In the mid 1960’s a counterculture emerged in the United States, which was largely led by white, middle class, youth. This broad, anti-establishment movement not only rejected the social and cultural standards of the 50’s, but also advocated for civil rights, free speech, and protested against the Vietnam War.
But sometime in 1973, the movement collapsed. This was due to two primary factors. First, the political goals of the counterculture had largely been achieved — Civil Rights, the ‘live and let live’ mentality had become mainstream, and the Vietnam War had come to an end.
Second, stagflation replaced the widespread economic prosperity of the ‘magic economy’ of the 60’s, which had afforded the white, middle-class youth the leisure time to engage in their counter culture revolution.
The skyrocketing energy prices and double-digit inflation of the 70’s meant that many of these middle-class Americans no longer had the luxury to continue expanding upon what many had previously believed to be a self-indulgent assault on America’s moral order.
In fact, many of these individuals found it prudent to start their own families and settle into the very mainstream society they had once rejected.
While the counterculture of the mid-60s to 70s collapsed, the zeitgeist of the decade can still be heard and felt in the music of the time period. In the 1969 song ‘Fortunate Son’ by Creedence Clearwater Revival, Jim Fogerty sings, “I ain’t no Senator’s son” and “I ain’t no millionaire’s son.” The song conveys the average American’s disdain for the political elite, who advocated for war in Vietnam, but would never be affected by it themselves.
Another song, ‘Ohio,’ by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young from 1970 condemned the Nixon administration, which many held responsible for the murder of four unarmed student protestors by the National Guard at Kent State. “Four dead in Ohio…soldiers are cutting us down,” sings Neil Young.
Not only did ‘Ohio’ transform Neil Young and his band into counterculture icons, but the song captured the astonishment and outrage felt by the American public, who viewed the Kent State murders as a massacre carried out by the Government against American citizens.
Whatever one may think about the counterculture movement of the 60s and 70s, the music of the time accurately reflects the zeitgeist of the time. Notably, no songs of the era praised the Vietnam war, nor celebrated segregation, censorship, or the Nixon administration.
Today, however, the ‘New Left’ of the 60s and 70s, which once advocated for free speech and opposed the establishment, now advocates for censorship and embraces the establishment and authoritarianism they previously rejected.
Neil Young, for example, who became an icon of the counterculture movement, most recently threatened to remove his music from Spotify if Spotify didn’t remove Joe Rogan, the most popular podcaster in the world. “[Spotify] can have Rogan or Young. Not both,” Young said. Young accused Rogan of spreading vaccine misinformation.
58 years ago in 1964, UC Berkeley was rocked by the ‘Free Speech Movement,’ which protested a ban on on-campus political activities. Today left leaning Universities like UC Berkeley protest on-campus political activities by Republican or conservative organizations.
The ‘New Left’ of the 60’s and 70’s has become the establishment and authoritarians the movement once rejected. It’s ‘live and let live’ motto has been replaced with a new motto: ‘live as the left tells you to live.’ Those who once demanded tolerance for their unconventional beliefs are now intolerant of any other beliefs.
In response, a new counterculture movement has been born. Unlike the counterculture of the 60’s, which was born out of economic prosperity and leisure, the new counterculture of today is born from economic despair and necessity. Whereas that counterculture movement was idealistic, the present counterculture movement is pragmatic and realistic.
The songs that are being written today reflect the zeitgeist of our time just as they have reflected the zeitgeist of previous times.
Kid Rock recently captured the anti-authoritarian sentiment of the American people in his latest song. “But we gotta keep fighting for the right to be free,” Rock sings in his latest hit, ‘We the People.’
Last year, rapper Bryson Gray’s song ‘Let’s Go Brandon’ booted Adele from iTunes No. 1 spot. “You ask questions they start banning” raps Bryson Gray in objection to the Democrat Party endorsed censorship of political dissent. Gray’s objection to censorship was validated when his anti-Biden song was banned from YouTube and Instagram for spreading “harmful false information.”
Most recently, underground Brooklyn rapper Bekay took direct aim at the Biden Administration. “Yo it’s like they wanted Biden to be up in office cause now gas prices are higher than Snoop Dog is,” Bekay raps.
Bekay’s latest song, ‘War in Review’ is perhaps one of the most direct and scathing condemnations of the Biden administration yet. “To lose energy independence gotta be stupid now we rely on Iran and Vladimir Putin,” Bekay raps.
Ironically, the same soaring gas prices and inflation that ended the counterculture movement of the 60’s and early 70’s have given birth to the counterculture movement of today.
The anthems of our counterculture are still being written, rapped, and sung and notably the lyrics aren’t praising Biden, inflation, censorship, COVID lockdowns, or going to war with Russia.
Music will once again play an important role in our new counterculture movement and artists like Kid Rock, Bryson Gray, and Bekay are poised to become this generation’s counterculture icons. The movement is just getting started and it’s here to stay.
Drew Allen, is the Editor of The Publius National Post, and VP of Client Development at Publius PR in Washington. Drew is a millennial commentator, political analyst and host of “The Drew Allen Show” on Spotify.