I get frustrated sometimes with teaching. With history, I know a ton of professors who either want to discuss nothing but obscure details or bully their students (Ohio State, UIUC, I’m looking right at you). I know others who are ‘teachers’ in name only–ultimately, they are in the job for one of a few reasons.
- They had to do it in order to be the school basketball or football coach
- At the college level, it’s 15hrs of work/week and no need to grade much (or have grad students do the work for you) and you can cancel class pretty regularly
- Great pay at the college level
Anyways, that’s not the way to get through to students–whether adult or adolescent. Students want teachers who care, teachers who put effort into things. If they get that, they’re good with it being lecture-based, project-based, or whatever, and the more they see the teacher working on their behalf, the more effort they put in which (for me at least) makes me want to give more effort for them, a virtuous circle.
–For those who follow this because I coach, that’s important–put effort in and you’ll get it back in almost every instance! Just as important…consider why you coaching. Are you doing it for the right reasons?
In any event–there’s one thing everyone can agree on. In some form or another, we like music. I can’t stand country, but I know others who dislike rap or rock and others who think music died with Kurt Cobain’s suicide. The thing is–everyone has something they like…which means that if we can put things into music, we have a better chance of getting through. Maybe?
In any event, here’s a list of songs I could think of related to history in some fashion or another. There’s a comment section for the blog–if there are others you know of, please add to this. It’d be great to come up with a huge list that teachers could use/refer back to.
- Epic Rap Battles: Keynes v. Hayek–brilliant explanation of economic philosophy
- Epic Rap Battles: Keynes/Hayek, Rd. 2–not as good as the first, but still good!
- Monty Python: Philosopher’s Song
- Iron Maiden: Alexander the Great …hope you like Iron Maiden on this list…
- Monty Python: The Oliver Cromwell Song –not perfect history, but a good outline of the English Revolution and Oliver Cromwell, set to some Chopin.
- Tchaikovsky: 1812 Overture–pure music, but with a history of the Battle of Borodino in front of you, you should be able to follow the battle via the music, recognize things like the Imperial Guard and, of course, the Russian artillery
- The entire 1776 soundtrack. No, not perfectly accurate, but it gets the basics down.
- Schoolhouse Rock: Shot Heard ’round the World–the start of the American Revolution (so take your powder, take your gun–report to General Washington!)
- Schoolhouse Rock: No More Kings–The reasons for the American Revolution
- Johnny Horton: John Paul Jones
- Johnny Horton: The Battle of New Orleans
- Iron Maiden: The Trooper (literary bonus–it’s the story of the Charge of the Light Brigade)
- Marty Robbins: Ballad of the Alamo
US CIVIL WAR/RECONSTRUCTION:
- The Band: The Night They Drove Ol’ Dixie Down –from the perspective of a ‘little guy’ fighting for the Confederacy
- Johnny Horton: Battle of Bull Run
- Johnny Horton: Jim Bridger
WORLD WAR ONE:
- Dropkick Murphys: Green Fields of France
- Midnight Oil: Forgotten Years –Ignoring Great War veterans in their old age
- The Pogues: And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda –Battle of Gallipoli
- Joseph Mackenzie: Sgt. Mackenzie –WW1 West Front
- Iron Maiden: Paschendaele–just this one word was enough to stop British officers from ordering assaults later in World War Two.
WORLD WAR TWO:
- Al Stewart: Roads to Moscow –the story of a Russian soldier fighting Germany 1941-1945
- Woody Guthrie: Sinking of the Reuben James –about the sinking of a US destroyer before the US entered the war in Europe
- Woody Guthrie: Miss Pavlichenko –About a female Russian sniper with 300+ confirmed kills, recording during the war. Odd to hear a children’s choir in the background!
- Johnny Horton: Sink the Bismarck!–about the chase of the German battleship, Bismarck.
- Burl Ives: The Ballad of Rodger Young –Most famous now for it’s tag line used by Robert Heinlein: “Shines the name, shines the name of Rodger Young!”
