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November 11, 2023

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Cory Franklin

It is arguable that Eve of Destruction, written by P.F.Sloan and sung there by Barry McGuire (that's him in the lead on Green, Green by the New Christy Minstrels three years before), is the most influential of all rock songs.
"You're old enough to kill but not for voting" was the line that prompted the country to lower the voting age to 18, with all the ramification that entailed. No Dylan or Beatles song had that much effect.

Steve L.

Thanks for the comment, Cory. "Eve of Destruction" was probably the first Top 40 anti-war song of the Viet Nam era -- and certainly the first to reach the top of the Hot 100. Barry Sadler's pro-war "Ballad of the Green Beret" reached number 1 the following year.

I think it is a bit of an overstatement to say that "Eve of Destruction" prompted the 26th Amendment. It's more accurate to say that it popularized a slogan that had been around for a while.

According to the website for Jennifer Frost's "Let Us Vote" (NYU Press, 2022):

“'Let Us Vote!' tells the story of the multifaceted endeavor to achieve youth voting rights in the United States. Over a thirty-year period starting during World War II, Americans, old and young, Democrat and Republican, in politics and culture, built a movement for the 26th Amendment to the US Constitution, which lowered the voting age from twenty-one to eighteen in 1971. This was the last time that the United States significantly expanded voting rights." https://nyupress.org/9781479811328/let-us-vote/

Cory Franklin

Steve, might be a bit of an overstatement and I don't know Jennifer Frost's book, but consider the context. The song was written in 1964 before the Gulf of Tonkin and came out in 1965 right before the first big call-up. I wasn't that old but I don't remember any sloganeering or a major push for 18 year old vote before that. Having the #1 song, which was also banned in many places, contemporaneous with the first major casualties of the war can not be undersold in the push for the 26th Amendment, which still did not occur for another six years.

Steve L.

I am about five years older than you, Cory, and I am quite certain there was agitation around the disparity between draft age and voting age before P.F. Sloan put it to music. I mean, where did he get the idea? He wasn't otherwise a noted political activist. Music is usually a trailing indicator -- reporting what's happening rather than predicting it -- so that's the likely pathway here.

As to the context, well, that's coincidence but not causation. And it's hard to imagine that a song -- yes, number one, but only for a few weeks -- had a meaningful impact six years later.

But I will say that as a teenager steeped in the anti-war movement, it was revelatory to hear a song about it on the radio. It really confirmed that there could be a popular movement against the war.(There were other anti-war songs, of course, but none had gotten airplay on Top 40 stations.)

And let's not forget the tragically prescient following line: "Even the Jordan River has bodies floatin'." That was two years before the Six-Day War, let alone all of the wars that followed.

Hugh

This white boots look a lot better on Ms. Riley than they do on the Governor of Florida.

Pete W.

Per SNL, the Village People threatened legal action over Trump's use of YMCA. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vLk-dxZyp1Q

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