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1969 was a transcendent year for music and popular culture. In the same year that Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin became the first humans to walk on the moon, 400,000 music fans descended upon a farm in upstate New York for the Woodstock Music and Art Fair, the Beatles made their last public performance on a rooftop in London, and Led Zeppelin and the Stooges unveiled game-changing debut albums.

Meanwhile, the war in Vietnam was raging and demonstrations demanding that the U.S. withdraw were escalating across the country. But those were not the only battles being fought: the assassination of Martin Luther King only a few months before made 1969 a whirlwind of both anger and activism on multiple fronts, from race riots and civil rights marches to gay rights demonstrations to the fight for women’s equality. While popular artists of the day voiced their opinions — from John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s infamous “bed-in” protest to Jimi Hendrix’s iconic rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” at Woodstock — 46 women banded together in their own little-known revolt at Newsweek magazine that would change American media forever.

At a time when sex discrimination was essentially legal, women with the same or better qualifications as men were generally hired by media companies for the mail room or as fact-checkers or as secretaries, all the while being told “women don’t write here.” But the women of Newsweek — initially three researchers, but finally growing to 46 employees — fought back, becoming the first group of media professionals to sue for employment discrimination based on gender under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Their inspiring story — set in the incendiary period of 1969 — forms the basis of Amazon’s righteous new show, Good Girls Revolt. Premiering on Oct 28, the show follows the trials, exploits, and friendships of three researchers at the magazine — dubbed News of the Week in the series — that asked only to be treated fairly.

It is through this lens that this special mini-edition of SPIN was produced, reflecting on key cultural moments of 1969 while looking ahead at a new revolution of forward-thinking artists and movements. Dig in as we expand on Woodstock versus Coachella, detail 10 of the most important albums from 1969, and spotlight key protest artists then and now, from the trailblazing work of Joan Baez to the radical efforts of Pussy Riot. Plus we sat down with three empowering new artists that are forging their own paths in wildly diverse ways, including Dua Lipa’s journey from Kosovo to rising pop star, Julia Cumming’s kick-ass rock ‘n’ roll ambitions in psych-pop trio Sunflower Bean, and the inspiring artistic endeavours of Grouplove’s Hannah Hooper.

Thanks to the brave ambitions of those who came before us, we live in a world where many doors have been kicked open. It’s amazing how much has changed. But it’s just as shocking to see how much hasn’t. Don’t stop fighting for your rights.

Peace and love,

Every day, when you wake up and look at yourself in the mirror, tell yourself: ‘You’re a bad bitch from hell and no one’s going to f**k with you.’”

It’s a piece of pretty solid advice that Sunflower Bean singer and bassist Julia Cumming once received as a teenager from her mentor Kate Nash. Nash had taken Cumming’s first band, the aptly named Supercute!, out on tour a few times and so the two have since cultivated a kinship.

"We've supported each other a lot …” Cumming explains. “[Nash] saw me grow up in a lot of ways."

Now 20, it seems to be guidance that has served Cumming well, as she’s developed into a fierce and empowering independent artist in her own right. Founded in 2013, Sunflower Bean has enjoyed a reputation as one of the coolest, youngest bands out of Brooklyn that all your coolest, youngest friends are listening to (and that you should probably be listening to as well). With the release of their much-anticipated debut full-length album, Human Ceremony, Sunflower Bean has cemented that reputation for themselves across the global indie music scene.

From October of 2015 through October of 2016, Cumming says that the psych pop three-piece (which also features Nick Kivlen on guitar and vocals, and Jacob Faber on the drums) will have played some 200 shows, a testament to their commitment and their enormous momentum.

When asked how long Sunflower Bean had been on the road at that point, Cumming pauses before responding: “...I’m not even sure.”

An opening stint for DIIV, a tour of their own, a pit stop in Shanghai, Beijing, and Tokyo later — Cumming was calling in from somewhere in Holland, with a bit of a croaky voice and a slight cough but still a sunny disposition.

“We’ve done many a month,” she laughs. “And it’s great.”

Sunflower Bean first came together after playing in separate bands in the same New York City DIY scene.

"Eventually, I was talking to Nick one day and he's like, 'Oh, I'm starting this band. It's called Sunflower Bean.' And when he said that I was like, 'Ohhhhhh.' I liked the name for whatever reason. I had this little feeling. Am I going to be in that band?

Cumming explains that she resisted joining immediately — but not because she didn’t want to.

“I said no three or four times because of that feeling,” she says. “I knew that once we started that something was going to happen … I knew we were going to really enjoy it and I also know myself. When I do something, I go 100 percent in.

“And then I went to a practice and we started, and that was it. It was like, ‘Oh, shit. Let’s do it.’ From that point on, we’ve never looked back.”

Well, they’ve kind of looked back. In a different way.

While Sunflower Bean have a definite '60s influence — from Piper-era Pink Floyd to the pretty harmonies of the Pretty Things — Cumming says many of her childhood music heroes actually belong to ‘60s bubblegum pop. It’s all thanks to the influence of her musician father, who also taught her how to play bass and guitar.

“One of my all-time favorites is probably the Beach Boys — that’s the one I cite the most because I was studying classical singing in high school and I used to sing in a church for fun [and] to be more into the music,” Cumming says. “And so choral music means a lot to me and I think that has definitely affected the album that we made.”

And while Cumming says that Nash has been a source of good advice for her throughout her career, the afternoon’s conversation quickly reveals that Cumming isn’t so bad herself at dispensing some life wisdom:

Starting a band?

"Do what you gotta do … and pick up an instrument. It's not about who's the most talented. It's about who shows up, especially with rock music. You're allowed to be bad for a while.”

Life mantra?

“Go for it — but don't hurt anybody. [This has] taken me to really crazy places that I’ve been really lucky to be. You don’t get that many chances.”

