1964 Activist music

  • A Change is Gonna Come (1964) Sam Cooke‘s expression of the desire to end segregation and prejudice. On election night 2008, Barak Obama stated in his Grant Park speech [my emphasis]: It’s been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this date in this election at this defining moment change has come to America. This song and Simone’s Mississippi Goddam expressed a stronger attitude than that of We Shall Overcome.

Sam Cooke:

Al Green:

President Obama’s Grant Street speech:



  • Get Together (1964) By Chet Helms who sometimes wrote under the name Dino Valenti. Other artists who covered the song: the Kingston Trio (1964), the We Five (1965), the Jefferson Airplane (1966), Judy Collins, Joni Mitchell, Nick Drake, HP LoveCraft, and finally the Youngbloods (1967) whose cover is the best known.

Dino Valenti:




  • Birmingham Sunday (1964) Written by Richard Farina and recorded by Joan Baez. A reaction to the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church.


  • Keep on Pushing (1964) Curtis Mayfield. “Now maybe someday/I’ll reach that higher goal”


  • Mississippi Goddam (1964) Nina Simone’s angry response to the June,1963 murder of Medgar Evers in Mississippi and the September, 1963 bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL, killing four black children. She announces the song as “a show tune, but the show hasn’t been written for it yet.”


  • On Her Hand a Golden Ring Phil Ochs’s reaction to the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in 1963.


  • Too Many Martyrs (also known as The Balled of Medgar Evers) (1964) from Ochs’s All the News That’s Fit to Sing album, one filled with songs referred to as “singing journalism.”


  • Universal Soldier (1964) Buffy Sainte-Marie composed this and Donovan had a hit with it in 1965.

Buffy St Marie:




What's so funny about peace, love, art, and activism?