A screaming comes across the dial: Country, folk, and atomic protest music

John Cline, Robert G. Weiner

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

When the United States dropped the two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, the world entered a nuclear era-the age of the Bomb. Although much has been written about the political dimensions of life in the shadow of the Bomb, less attention has been paid to the way that its lingering presence infiltrated the larger cultural imagination. There are, of course, some well-known Bomb-themed Hollywood films, such as On the Beach (1959) and Dr. Strangelove (1964). However, little scholarly focus has been placed on the manifestations of the Bomb mindset in music. In this chapter, we examine the surprisingly pervasive Bomb-themed songs released between (roughly) 1945 and 1965, primarily through the genres of commercial country music (and its gospel variant) and "folk" music, specifically of the type pioneered by Woody Guthrie that reached its apotheosis with Bob Dylan. This period corresponds to the span between Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the Cuban Missile Crisis, when concern regarding nuclear weapons was at its highest point. Using song lyrics as primary source material, with country and folk being the main topical styles, this chapter attempts to answer these questions: What kinds of responses to the Bomb do we find in song during that twenty-year span? How do country songs about the Bomb differ from folk songs about the Bomb? What, if any, other types of music took on the Bomb? And, finally, what became of atomic protest music in the era of détente and after the fall of the Berlin Wall?

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge History of Social Protest in Popular Music
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Pages94-107
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781136447297
ISBN (Print)9780415509527
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2013

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