Startlingly sound advice from someone so young — something that she thinks her parents may have helped instill in her along the way.

"Having parents support you in the slightest way, even if it's just leaving you alone and letting you go f**k up a bunch of shit … making a lot of mistakes,” Cummings laughs, “I think that probably influenced my life a lot.”

It's not easy being a fiercely-independent young artist hell-bent on starting her own pop revolution. But Dua Lipa is here — and she’s ready to take on the doubters.
Her story begins in London where, as a bushy-tailed elementary schooler, she auditioned for the choir. “The music teacher played the highest note, and when I tried to hit it, nothing came out — just air,” she recalls, with a hint of lingering mortification. “I never got a part. I didn’t have the jazz hands.“

Fast forward a decade, give or take, and Lipa is an empowering case study in vindication. Rather than roll up like a burrito — more on Mexican food later — the 20-year-old Kosovar-cum-Londoner is about to go from head scratcher (Who—what—is a Dua Lipa?!) to household name.

Her fiery single, “Be the One,” has racked up over 72 million views on YouTube since its release in October 2015, while her latest, “Hotter Than Hell,” is already at 13 million (and counting). With a proper debut album expected this February, the world is about to find out just how far the singer’s distinctively husky voice and take-no-guff attitude will propel her. (Let’s just say it would be ill advised to bet against her.)

Lipa, the daughter of a Kosovan rock singer father and a mother who worked in tourism, has always bet on herself. Reared on a concoction of Dylan (thanks, Dad) and Destiny’s Child, her vision was never limited by genres — or borders. Born and bred in London where she attended the prestigious Sylvia Young Theatre School (like Adele and Amy Winehouse before her), Lipa’s parents moved back to Pristina, in their native country, when she was 13. And while she’s proud of her heritage (the “Sunny Hill” neighborhood where mom and dad grew up is inked on her arm), it soon became clear that the country wasn’t big enough for her ambitions. She didn’t want to be a Kosovan star — she wanted to be a megastar. While most world domination-courting teens might sullenly wait it out in their bedrooms, Lipa lobbied — insisted — that she go back to the U.K. And so she did. Alone. At 15.

If that sounds insane, Lipa and her wiser-than-her-years ways was ready for it — mostly. “I’m not sure I really understood what it would be like doing my own dishes, my own laundry. It got pretty bad,” she says, recalling the Camden crash pad she shared with theater school friends. She subsisted on modeling jobs (“It was just extra cash for me,” she shrugs) and crappy side gigs, all the while working on her music.

“I was a hostess at a Mexican restaurant — and I don’t even like Mexican food,” she says. “Everyone was drunk and would spill shit all over me all the time.”

Nevertheless, she’d stick it out until 2:00 a.m. and then get up by 8:00 a.m. so she could post new cover songs online. “I just kept on pushing because I was like, ‘I don't want to be a hostess for the rest of my life.’ I was trying to get out of those jobs and get to where I wanted to be.”

That she’s sitting here on a sunny summer afternoon in the swanky Soho Grand Hotel in New York City is a testament to her tenacity. Her “Home Alone” London years are the origin story she’ll be able to tell Barbara Walters one day — or the Barbara Walters-like virtual reality robot that will surely take her place. “I f**king love New York so much,” says the singer — who didn’t get to see much of it this trip. (She pretty much struggled with a broken suitcase and squeezed in one decent Italian dinner between events on her packed promotional schedule). In a half hour, she’ll be whisked away to the airport where she’ll jet off to Europe to perform at massive, funny-named festivals like Pukkelpop in Belgium. Her life these days consists of hotel rooms, hired cars, recording studios and airports —rinse, repeat, rinse, repeat, rinse, repeat — and she wouldn’t have it any other way.

Lipa is, after all, following in the footsteps of her idols — Beyoncé, Nelly Furtado, Pink — the independent women who stared down the music industry’s limitations, subverted them and spit them back out. There’s inspiration to be found in her songs, to be sure, but not of the shallow platitudes variety. Her insights feel hard-earned, and even a little dangerous: “I’m the realest it gets/You probably still adore me/With my hands around your neck” sings Lipa on “Hotter Than Hell,” her anthemic ode to sexual one-up-(wo)manship.

“Sex is completely natural — it shouldn’t be something we’re afraid to speak about, especially as females,” she says. “We’ve shied away from so many things, because it was a man’s world. But it’s not. That doesn’t exist anymore.”

Beneath Lipa’s bravado is a vulnerability that sets her apart from those run-of-the-mill chart toppers that feel more like focus group-tested products than authentic provocateurs. She still gets stomach-churning nervous before hitting the stage, is enough of a kid to collect packs of fruity-flavored chewing gum in every city she visits, and actually cares what strangers think of her. “Things that people say online can be hurtful. And sometimes, I take some things to heart,” admits Lipa, who claims over 300k followers on Instagram and makes a point to personally interact with her fans.

“Usually, I say, ‘Okay, I'm going to take that criticism and find something constructive in it. I'm going to make that person think otherwise.’”

As her battle with her shortsighted elementary school music teacher demonstrates, she’s had that fight in her since day one. But she has suffered the occasional kick in the gut. “I’ve had my ups and downs with body confidence. When I was younger, I was told I had to lose a lot of weight in order to succeed in modeling,” Lipa says, glancing downward at her fingers, which are tattooed with happy, squiggly, Keith Haring figures. “I didn’t know that not everyone was supposed to look a certain way. Growing up, I wish more artists I admired had spoken about loving yourself for who you are and not trying to fit into what other people want you to be.”

Now, Lipa has the chance to be that inspiration to her fans. She believes things are getting better for women in the music industry — is it still obligatory to salivate over how pretty a female artist is and dissect her outfit in a magazine article? — and she knows what she has to offer. “I don't want to be known for my looks, I want to be known for my voice,” she says firmly. “That's what's important to me. That is my best feature.”

