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"Uncle Sam's Got Himself in a Terrible Jam": Protest Music and the Vietnam War

In this activity students analyze the lyrics to a popular Vietnam War protest song and discuss how music can be used to motivate people and for protest. Then students will create a new stanza for the protest song "I-Feel-Like-I'm Fixin'-To-Die Rag."

Objectives

  • Students will analyze the lyrics of a protest song to determine attitudes about the Vietnam War.

  • Students will evaluate the power of music to motivate people and to protest.  

  • Students will create an original stanza of a Vietnam War protest song.  

Instructions

Step 1: Play the song "I -Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-To-Die Rag" by Country Joe MacDonald and have students follow along on a copy of the lyrics.

Step 2:  Ask students to describe what feeling(s) the musician was trying to express in the song they just listened to. Lead students in a discussion of how music can motivate and inspire people, using the example of the song they just listened to. Through discussion elicit that music can be a method of protest.  

Step 3: Divide students into small groups. Assign each group a different stanza of the song. Have them analyze the lyrics of the song. 

  • What "problem" or facet of the Vietnam War is the musician referencing?

(Optional) Have each group report back to the class with their analysis of the stanza they were assigned.

Step 4: Ask students to develop a list of words which are relevant to protests (fight, change, action, etc.).  Students can use words they see in the song lyrics.  Tell them they will use these words in the next step. 

Step 5: Working in their groups, students should write a new stanza for Country Joe's song.  

Source | American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning, 2009.
Creator | American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning
Rights | Copyright American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Item Type | Teaching Activity
Cite This document | American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning, “"Uncle Sam's Got Himself in a Terrible Jam": Protest Music and the Vietnam War,” HERB: Resources for Teachers, accessed December 11, 2018, https://herb.ashp.cuny.edu/items/show/1438.

Materials for this Activity

"I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-to-Die-Rag"

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