miles away from Santiago, the capital of Chile.  The family struggled to survive from the land. His mother loved folk music and when the family rented a room to a teacher who knew how to play guitar, Victor learned a bit of playing.

Amanda, his mother, took Victor and his siblings to Santiago both to find an education for them and to escape an alcoholic father. In Santiago a local resident took a liking to Victor and his quick ability with songs and taught Victor more guitar.
Seminary and military
Amanda died when he was 15 and seeking to fill the hole in his life and following the advice of a priest, Victor entered the seminary. For two years Victor struggled with the strict rules of his future priesthood, particularly that of celibacy.  He left the seminary in 1952. The army drafted him within two weeks.

Though army life suited him and he did well, he left after the year required and began to seek a life in music.
Many paths
As with many aspiring singers, his path led him to various temporary jobs. In a chorus. As a mime. As an actor. A student in the theater program at the University of Chile in the late 1950s

He met Joan Turner Bunster, an instructor. They would fall in love and marry in 1965.

In 1957 he met Chilean folksinger Violeta Parra. She encourage singers to write about everyday life using traditional Chilean folk styles. Jara followed that path.
Victor Lidio Jara Martínez
Nueva canción songwriter

Victor Lidio Jara Martínez

Though Jara continued to be involved in actingm writing and performing music became his center. He wrote songs continually.

He released his first album, Canto a lo humano , in 1966.  The songs often stabbed at the status quo. One, "La beata" was about a nun that fell in love with a priest. In a predominantly Catholic country as Chile, such a topic was taboo. Radio stations banned the song. Record shops removed it. His music also became part of a genre known as "nueva canción," a style that used the traditional style  Violeta Parra had introduced Jara to with a strong populist content.

Jara's songs spread outside Chile and were known to and performed by American folk artists such as Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, and Phil Ochs.
More than that, though, was Jara's increasingly connected himself with socialism. He supported the political views of  Salvador Allende. Jara composed "Venceremos" (We Will Triumph), the theme song of Allende's Unidad Popular (Popular Unity) movement, and he welcomed Allende's election to the Chilean presidency in 1970.

Allende's success enabled Jara and his wife to help in a Chilean cultural renaissance. They helped organize events that supported the country's new socialist government.

The right-wing politicians, with the aid of the American Central Intelligence Agency, planned a revolt.
On September 11, 1973, troops under the command of General Augusto Pinochet overthrew Allende government.  The military took hundreds of Allende sympathizers to the Estadio Chile, a large sports stadium.

Jara was among them.

For four days, soldiers tortured him. Starved him. Broke his hands and told him to sing with his guitar.

He sang "Venceremos" and began writing a new song describing the carnage going on in the stadium, as many of those imprisoned were killed; the words of the new song were smuggled out by a prisoner who survived.
 Jara was taken to a deserted area and shot. His murder kept secret. His songs forbidden. Joan Jara escaped On May 9, 1974, Phil Ochs held a benefit. Among those who performed were Pete Seeger, Dave Van Ronk, Dennis Hopper, Arlo Guthrie, Mike Love, Dennis Wilson, Melanie, and Bob Dylan (NYT announcement)

Victor Lidio Jara Martínez

In 2003 the Estadio Chile became the Víctor Jara Stadium. In 2012 eight retired Chilean army officers were charged with Jara’s murder and on June 27, 2016 a Florida jury found  former Chilean army officer  Pedro Pablo Barrientos Nuñez liable for the 1973 torture and murder of Jara. It awarded,  $28m in damages to his widow and daughters in one of the biggest and most significant legal human rights victories against a foreign war criminal in a US courtroom.

Victor Lidio Jara Martínez, Victor Lidio Jara Martínez, Victor Lidio Jara Martínez,