Meanwhile, her new music is shaping up to be more raw, more revealing and more relatable than anything she’s ever done before. “I try to be a 100% open book, “ says the singer, who shares management with Lana Del Rey and a publicist with Adele — and the expectations that go with it. “The running theme is that we all go through the same things. We all have stuff that we're scared to talk about or have trouble letting go of,” she says.

“Writing is giving me the opportunity to grow into the liberated person that I want to be — the person that speaks without a filter,” she adds. No pressure — only the whole wide world is waiting.

Hannah Hooper has been thinking about the ways to best effect change in our world. You know, the way a born revolutionary who also happens to be a new mom will think about those things. The band she co-created, Grouplove, has a unique reputation for engaging its fans in a very inclusive and intensely personal experience in which all our quirks and superpowers can come raging out. It’s a band that challenges you to be art instead of just consuming it, and that is a radical idea.

You can get a good taste of her upbeat approach on the new Grouplove single, on which she and her husband Christian Zucconi wail: “Welcome to your life / It could be your fantasy / Welcome to your world, my girl / Let it be your fantasy.” The chiming, rousing song, “Welcome to Your World,” resonates as a rock’n’roll blessing for Hooper and Zucconi’s new baby girl, Willa, but the attitude is hardly new for Hooper. A painter, a clothing designer and maker, a musician and sometimes an activist, this is a philosophy she’s been living for years.

“That’s kind of where our new album title, Big Mess, comes from: the world is challenging and it’s messy and it’s ugly and dark. But we just had a baby,” says Hooper by phone from Australia, where the band is on tour, baby and all. “The only way to really approach it is: the world is a really crazy place so let’s make it your fantasy, let’s make it something beautiful.”

Since their 2011 debut single, “Colours,” with its gritty determination to make a life out of “the colours you have,” the band has been delivering millennial anthems and famously emotional live shows trying to make honest contact with their fans and a sense of pure freedom. Somewhere in there, they topped the Alternative Rock charts with the single “Tongue Tied” and became a platinum-selling band. And Hooper, who paints or draws all the album artwork for the band (and others, such as the Morning Benders) and makes her own clothes as well as co-writing songs, began to shine as an icon.

Born Revolutionary? Yes. She was raised a real child of ‘60s social engagement, growing up on Haight Street in San Francisco with a writer mom and environmentalist dad who she calls “the best parents ever.” Musically, too, they’ve had their influence: Hooper listens to a lot of Radiohead, Pixies, Nirvana, Bjork and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, but she still finds herself going back to Neil Young and the Grateful Dead and the Band.

She started as a painter, and the piece she considers her breakthrough is a portrait of President John F. Kennedy.

She struggled for years in New York until she met Zucconi at one of his shows, fell head over heels, and only a few days later invited him to an artist residency on the island of Crete. Amazingly, he agreed, and there they met guitarist Andrew Wessen and drummer Ryan Rabin (son of Yes guitarist Trevor Rabin), and bassist Sean Gadd — later replaced in the lineup by the current bassist, Daniel Gleason. A year after Crete, they all ended up at Rabin’s house in Los Angeles and a band was born.

Hooper didn’t really play an instrument and didn’t know how to be in a band. She was mortified to be on stage and even played a lot of their early shows wearing a mask.

And when the performer within finally emerged, it came screaming: now Hooper is known for her wild stage theatrics, eye-popping clothes and out-front vocals.

“We found a path,” she adds. “By chance, this band came together and it worked out partly because it was just friends making music and there was no pressure on it. I think people respond to the honesty of that, because we weren’t like, ‘This is a business and we must succeed!’ There’s a freedom there and that’s what drew in a fanbase; we’re having a good time.”

Trusting your instincts is a powerful way to live. She still paints constantly, loving the work of Robert Rauschenberg and Cy Twombly and Jean-Michel Basquiat, whose look comes through on Hooper’s cover for the new album, Big Mess. She dives in without over-analyzing. When clothing label Volcom got a look at the big loud prints she uses on her stage clothes, ranging from abstract geometrics to leopard-spot, often over skin-tight catsuits, they asked for a line. So in 2015 she worked with her brother to produce her Lady Grouplove for Volcom line: six pieces of super-comfy sportswear featuring Hooper’s own Keith Haring-like geometric prints and a tee with one of her drawings.

“The amazing thing about being in this band is that it has just opened so many doors to things I didn’t know I could do,” she says. Now she works on lighting, backdrops, merchandise — whatever comes along. “Anything I can get my hands on and make them more Grouplove, so that our band is truly as honest in ourselves as it can be, that’s what we’re doing. This is who we are, and on every level.”

Baby Willa, of course, has brought that honesty to a fine point. “America, right now, is in such an interesting place. It’s in an ugly place, to be honest,” she says, launching into a discussion of environmentalism and politics. “The first thing I did when I became a mom is I became a vegetarian again, which is just the easiest way to decrease my personal carbon footprint. And Christian did, too; our band is now basically vegetarian. That’s kind of the level I’m on.”

Motherhood has also driven her deep into children’s books such as The Lorax and The Giving Tree, and when I confess I can’t even read those now without bursting into tears, she howls, “Oh my god, I’m such a mess when I read that! The Giving Tree makes me SO sad! And it’s really bizarre to be holding your daughter and crying. It’s intense.”

“Being in a band is really interesting,” she continues, “because we do have the ability to reach out and touch people and get our fans more involved in things.” One dollar from every ticket sold on their current tour, for instance, is being donated to the organization charity: water to fund fresh water projects around the world (more info at: my.charitywater.org/grouplove/tour).

But being radical doesn’t mean being preachy. Neither Hooper nor Zucconi are soap-boxing from the stage or anything. They wouldn’t waste that precious moment of freedom.

