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Political Music

Legitimization and Contestation

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Edited By Tomasz Bichta and Anna Szwed-Walczak

In the 12 chapters of this book the authors argue for the universal presence of music in public space and social relations. The examples of American, British, Hungarian, Polish and Russian music serve to elucidate two functions of political music, that of legitimizing and contesting political power. Both satirical songs with their ironic commentary on specific events and people as well as protest songs undermining the system corroborate the universal character of the legitimizing and delegitimizing function of music. The book is addressed to readers interested in countercultural movements and politically engaged music, especially to students of political studies, sociology and cultural studies.

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MC5, or the Political/Musical Turns of Acid Rock

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Andrzej Dorobek1

Abstract: Beginning with an expression of infantile and ephemeral character of the rebellion of the American youth during the rock’n’roll period, the chapter will outline the nature of the hippie contestation, full of contradictions and way more conscious than its predecessor, contestation that had its roots in the nineteenth-century notion of “civil disobedience,” in the decadent hedonism of the Beatnik bohemia and in neo-Marxism, questioning the moral and ethical norms of the capitalist society. The focus of the chapter will be placed on the Detroit rock band MC5, which will be presented in the context of, among others, Country Joe and The Fish as an example of a peculiar fusion of neo-Marxist thought and hedonistic “bohemianism.” Subsequent, and quite original, evolution of the band will be sketched as well, questioning the sense of rock’s political involvement and leading to scepticism in terms of worldview and to musical refinement. Artistic and socio-political significance of MC5 during this period will be corroborated by juxtaposing their little-known album Back in the USA with Bruce Springsteen’s popular “Born in the USA,” whereby the artist’s ironic ambiguity was transformed into an apologia of “American values.” An additional, definitive argument in favour of MC5’s significance will be their last original album High Time, released not long after Back in the USA.

Keywords: rock and roll, acid rock, political music, contestation, irony, ambiguity

In accord with the Marxist conviction that all human action is politically conditioned, it can be...

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