Music has been around for centuries: As long as people have been getting fed up with the status quo, they’ve been singing about it. And because music styles, human emotions, and social issues are so wide-ranging, 80s songs are too.
It was the decade when the future began. Starbucks started selling coffee. The world learned about AIDS.
Nintendo introduced us to Mario. Computers went from the size of a car to fitting on your desk.
And, Music happened…… which changed the way people looked at the world.
The songs of 80s are obviously most famous but they also carry strong messages.
These messages remain relevant today as they were back then in 80s.
Not only did music highlight the problems of society but also challenged listeners, politicians and policy makers to address them.
U2 came with songs that underlined problems of the world and Ireland.
Phil Collins sung about state of homelessness in the U.S and failing of the American Dream.
Pet Shop Boys took a dig on the iron curtain, USSR.
While many other groups and singers tried to tackle problems of prostitution, poverty, drugs and AIDS.
AND, All this happened while music took its own course.
Going Backward or Forward?
Shuffle it and someone is likely to see how music made an agenda of everything.
“Midnight, our sons and daughters Cut down, taken from us Hear their heartbeat
We hear their heartbeat”- U2’s bold music coupled with Bono’s impeccable voice led to songs that underlined the confusion world had while fighting itself.
Songs like above mentioned, Mothers of the Disappeared talked about how many those who served in foreign lands were now disappeared.
While Cold War was at its peak, songs like ‘Ms. Sarajevo’ and ‘Where The Streets Have No Name’ talked about issues both at home in Ireland and around the world for U2.
One corner of the world was fighting each other; the other half was fighting for recognition.
The world had seemingly forgotten the apartheid issue in South Africa but music did not.
“Well Jo’anna she runs a country, She runs in Durban and the Transvaal, She makes a few of her people happy, oh she don’t care about the rest at all. She’s got a system they call apartheid”
Eddy Grant’s beautiful way of writing and composing ‘Gimme Hope Jo’anna’ was a subtle way of reminding the world about South Africa’s apartheid.
80s, while society criticised its government, people in a certain big bloc were being ruled with an iron fist.
“Life is peaceful there, (Go west) there in the open air. (Go west) where the skies are blue. (Go west) this is what we’re gonna do (Life is peaceful there)”
Telling people ruled with total dictatorship that life is peaceful in west; Pet Shop Boys’ ‘Go West’ challenged the Soviet Union by instilling a dreamland in the minds of people being suppressed.
Problems at Home and Abroad?
Music did not even stop at world events it also highlighted problems at home.
That sweet voice of Phil Collins in ‘Another Day in Paradise’ subtly mentioned homelessness in US and abroad.
“She calls out to the man on the street ‘Sir, can you help me? It’s cold and I’ve nowhere to sleep, is there somewhere you can tell me?”
This song not only highlighted homelessness but also made people aware of American Dream’s reality.
“Roxanne, You do not have to put on the red light. Those days are over. You do not have to sell your body to the night, Roxanne”
The masterclass of Sting and the Police tackled the problem of unregulated prostitution on the streets of US.
At the same time, AIDS, something new for everyone in the world was creating nuisance.
People in music industry took it onto themselves to help and stop the reach of the epidemic.
Boss Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Streets of Philadelphia’, “I was bruised and battered, I couldn’t tell what I felt. I was unrecognizable to myself. Saw my reflection in a window and didn’t know my own face. Oh brother are you gonna leave me wastin’ away .On the streets of Philadelphia” was one such songs that talked about AIDS.
Springsteen has never shied from raising his voice both in songs and in personal life.
While poverty, drugs, money and terrorism gripped the growth of society, music expressed them in best possible way.
Pet Shop Boys’ Rent, Lionel Richie’s Penny Lover, U2’s Sunday Bloody Sunday and Mr. Mister’s Broken Wings were some great 80s song that addressed problems like these.
It is believed that music heals even the greatest wounds, it definitely cured many problems of the 80s while passing on the mantle of solving other problems onto 90s music.
“Music will always find its way to us, with or without business, politics, religion, or any other bullshit attached”-Eric Clapton
WITH INPUTS FROM VANDANA, RAJESH and LIKSHA MANSUKHANI