“When I’m onstage, it’s definitely beyond politics and it’s definitely beyond anything. It’s total freedom and it’s really what I think I’m alive for. We’re having an exchange with the audience and just finding this place of pure joy. It’s a more primal thing. Our band, onstage, is more like, ‘Let’s be good, let’s be happy, let’s be kind; we’re Grouplove, let’s get some love out there.’”

Throughout history, musicians have tackled political and social issues in song. But in 1969, with the war raging in Vietnam and rebellion happening everywhere in America from the streets of the inner cities to the offices of Newsweek — or News of the Week, as it’s fictionally portrayed in Good Girls Revolt — protest music entered a new golden era.

From Jimi Hendrix’s iconic instrumental performance of “The Star Spangled Banner” at Woodstock — in which he powerfully recast the national anthem into a wordless anti-war statement — to Elvis Presley’s poverty lament “In the Ghetto,” artists both radical and conservative used their music to protest injustice, question the status quo, and unify their audiences in a quest for a better world. In 2016, contemporary artists are still keeping the spirit of ’69 alive, weighing in musically on a wide variety of hot-button topics and lending inspiration to activists who take the term “social justice warrior” as a compliment rather than an insult.

The writer of such classic early-’60s protest songs as “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “The Times They Are a-Changin’” and “With God On Our Side,” Dylan had officially put his protest days behind him with 1964’s “My Back Pages” — but such was the galvanizing power of his early material that listeners continued to scour his newer, more personal songs for evidence of socio-political commentary. When Dylan returned to performing in 1969 after a three-year hiatus from the stage, his fans hoped that he would also reclaim his position as “the voice of a generation.” While that didn’t happen, he would still raise his voice in protest on occasion, releasing two potent protest songs in the 1970s (1971’s “George Jackson,” about the slain Black Panther leader; and 1975’s “Hurricane,” about the wrongful imprisonment of boxer Rubin Carter), and inspiring the founding of Farm Aid with his 1985 comments about the plight of the American farmer.

Though he expressed his initial ambivalence towards the protest movement in the Beatles’ 1968 single, “Revolution,” Lennon enthusiastically climbed aboard as the tumultuous decade grew to a close, giving the anti-war faction a new anthem with the Plastic Ono Band’s “Give Peace a Chance.” Much of his recorded solo work over the next four years would be equally politically charged; in fact, Lennon ruffled so many feathers with songs like “Power to the People,” “Imagine” and “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” — as well as his and Yoko’s high-profile activism on behalf of a variety of left-wing causes — that the U.S. government actually tried to deport him.

One of the most tireless activist/performers of the 1960s, Baez repeatedly used her fame as a folk singer to draw attention to the Civil Rights movement and the growing opposition to the Vietnam War. She sang her version of “We Shall Overcome” at countless rallies and marches, but she also recorded protest material by some of the finest songwriters of the day, including Phil Ochs, Richard Fariña and, most importantly, Bob Dylan, whose work she tirelessly championed. Already a legendary figure by the time she appeared at 1969’s Woodstock festival, Baez has continued her social and political activism in the ensuing decades, singing on behalf of everything from LGBT issues to international refugees.

A prolific songwriter as well as a brilliant singer and guitarist, Mayfield cranked out an incredible run of late-’60s soul hits for the Impressions that explicitly addressed and promoted the concept of black pride, including “Keep On Pushing,” “We’re a Winner,” “We’re Rolling On,” “This is My Country” and “Choice of Colors.” In 1970, Mayfield left the Impressions to launch a solo career, and his social commentary grew even more pointed, with albums like Super Fly, Back to the World and There’s No Place Like America Today examining the effects of drugs, violence, poverty and benign neglect on the country’s African-American communities.

One of the more underrated groups of the era, the Staple Singers — a family gospel-soul group led by father/guitarist/singer Roebuck “Pops” Staples, and given added heft by the almost supernaturally stirring vocals of daughter Mavis — hit gold with socially-conscious early-’70s singles like “Respect Yourself” and “I’ll Take You There.” They’d been involved with the Civil Rights movement since the early 1960s, singing songs like “Freedom Highway,” “Long Walk to D.C.” and “When Will We Be Paid.” Still active today, Mavis incorporated words from Dr. King’s “Drum Major Instinct” sermon into “MLK Song,” the closing track of her 2016 album Living On a High Note.

Compton-born hip-hop artist Kendrick Lamar doubled down on the brilliance of his 2012 major label debut, good kid, m.A.A.d city, with 2015’s To Pimp a Butterfly, an album that confronts themes of identity, success and inequality from both political and personal perspectives. “Alright,” the album’s fourth single, adopted as a theme song by the Black Lives Matter movement, has been described by many pundits as “the new Black National Anthem” — and Lamar’s powerful performance of that song and “The Blacker the Berry” at the 2016 Grammy Awards made it additionally clear that he’s not shy about addressing African-American issues from the pulpit of fame.

A hip-hop “supergroup” formed in 2013 by El-P and Killer Mike, Run the Jewels have consistently mixed gleefully vulgar wordplay with hard-as-nails explorations of urban violence, police brutality, and systemic racism. An outspoken social activist in his own right, Killer Mike has repeatedly encouraged the black community to channel their rage and frustration over the police killings of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray and others into a force for positive change. In order to show the public that political outsiders can and should run for office, he threw his hat into the ring last year as a write-in candidate for the Georgia House of Representatives. His December 2015 video interview with Bernie Sanders provided an often depressing election season with one of its most honest and entertaining moments.

A self-described “elite task force of revolutionary musicians” comprised of members of Public Enemy (Chuck D, DJ Lord), Rage Against the Machine (Tom Morello, Tim Commerford, Brad Wilk) and Cypress Hill (B-Real), Prophets of Rage were formed earlier this year because “dangerous times demand dangerous songs.” The group, which made headlines in July with an incendiary guerilla performance outside the Republican National Convention, dropped their debut EP at the end of August — and they’re donating a portion of the proceeds from each stop on their current tour to local homeless charities.

