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Tension Through Melodies: Music of the Cold War

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Baruch College

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  1. Introduction
  2. His recital of the history of the Cold War
  3. Songs written during the uncertain times of the Cold War
  4. 99 Red Balloons by Nena
  5. Conclusion

Music serves as a reflection of a society. When a society is prospering, the music is noticeably happier, such as the Big Band phenomenon in the roaring 20's. The same principle applies to a society going through rough times, such as jazz during the years of the Great Depression. The Cold War Years in America were filled with fear and tension. The two superpowers of the world, the United States and the U.S.S.R., were in a rivalry of epic proportions. This paper will explore how popular music during the Cold War mirrored the fears and anxieties of the American public by exploring and analyzing the songs of various influential artists, including Billy Joel, Prince, the Beatles, and Nena.

[...] This began to build the tensions that were the fuel for the Cold War fire. To further show the instability of the time, Joel continues his list of important figures and events. By this point in the song it is clear that the Cold War is on. Joel incorporates the Rosenbergs and the H-Bomb. Both of these events caused an increase in the tension of the two countries and that of the public. The Rosenbergs were American citizens who were tried as communist traitors, for giving United States secrets to the Soviet Union. [...]

[...] When the Cold War ended with the collapse of Soviet Union in 1991, the music of the time changed drastically. At this point, there was no more reason to write songs about the apocalypse and constant fear, since the biggest enemy had been ?defeated? (Shnader). The mood of the country changed drastically and at the same time, new genres of music were debuting. These new bands of America did not have the same fears. Many were focusing on creating a new sound and affecting new social issues. [...]

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