- Iron Maiden: The Longest Day –about the D-Day invasion
- Iron Maiden: Tailgunner (Iron Maiden does SO many history related songs)
- Blue Oyster Cult: Me262 –German jets defending the US/UK bombing campaign
- Arlo Guthrie: Alice’s Restaurant Massacre (Woody or Arlo, they’ll give you a good read on America)
- Billy Joel: Goodnight, Saigon
- CCR: Fortunate Son–a timeless song regarding privilege and the idea ‘rich man’s war, poor man’s fight’
- CCR: Run thru the Jungle
- Bruce Springsteen: Born in the USA –a brother in a town doing poorly with a brother killed near Saigon
- Charlie Daniels Band: Still in Saigon–one of the first songs dealing with PTSD and ‘respect’ for Vietnam veterans
- Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young: Ohio–National Guard shootings at Kent State University
- Scott McKenzie: San Francisco–Flower power and Haight-Asbury
- Dion: Abraham, Martin, and John–framed around the assassinations of Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., and John F. Kennedy.
- John Fogerty: Summer of Love
- Kingston Trio: Where Have All the Flowers Gone?–a long-time classic of folk-rock done by a whole slew of performers and almost always associated with the Vietnam War.
- Paul Hardcastle: 19–One of the first post-Vietnam songs…odd because it is upbeat and synthesizer heavy…welcome to the ’80s.
- Sgt. Barry Sadler: Ballad of the Green Beret–Probably the only pro-military song to hit the charts during the era, making it an interesting counter-point, even if it does not in and of itself discuss real history at all.
A-BOMB/COLD WAR PROTESTS:
- Sting: Russians
- Nena: 99 Luftballons
- Iron Maiden: When the Wild Wind Blows
- Men at Work: It’s a Mistake
- Vera Lee: We’ll Meet Again–It’s use in Dr. Strangelove is important, so the choice of this clip is important. I wish Dr. Strangelove was more relatable to today’s generation, but I don’t think it carries the same ‘oomph’ it did 20-30-40 years ago.
- Scorpions: Winds of Change–pretty much every German on the planet knows the song. It is THE song associated with German reunification and the end of the Berlin Wall.
- Bob Dylan: Masters of War
- Black Sabbath: War Pigs
GENERAL SOCIAL MOVEMENTS/PROTESTS:
- Arlo Guthrie: City of New Orleans–the loss of importance of the railroads, the change in America through the middle of the 20th century (The City of New Orleans is back and running though).
- Pete Seeger: Little Boxes–written by Malvina Reynolds who hated seeing cheap, throwaway houses built everywhere post-WW2 and the compulsion of a generation towards uniformity.
- Bruce Springsteen: Streets of Philadelphia–AIDS and HIV awareness
- Jethro Tull: Farm is a Freeway–the end of small farming and its replacement with large corporations
- John Mellencamp: Rain on the Scarecrow–another 80s song about the loss of small farms and corporate/banking greed
- Pete Townshend: White City – A Novel–this is an entire album of metaphors and allegories about South African apartheid and the evil of segregation.
- Tay Zonday: Chocolate Rain–it’ll be one of the most discordant things you listen to…not easy to listen to/music is very repetitive.
- Ozomatli: Magnolia Soul –protest song about government handling of Hurricane Katrina
TREATMENT OF AMERICAN INDIANS/NATIVE POPULATIONS
- Iron Maiden: Run to the Hills (Yes, yes, more Iron Maiden….)
- Redbone: We Were All Wounded at Wounded Knee –Concerning the 1970s massacre
- Midnight Oil: The Dead Heart–a song about Australia’s Aboriginals
- Ted Nugent: The Great White Buffalo
- Baseball Project: Harvey Haddix–the perfect game that wasn’t
- Bowling for Soup: 1985 —ahh, the 80s!
- Billy Joel: We Didn’t Start the Fire–a list of key events of the post-WW2 world.
- Coolio: Gangsta’s Paradise–Perspective on gang culture, being trapped in a dead end
- David Bowie: Space Oddity–written for/inspired by the moon landings
- Peter Schilling: Major Tom–about space, an 80s take on Space Oddity–the ‘evolution’ of a concept
- Schoolhouse Rock: The Great American Melting Pot
- Gordon Lightfoot: Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald–the story of a ship wrecked by a storm in 1975.
- John Fogerty: I Saw It on TV–pre-dates “We Didn’t Start the Fire”…same concept
- Living Colour: Cult of Personality–there’s an unseen sad context/importance here. Living Colour’s members are all black. They struggled to be permitted to release a rock album. Think about that–rock began as an African-American form of music (just like rap) and then with the 1970s or so, blacks were marginalized from rock, so that I dare you to name any black rock band without googling them first from 1985 or so onwards. The same thing is happening to rap now, but at a slower pace.