In an era when “punk rock” has largely become little more than a fashion statement, Russian feminist punk collective Pussy Riot put their lives and freedom on the line with a series of provocative, Situationist-style performances in and around Moscow. With songs opposing sexism, organized religion, police repression, government corruption and (especially) Russian President Vladimir Putin, Pussy Riot has unsurprisingly run afoul of Russian officials, who in 2012 sentenced three of the group’s members to two years in a penal colony for disrupting the social order.

Canadian singer/songwriter/producer Claire Boucher, better known as Grimes, continually pushes the boundaries of the dancefloor with each new release, making intensely personal music that still manages to zap us squarely in the pleasure zone. She’s pushing the boundaries of what it means to be a conscious artist in the 21st century, as well; though her music is all about independence and self-empowerment, and she freely expresses her opinions on such issues as animal rights, the environment, and misogyny in the music business, Grimes resolutely refuses to let the media paint her as a two-dimensional “spokeswoman” for, well, anything.


Message in the Music:

Great protest songs from
1969 to the present

by Dan Epstein

Once considered primarily the domain of folk singers, the protest song has found its way into almost every imaginable genre of music over the past half-century. Here are 15 powerful and enduring examples of artists raising their voices (and sticking out their necks) for their beliefs.
(Presented in order of release date.)


The Impressions — “Choice of Colors”

One of the many brilliant pieces of musical social commentary penned by the late, great Curtis Mayfield, this 1969 R&B hit asked some pointed questions about racial identity and the willingness of both blacks and whites to put aside their differences and work together for a better society. Gentle in its approach but firm in its resolve, “Choice of Colors” remains as thought-provoking now as it was upon its initial release.


Plastic Ono Band — “Give Peace a Chance”

Penned and recorded during his 1969 “Bed-In For Peace” with new wife Yoko Ono, John Lennon effectively launched his solo career with this anti-war sing-along. The ringing melody of the song’s chorus (and the directness of its message) has made it a favorite of demonstrators ever since.


Creedence Clearwater Revival — “Fortunate Son”

Though John Fogerty’s blistering 1969 anthem didn’t mention the Vietnam War by name, there was no mistaking its target: U.S. government officials who called the shots in that conflict without ever having to put their own lives (or those of their children) on the line for it, while letting the less-privileged classes bear the bulk of its human and financial costs.


Edwin Starr — “War”

Written by producer Norman Whitfield and singer-songwriter Barrett Strong, Edwin Starr’s chart-topping 1970 soul smash was Motown’s first (and strongest) foray into anti-war commentary, answering the rhetorical question, “War — what is it good for?” with a resounding “Absolutely nothin’!”


Gil Scott-Heron — “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”

Gil Scott-Heron’s most enduring poem was inspired by the killings of university students at Kent State and Jackson State in May 1970 — as well as the stark contrast between the demonstrations shown on the evening news, and the bright and sterile America represented by TV commercials. The Revolution, he reminded us, would be live.


Marvin Gaye — “What’s Going On?”

Marvin Gaye’s 1971 smash was proof that a simple question can sometimes be more powerful than an angry slogan. As much a prayer as a song, “What’s Going On?” offered up a gentle plea for love and understanding while the Vietnam War raged on overseas, and protestors — and the police — took to the streets at home.


Elvis Costello — “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding”

Penned in 1974 by Nick Lowe, and revived by Elvis Costello during the Lowe-produced sessions for his 1979 album, Armed Forces, “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding” didn’t take on anything more specific than the world’s “pain and hatred and misery” — but the song’s titular question was so on-point, it didn’t need to.


Bob Marley — “Redemption Song”

Arguably one of Bob Marley’s greatest compositions, “Redemption Song” offered up a stark acoustic rumination on the necessity of fighting for freedom and to “emancipate yourself from mental slavery.” Recorded in 1980, less than a year before his death from cancer, the song’s heavy sense of mortality is leavened by an equally powerful sense of hope.


U2 — ”Sunday Bloody Sunday”

Though inspired by the cycle of sectarian violence that rocked Northern Ireland in the 1970s and early 80s, U2’s ringing 1983 anthem remains relevant wherever hate and politics drive people to kill each other. “How long must we sing this song?” indeed.


The Special A.K.A. — “Free Nelson Mandela”

Far more upbeat than your typical protest song, this 1984 single was hugely instrumental in spreading the word about the South African leader’s ongoing imprisonment — in part because the song’s groove and chorus were so damn irresistible.


Patti Smith — “People Have The Power”

Released in the summer of 1988, Smith’s emboldening reminder of personal power and responsibility didn’t exactly change the course of that year’s presidential election, but its heartfelt sentiment and instantly catchy chorus has made it one of her most enduring songs.


Public Enemy — “Fight The Power”

Inspired by the Isley Brothers song of the same name — and written at the request of film director Spike Lee, who wanted a theme for his film Do The Right Thing — Public Enemy’s 1989 anthem was a turbocharged battle cry of anger and defiance in the face of the urban injustices of the Reagan/Bush years. Chuck D called the song “the most important record that Public Enemy has done,” and its powerful, anti-authority message still resonates deeply today.


Rage Against the Machine — “Killing In The Name”

Released six months after the 1992 riots that rocked Los Angeles, RATM’s career-defining anthem railed mightily against police brutality and institutionalized racism, underlining their defiance with 17 cries of “F**k you, I won’t do what you tell me!” from frontman Zack De La Rocha.


