Protest songs, country, religious rock, disco and folk: inspiring music of the 70s
“As part of a world-wide campaign to end the Vietnam War, musicians wrote and released songs that resonated with listeners. Many of these songs still do. John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ is a classic – it is often sung at big international charity events…And, Jimmy Cliff’s ‘Vietnam’ was hailed by Bob Dylan as the ‘the greatest protest song ever written’,” says Bob Randle from Holy Hermits Online, as he reminisces on iconic music of the 1970s
One of the strongest memories I have of the 70s is of the Vietnam War. Thousands of young Australian men were drafted in the “Birthday Ballot”. My (now) brother-in-law Keith’s birth date was randomly drawn, so he was conscripted to work on choppers doing maintenance as a sparky.
The Vietnam War is known commonly as “The Living Room War”. Television brought the war into our homes daily for years, especially during evening programs. We saw both civilian and soldier causalities nightly on our screens.
As part of a world-wide campaign to end the Vietnam War, musicians wrote and released songs that rallied listeners. Many of these songs still do. John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ is a classic – it is often sung at big international charity events:
“You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one”
And, Jimmy Cliff’s ‘Vietnam’ was hailed by Bob Dylan as the “the greatest protest song ever written.” The lyrics are as simple as they are sad:
“It was just the next day his mother got a telegram
It was addressed from Vietnam
Now mistress Brown, she lives in the USA
And this is what she wrote and said
Don’t be alarmed, she told me the telegram said
Oh, but mistress Brown your son is dead”
‘Walk a Mile in my Shoes’ by American country singer Joe South continues to resonate with me. Its lyrics remind us that we cannot make judgements unless you have been there:
“If I could be you, if you could be me
For just one hour
If we could find a way
To get inside each other’s mind
If you could see you through my eyes
Instead of your ego
I believe you’d be
Surprised to see
That you’ve been blind”
The 70s are also well known for more upbeat songs, including disco and dance party music. Some of the most quintessential disco songs of this era include ‘Dancing Queen’ by Abba, ‘Stayin’ Alive’ by local band the Bee Gees, ‘I will survive’ by Gloria Gaynor and ‘You’re the One That I Want’ by the late Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta.
Pop songs with religious themes also featured in the 70s. These include Boney M’s ‘Rivers of Babylon’, South Australian nun Sister Janet Mead’s international rock hit cover of ‘The Lord’s Prayer’, and former Beatle George Harrisons’ ‘My Sweet Lord’. Some of the latter’s lyrics include:
“I really want to see you
Really want to be with you
Really want to see you, Lord
But it takes so long, my Lord”
Cat Stevens’ folk cover of the 1931 hymn ‘Morning has Broken’ was released 40 years after the original. In 2017 our three sons bough my wife Desley and I tickets to Cat Stevens’ 50th Anniversary Tour performance at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre. During the concert he spoke about how he was caught in a rip off Malibu in 1975 and fearing he would drown, he promised to devote his life to God if he survived. He did survive and then walked away from music for a long time, dedicating his time and resources to charitable and humanitarian endeavours. Many years later when his son brought home a guitar he found out about his dad’s former life as an internationally renowned singer-songwriter. Following this conversation, Cat Stevens (now known as Yusuf Islam) made a full return to the music industry in 2006.
Cat Stevens’ ‘Morning has Broken’ is among the 70s songs we have sung during Holy Hermits Online Sunday services.
The Holy Hermits Online (HHO) community meets on Sunday mornings for a service and on Wednesday nights for study. HHO members are encouraged to nominate songs for gatherings.
Holy Hermits Online is celebrating our second birthday on Sunday 11 September. We have chosen a 70s music theme for this Zoom event. We are encouraged to nominate faith music songs from the 70s for the event, which will also include games. People will be joining in online wearing 70s attire and bringing their favourite 70s foods.
Editor’s note: You are warmly invited to gather online via Zoom for the Holy Hermits Online second anniversary event on Sunday 25 September (event date postponed to 25/9) between 6 pm and 8 pm. Please visit the Holy Hermits Online website to register and to find out more.Jump to next article