The years 1965 – 1971 were tumultuous ones at the University of Iowa. Student protests against the Vietnam War, racial and sexist discrimination, University complicity in the war effort, and police brutality wracked campus. Simultaneously, an avant-garde community of artists, writers, and musicians created a sub-society of free expression and creative opposition to mainstream values and practices. The music of the era - written, produced, performed, and recorded by both local and national artists - was pivotal in creating and circulating the rhetoric of Iowa student protest to its supporters.
In order to find where music and student protest converged, I conducted several oral interviews with musicians and artists who were active in the protest movement at that time. I studied the events of student protest at the University of Iowa Special Collections, and traced medias such as pamphlets, newspapers, and documentaries to capture how the events unfolded. I also delved into underground papers Middle Earth and the Iowa City Oppressed Citizen, which published student voice in support of the protests. Several of their publications reference music and lyrics in direct line with their ideology.
My research found that student protest at the University of Iowa largely reflected the practices and trends of student protests across the country. In this way, my research is a case study of music and student ideology from 1965 – 1971 in a specific community and university setting. Students at Iowa created a grassroots movement of protest and support that was fueled by folk music and collective identity. However, as national events unfolded, the student movement at the University of Iowa split into different camps: one committed to civil disobedience, and the other committed to confrontations with University and local authority. As the protest movement shifted, the music that was written and consumed in Iowa City shifted as well. The militant, experimental genres of Blues and Psychedelic shaped student voice into the early 1970’s. When the two camps of student protest at Iowa ultimately destroyed one another, the musicians and artists that fueled the movement “dropped out” of society. Nonetheless, the spirit of student ideology still exists in their music which can still be heard today.
music, student protest, University of Iowa, Iowa
Copyright © 2016 Taylor Finch
Finch, Taylor (2016) ""Powerless, With a Guitar": Music and Student Protest at the University of Iowa: 1965-1971," Iowa Historical Review: Vol. 6: Iss. 1: 7-64. https://doi.org/10.17077/2373-1842.1033