Bikini Kill — “Rebel Girl”

The definitive anthem of the early-’90s Riot Grrrl movement, “Rebel Girl” was both an unashamed declaration of lesbian love and an expression of one girl’s jealousy-free appreciation of another’s sheer awesomeness — two topics which were rarely addressed in punk (or any other form of) rock, but were ecstatically rendered here.


Kendrick Lamar — “Alright”

An infectious-as-all-hell declaration of unity and positivity in the face of tragedy and hatred, Lamar’s 2015 single resonated with everyone from Grammy voters — who handed him trophies for Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance — to Black Lives Matter demonstrators, who chanted the song’s chorus like a mantra.


Coachella. What was once just an innocuous stretch of Southern California desert best known for being home to Palm Springs is now synonymous with America’s most celebrated and recognized music festival.

The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival has exerted an outsized influence on the current wave of music fests in the United States. The annual event has established a prestige and mystique that transcends music to represent both a culture and a booming industry.

Over two weekends in April, the city of Indio, CA, set at the heart of Coachella Valley, hosts tens of thousands of music fans for three days of music, art, fashion, and so much more. While the biggest artists in the world grace the multitude of stages spread throughout the Empire Polo Club, brands and companies representing everything from fashion houses to fast-food chains descend on the area, hoping to capture some of that Coachella glow.

As the face of the modern American music festival, Coachella’s all-encompassing culture and state-of-the-art production values — which extend beyond the concert stage to myriad art exhibits, charities and adjacent VIP parties — is light years beyond the innocence and lack of preparation that marked the original Woodstock festival of 1969.

With the simple premise of assembling the brightest and most culturally relevant bands and performers for “three days of peace and music” on a farm in upstate New York, the dream of Woodstock producers Michael Lang, Artie Kornfeld, John Roberts and Joel Rosenman would go on to be so much bigger, grander and culturally cataclysmic than they ever imagined.

It was a concept still considered novel in the late 1960s, with only a handful of music festivals preceding Woodstock. The biggest of them was the Monterey Pop Festival in the summer of 1967, which featured the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Otis Redding at the Monterey County Fairgrounds in Central California.

Beyond just music, Woodstock’s timing in the summer of 1969 aligned with a groundswell of youth activism and awareness, with American teenagers and college students challenging the mores of the time.

Race relations, women’s rights, and the Vietnam War were top of mind, and the acts that populated Woodstock’s bill, including Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Joan Baez, Santana, Grateful Dead, Sly and the Family Stone, and the Who, were already providing the soundtrack for a disillusioned generation set on changing the world.

With race riots breaking out across the country in cities like Detroit, Baltimore, and York, Pennsylvania, the second wave of feminism sweeping the nation, and the Stonewall riots erupting in Greenwich Village for gay rights, the time was right for a galvanizing event to bring this new counterculture movement together. Woodstock would be that event.

From the moment the concert was announced, it was clear that Woodstock was going to be huge, selling more than 180,000 advance tickets. Fans began descending on the location in Bethel, New York, days before it even started.

By the time the festival began that Friday, August 15, far more people than the expected 200,000 were pouring onto Max Yasgur’s farm. With the event’s finances going towards building an adequate performance stage instead of fences and ticket booths, Woodstock would be a free show for a majority of the nearly half-million fans that attended the massive concert.

While intermittent rain, lack of food and poor sanitation plagued Woodstock, the spirit of unity among attendees still prevailed.

“The way people were sharing at Woodstock, if you were wet and cold, they would offer you their extra shirt,” remembers Zeke Boyle, who was a teenager at the time in the vast crowd. “They would offer you food. People were sharing everything.”

As artists performed around the clock throughout the weekend (the Who performed at 5 a.m., followed by Jefferson Airplane at 8 a.m.) with Jimi Hendrix closing the festival in the morning hours of Monday, August 18, to a dwindling crowd, Woodstock was already etched in history as legendary, and for many, life-changing.

“What’s important to remember is there’s possibility for things to be better and that people can make a difference,” explained promoter Michael Lang of the historic weekend. “That if you get involved and make a commitment to something, you can be part of change that’s positive for everybody.”

While the legend of Woodstock would be lovingly commemorated with anniversary events over the years, the attempt to fuse nostalgic reverence for 1969 with contemporary relevance was undone by the tragedy of Woodstock ’99, forever remembered for rashes of violence, arson and sexual assaults among disaffected youth fueled on aggression.

That same year, Coachella would launch at the forefront of its own revolution. The music industry as the world knew it was set to implode, thanks in large part to the launch of Napster and the dawn of the file-sharing age.

Eschewing radio playlists and sales charts to feature top alternative acts of the late-‘90s including Tool, Beck, Rage Against the Machine, and the Chemical Brothers over the weekend of October 9-10, Coachella launched as the brainchild of Paul Tollett and his promotion company, Goldenvoice. Influenced by the far more established festival culture in Europe, the inaugural event would draw fewer than 40,000 to the blistering California desert.

While the event proceeded successfully, Goldenvoice was unable to stage the event in 2000, and reduced it to a one-day concert in 2001 headlined by Jane’s Addiction.

Positive word of mouth surrounding Coachella buoyed the festival over the next couple of years, with the 2004 event boasting the launch of the Pixies reunion, Radiohead, and the Cure, leading to the show’s first sellout weekend of 110,000 fans over two days.

By 2006, Coachella was the hottest festival in America. With Depeche Mode and Tool headlining, Madonna would bring her mainstream pop to the show with a six-song set in the Sahara dance tent, creating a media frenzy that would expose the fest to its broadest audience to date. This was also the year that Daft Punk kicked off their comeback with a now-iconic performance that would cement the band’s status as electronic legends as well as Coachella’s place as an EDM champion.

As the show continued to grow and evolve, 2008 found Coachella expanding to include classic rock legends like Roger Waters and a last-minute addition of music icon Prince to the bill alongside such acts as Aphex Twin, Kraftwerk and Portishead.

