Peace Songs of the 1960s

January 2018
Cover Image, Peace Songs of the 1960s, Photo of War Protesters

By Ronald D. Cohen
This article was originally published in
Smithsonian Folkways Magazine. The full article can be read by clicking here.

Peace songs have never had a popular following in the United States, except during particular times and for specific reasons. Despite this, they managed to make slow but steady progress during the early sixties, before peaking later in the decade.

While there was initially no visible hot war—Korea was in the past and Southeast Asia barely on the radar—the “military-industrial” (and political) complex, as President Dwight Eisenhower had warned, remained quite active and in control. Peace songs, old and new, continued to surface, often appearing in the older Sing Out! and the newer Broadside magazine. Indeed, the cover of Sing Out!’s first issue in 1950 featured Pete Seeger and Lee Hays’s “The Hammer Song,” which would long serve as a popular peace song, particularly after Peter, Paul, and Mary’s recording in 1962.

Folk music was usually given credit for being more political than rock ‘n’ roll. Continue reading...