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Popular Music Resources

What can lyrics tell us about the time period they were written in? How has music been used to communicate and rally in war? How have people used song to spark revolution and shake up society? Discover the ways in which people perform, listen to, and interact with music in their everyday lives.

Grade 5 Lesson
Learn how music was used in the Civil War
Grades 9-12 Lesson
Students will listen to "Guantanamera," a Cuban folk song made famous by Pete Seeger
Grades 3-4 Lesson
Learn how African-American spirituals shared information within the slave community
Grades 9-12 Lesson
Students research contemporary songs (alternative, country, metal, pop, rap, and rock music) to study current social issues
Grades 3-4 Lesson
Students will learn about the history behind the writing of “The Star-Spangled Banner”
Grades 6-8 Lesson
Learn about the courageous efforts of the Freedom Riders during the civil rights movement
Article
Explore music’s important role in the American Civil War. Includes activities for the classroom
Take Five
Incorporating music makes content lessons more exciting and memorable. And it's easy to do!
Article
How music gets inside your kid's head
Article
Family-friendly tips for preparing children for live performing arts events
Field Guide
Everything you need to know before you go to an arts event in a club setting
Field Guide
Everything you need to know before you go to an arts event in a festival-style setting
Connections
No matter how you say it or play it, music and language connect
Article
MCing and rapping get the mic
The Story Behind The Song
This hymn helped inspire the North in its fight to reunite the country and free African-American slaves
The Story Behind The Song
Humbled by the Great Depression, this song gave voice to Americans' fears and feelings of loss
The Story Behind The Song
In 1938, composer Irving Berlin dusted off an old piece of music to create a new national hit
The Story Behind The Song
This article gives you the stories behind the words—“From the Halls of Montezuma, To the shores of Tripoli”
The Story Behind The Song
In this story, find out how a captured poet penned the song that became the country’s national anthem
The Story Behind The Song
Folk singer Woody Guthrie celebrates America’s bounty and protests that not all Americans were getting their fair share
The Story Behind The Song
In this story, find out how a song helped steel the courage of African Americans as they struggled for civil rights
The Story Behind The Song
“Yankee Doodle” may be a popular kids’ tune today, but it got its start as a song of war.
Your Brain On Music
When songs get stuck... get stuck... get stuck... in our brains
Your Brain On Music
Putting the "sad" in sad songs
Your Brain On Music
Music that goes bump in the night
Your Brain On Music
The amazing sound system in the human brain helps explain why people everywhere fill their lives with music
Video Series
The band rocks the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage
Video Series
Learn about the beginnings of country music and its early innovators
Video Series
DJ Kuttin Kandi walks students through the history of DJing and shows them how to get started with the art of Turntablism
Audio Series
Explore Lincoln's love for theater and music, and the impact of music on his political campaign and presidency
Audio Series
The music of the Gulf Coast provides a microcosm of the cultural diversity and richness of the United States
Audio Series
This series explores the place of ceremonial, tactical and recreational music in the US military
Audio Series
Music and football are intertwined as we'll hear in this series, narrated by NFL Films composer Tom Hedden
Audio
There's music floating in Outer Space--two disks filled with songs that are floating out beyond the planets that are most distant to Earth
Website
A national youth campaign to inspire young people to share their art and expression by telling us "How have things changed?"
This Day in the Arts
January 03, 1987: Aretha Franklin is inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
This Day in the Arts
January 08, 1935: Elvis Presley is born in Tupelo, Mississippi
This Day in the Arts
January 16, 1938: The first jazz concert is performed at Carnegie Hall
This Day in the Arts
January 24, 1962: Brian Epstein becomes the manager of The Beatles
This Day in the Arts
February 02, 1940: Frank Sinatra makes his singing debut
This Day in the Arts
February 07, 1964: The Beatles arrive in the U.S.
This Day in the Arts
February 16, 1979: Saturday Night Fever wins a Grammy for Album of the Year
This Day in the Arts
February 22, 1956: Elvis Presley's first single hits No. 1
This Day in the Arts
February 23, 1940: Woody Guthrie writes “This Land is Your Land”
This Day in the Arts
February 26, 1932: Johnny Cash is born in Kingsland, Arkansas
This Day in the Arts
March 04, 1924: “Happy Birthday to You” is published
This Day in the Arts
March 08, 1892: Mississippi John Hurt is born in Teoc, Mississippi
This Day in the Arts
March 10, 1964: Simon and Garfunkel record “The Sounds of Silence"
This Day in the Arts
March 14, 1933: Quincy Jones is born in Chicago, Illinois
This Day in the Arts
March 25, 1942: Aretha Franklin is born in Memphis, Tennessee
This Day in the Arts
April 04, 1915: Muddy Waters is born in Jug’s Corner, Mississippi
This Day in the Arts
April 07, 1915: Billie Holiday is born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
This Day in the Arts
April 08, 1964: The Supremes finish recording their first No. 1 hit
This Day in the Arts
April 21, 1947: Iggy Pop is born in Muskegon, Michigan
This Day in the Arts
April 24, 1934: The pipeless organ is released to the public
This Day in the Arts
April 25, 1918: Ella Fitzgerald is born in Newport News, Virginia
This Day in the Arts
April 26, 1886: Ma Rainey is born in Columbus, Georgia
This Day in the Arts
April 28, 2003: The iTunes music store opens
This Day in the Arts
April 29, 1899: Duke Ellington is born in Washington, D.C.