Soon, the culture of Coachella began to coalesce, generating its own fashion sense that blended hippie-inspired styles with modern looks and began to influence and inspire designers to create their own Coachella fashions.

As Coachella’s reputation grew around the world, its success amplified the visibility of older and more established U.S. events as well as inspiring a slew of new ones.

The massive Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival debuted in Manchester, TN, in 2002, quickly evolving from a jam band-oriented event to include a wide range of artists and performers that rivaled others in the quickly growing field of competing fests. The long-standing PBS series Austin City Limits also debuted its own festival in Austin, TX in 2002.

In 2005, legendary ‘90s multi-act tour (and Coachella inspiration) Lollapalooza would reinvent itself as a Chicago-based festival, quickly becoming one of the Midwest’s most popular annual music events.

Since then, the American music festival circuit has become populated with scores of new festivals including Sasquatch! (George, WA), Firefly (Dover, DE), Outside Lands (San Francisco, CA), Life is Beautiful (Las Vegas, NV), Governor’s Ball (NYC) and the brand new Panorama, another New York City event that’s the brainchild of Goldenvoice and considered by many as Coachella East. Through it all, Coachella still stands above the rest as the premier American music festival, enjoying the most prestige and pulling the biggest headliner exclusives.

In 2016, that would include hosting the long-awaited return of Guns N’ Roses featuring Axl Rose and guitarist Slash officially sharing the same stage for the first time in more than 20 years (outside of a surprise club date in Los Angeles).

The event has now grown to two weekends a year that routinely sell out months before the lineup is even announced, drawing hundreds of thousands of people to Coachella Valley for the festival and its cohort of accompanying events, and Tollett and Goldenvoice continue to take risks and push the show forward with cross-cultural and female performers taking a leading role.

“Coachella’s jumped the shark now 11 years in a row, according to the press, but not according to the people who hit me up to buy tickets,” Tollett told the Desert Sun in a rare interview. “I think it’s still relevant — alternative musically and artistically.”

As Woodstock’s legend endures and Coachella’s is still growing, American festivals have moved to the forefront of the modern cultural landscape, a rite of passage for emerging generations of fans looking to experience these indelible moments of inspiration, action and most importantly, music.


The long, lingering shadow that 1969 casts over the history of popular music is hardly just a matter of baby-boomer nostalgia. A watershed year by any metric, 1969 witnessed some significant changes on both the “music” and “business” sides of the music business, and birthed a staggering number of great records.

Rapid improvements in concert sound technology (and the music industry’s recognition of the demand for tribal gatherings) led to an explosion of music festivals in North America — Woodstock, the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival and Altamont were just the most high-profile ones — and the U.K., where Bob Dylan returned to the stage for the first time since 1966 with a performance at the Isle of Wight Festival. Also dormant as a live act since 1966, the Beatles returned to the “stage” in 1969 with an impromptu live performance on the roof of the Apple building in London, one which would ultimately (and unfortunately) prove to be their last.

The trippy, psychedelic sounds that had been so omnipresent over the previous two years were now on the wane, as artists increasingly began to trade their paisley duds for denim and corduroy and explore the rootsy Americana typified by the Band, whose second album was released in the fall of 1969, and Creedence Clearwater Revival, who dropped a whopping three albums (Bayou Country, Green River and Willy and the Poor Boys) that year. Blues-influenced hard rock was also on the rise, thanks to Led Zeppelin, Mountain, Grand Funk Railroad and the MC5, while the experimental impulses of psychedelia were now being expressed by the burgeoning progressive rock movement, which included such practitioners as King Crimson, Yes, Genesis, the Moody Blues, and avant-garde German band Can, the latter of whom released their debut Monster Movie in August 1969.

The year of 1969 also brought us future classics from Crosby, Stills & Nash (whose harmony-drenched self-titled debut was released in May), the Rolling Stones (Let It Bleed), the Velvet Underground (their self-titled third album), the Jefferson Airplane (Volunteers), the Doors (The Soft Parade), Neil Young & Crazy Horse (Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere), the Kinks (Arthur Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire), Isaac Hayes (Hot Buttered Soul), the Temptations (Cloud Nine and Puzzle People), Dusty Springfield (Dusty in Memphis), Scott Walker (Scott 3 and Scott 4), Frank Zappa (Hot Rats), Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band (Trout Mask Replica), and the Beach Boys, whose 20/20 album featured “Never Learn Not to Love,” an un-credited rewrite of a song by an aspiring musician named Charles Manson, who would later make a bloody and decidedly non-musical mark on 1969. And yet, incredible as all of those records may be, none of them have left a legacy as vast or lasting as the following 10 albums.

The Beatles — Abbey Road

In a year dominated by the agonizing sessions for what would become Let It Be and the legal bickering that would eventually result in the band’s demise, the Beatles still somehow managed to find the time (and the creative headspace) to cap their career with one of their greatest records. The album’s cover image has been imitated countless times, of course, but Abbey Road’s progressive pop (and George Martin’s airy production) has proved equally durable, inspiring the artsy leanings of rockers from Cheap Trick to Radiohead. Plus, two of the album’s finest songs — “Something” and “Here Comes The Sun” — not only proved George Harrison to be the songwriting equal of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, but also effectively paved the way for the Quiet Beatle’s massively successful solo run in the 1970s.

Sly & the Family Stone — Stand!

Fronting an interracial soul/funk band was a pretty radical thing in itself by late-’60s standards, but Sly Stone upped the ante even further on his outfit’s fourth album, loading it with aspirational songs like “Everyday People,” “I Want to Take You Higher,” “You Can Make It If You Try” and the title cut, all of which clearly aimed to bring white folks and black folks together under the same celebratory freak flag. At the same time, more caustic cuts like “Somebody’s Watching You” and “Don’t Call Me Nigger, Whitey” candidly addressed the difficult realities of race relations in the Age of Aquarius. Stand!’s combination of good-time music and biting social commentary would influence countless artists to come, while Larry Graham’s then-radical slap-popping bass style would soon become forever synonymous with funk music.

