Musical Activism in the 1980s

For this writing assignment, I want you to listen to three songs from the 1980s that critically address political and social issues partially lost in the Reagan Era optimism. These songs include Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five’s “The Message” (consider the first major rap hit), Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A,” and Nena’s “99 Red Balloons” (a German band but a huge hit in the U.S). After listening, I want you to answer the following questions.

1. Choose one song and discuss the specific political/social issues that it is addressing?

2. How do these songs counter the emphasis on material success and optimism usually associated with the 1980s?

3. Do you think popular music is a useful means of protest? Why or why not?

Your response should be 1-2 pages double-spaced.

1. The Message

2. Born in the U.S.A

3. 99 Red Balloons


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