Led Zeppelin — Led Zeppelin

There had certainly been heavy, blues-based rock bands before Led Zeppelin, but the British quartet’s debut album — released in January 1969 — took the concept to the next level, boasting the sort of focused power and compositional flair that had largely eluded forerunners like Cream or Blue Cheer. The one-two punch of Jimmy Page’s string-bending wizardry and Robert Plant’s priapic wail (as heard on the likes of “Communication Breakdown” and “Dazed and Confused”) effectively introduced the hotshot guitarist/heartthrob frontman template that’s been followed ever since by bands from Queen to Soundgarden, while Page’s innovative use of microphone placement has been subsequently mimicked by countless studio engineers. And just to prove their first album was no fluke, they dropped the equally excellent Led Zeppelin II before the year was out.

The Stooges — The Stooges

Released 10 days before Woodstock, the debut album from Michigan reprobates the Stooges was the utter bad-trip antithesis of that festival’s flowery “peace and love” vibe, with frontman Iggy Pop drawling the confrontational lyrics of anomic songs like “I Wanna Be Your Dog” and “No Fun” over snarling, minimalist hard rock. Widely disparaged at the time (and largely upstaged by Kick Out the Jams, the debut album from Elektra labelmates and fellow Ann Arbor residents the MC5), The Stooges would nonetheless profoundly influence hundreds of punk, grunge and latter-day garage bands — including the Ramones, Sex Pistols and Nirvana — and eventually stand revealed as an essential proto-punk artifact.

Miles Davis — In a Silent Way

Released in July 1969, In a Silent Way was the legendary jazz trumpeter’s first album to feature an ensemble of electric instrumentalists, including British guitarist (and future Mahavishnu Orchestra leader) John McLaughlin. While the “rock” elements of In a Silent Way’s music aroused the ire of jazz critics at the time, the album’s futuristic brilliance has become more obvious over the subsequent decades; echoes of its moody, ethereal music — and producer Teo Macero’s experimental editing techniques — have subsequently been heard not just in jazz fusion, but also in ambient, electronica, progressive rock and numerous other modern genres.

Nick Drake — Five Leaves Left

Almost entirely ignored at the time of its release in July 1969, the gorgeously melancholic debut album from the late British folk guitarist Nick Drake — produced by Joe Boyd and featuring contributions from members of Fairport Convention — was widely re-discovered in the 1980s, and has since become an important touchstone for countless singer-songwriters with an introspective bent. The hushed beauty of Drake’s singing and acoustic guitar picking on songs like “Time Has Told Me,” “Three Hours” and “Fruit Tree” has audibly left its mark on everyone from Beck and Robyn Hitchcock to Bon Iver and Iron & Wine.

Flying Burrito Brothers — The Gilded Palace of Sin

At a time when the counterculture generally considered country music to be about as hip as Richard Nixon, the Flying Burrito Brothers — led by former Byrds Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman — boldly formed what many now consider to be the first real country-rock band. The songs on the Burritos’ debut record, 1969’s The Gilded Palace of Sin, combined an unabashed love of Bakersfield honky-tonk with a rock’n’roll drive and the wry, jaded lyrical perspective of L.A. scenesters. The Eagles would take a slicker version of that combination to the top of the charts in the 1970s, while Parsons’ vision of “cosmic American music” would be posthumously carried on by Emmylou Harris, Dwight Yoakam and the entire “No Depression” movement.

King Crimson — In The Court of the Crimson King

Brash, elegant, and ominous, the debut album from King Crimson officially ushered in a new age of progressive rock, raising the bar for all proggers to come with extended compositions that audaciously merged psychedelia, classical, British folk and free-form jazz. Pete Sinfield’s doomy lyrics (nobly belted out by bassist Greg Lake) meshed brilliantly with Robert Fripp’s jazz-rock guitar and lan MacDonald’s layered Mellotron, especially on such bracing tracks as “21st Century Schizoid Man” and “The Court of the Crimson King.” Nothing else sounded like it in 1969 — and though it has profoundly influenced such progressively-minded 21st century schizoid bands like the Mars Volta, Mastodon and Baroness, nothing really sounds quite like it today, either.

Joni Mitchell — Clouds

Released in May 1969, Clouds was both an artistic and commercial breakthrough for Mitchell, earning the Canadian singer-songwriter a Best Folk Performance Grammy and charting a musical course that would take her well beyond the somber hippie-folk stylings of her 1968 debut, Song to a Seagull. Reclamations of older, poppier songs “Both Sides Now” and “Chelsea Morning” (both of which had already been hits for other artists) fit comfortably alongside impressionistic newer compositions like “Tin Angel,” “That Song About the Midway” and “Songs to Aging Children Come,” effectively announcing that Mitchell was both a commercial songwriter to be reckoned with and a self-assured artist with a uniquely personal vision. More sophisticated masterpieces would follow, of course, but the impact of Clouds on endless singer-songwriters cannot be overstated.

The Who — Tommy

It’s difficult to imagine now, but before Pete Townshend unveiled his 1969 rock opera about a deaf, dumb and blind boy, the Who were a second-tier British band struggling desperately to keep their career afloat. That all changed forever with Tommy, which not only catapulted the Who to their permanent place at the top of the rock heap, but also imbued rock itself with a new sense of artistic legitimacy; no less an authority than composer Leonard Bernstein praised the album’s power and ambition. By introducing the notion of the “concept album” to the mainstream, Tommy paved the way for such ambitious album-length endeavors as Pink Floyd’s The Wall, Green Day’s American Idiot, and Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid, M.A.A.D City.