This Day in the Arts
April 30, 1933: Willie Nelson is born in Abbott, Texas
This Day in the Arts
May 04, 1959: The first Grammy Awards® ceremony is held
This Day in the Arts
May 10, 1940: Daisuke Inouye is born in Osaka, Japan
This Day in the Arts
May 13, 1950: Stevie Wonder is born in Saginaw, Michigan
This Day in the Arts
May 16, 1983: Michael Jackson moonwalks
This Day in the Arts
May 17, 1846: Adolphe Sax patents the saxophone
This Day in the Arts
May 21, 1971: Marvin Gaye releases What’s Going On
This Day in the Arts
May 24, 1941: Bob Dylan is born in Duluth, Minnesota
This Day in the Arts
May 26, 1926: Miles Davis is born in Alton, Illinois
This Day in the Arts
June 03, 1969: Elton John releases his first album
This Day in the Arts
June 04, 1984: Bruce Springsteen releases Born in the U.S.A.
This Day in the Arts
June 05, 1956: Elvis Presley appears on The Milton Berle Show
This Day in the Arts
June 18, 1948: Columbia Records unveils the 33 1/3 long-playing (LP) record
This Day in the Arts
June 19, 1973: Smokey Robinson releases his first solo record
This Day in the Arts
July 01, 1979: The Sony Walkman is introduced
This Day in the Arts
July 08, 1922: Louis Armstrong moves to Chicago, Illinois to pursue music
This Day in the Arts
July 10, 1965: The Rolling Stones’ single “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” hits #1 on the charts
This Day in the Arts
July 20, 1940: Billboard publishes its first pop-music chart
This Day in the Arts
August 01, 1981: MTV goes on-air for the first time
This Day in the Arts
August 04, 1901: Louis Armstrong is born in New Orleans, Louisiana
This Day in the Arts
August 05, 1957: American Bandstand goes national
This Day in the Arts
August 07, 1971: The Bee Gees first hit number one on the U.S. charts
This Day in the Arts
August 08, 1907: Benny Carter is born in Harlem, New York
This Day in the Arts
August 11, 1999: KISS is awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
This Day in the Arts
August 16, 1958: Madonna is born in Bay City, Michigan
This Day in the Arts
August 18, 1969: Woodstock ends its three-day run near Woodstock, New York
This Day in the Arts
August 21, 1906: William “Count” Basie is born in Red Bank, New Jersey
This Day in the Arts
August 28, 1975: Aerosmith first releases “Walk This Way”
This Day in the Arts
August 29, 1920: Charlie Parker is born in Kansas City, Kansas
This Day in the Arts
September 02, 1995: The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum opens
This Day in the Arts
September 04, 2002: Kelly Clarkson wins the first season of American Idol
This Day in the Arts
September 06, 1925: Jimmy Reed is born in Dunleith, Mississippi
This Day in the Arts
September 07, 1937: Buddy Holly is born in Lubbock, Texas
This Day in the Arts
September 11, 1847: “Oh! Susanna!” is performed for the first time
This Day in the Arts
September 16, 1925: B.B. King is born in Itta Bena, Mississippi
This Day in the Arts
September 19, 1960: “The Twist” tops the charts
This Day in the Arts
October 01, 1982: Sony launches the first consumer CD player
This Day in the Arts
October 18, 1926: Chuck Berry is born in St. Louis, Missouri
This Day in the Arts
October 23, 2001: Apple debuts the iPod
This Day in the Arts
October 28, 1981: Metallica is founded
This Day in the Arts
October 29, 1962: The Beach Boys release their first record
This Day in the Arts
November 05, 1956: The Nat King Cole Show premieres on television
This Day in the Arts
Novmeber 09, 1967: The first issue of Rolling Stone is published
This Day in the Arts
November 16, 1873: W.C. Handy is born in Florence, Alabama
This Day in the Arts
Novmeber 20, 2007: Rock Band is released
This Day in the Arts
November 23, 1889: The jukebox debuts in San Francisco, California
This Day in the Arts
November 27, 1936: Robert Johnson records “Cross Road Blues”
This Day in the Arts
December 02, 1982: Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” music video is released
This Day in the Arts
December 04, 1927: Duke Ellington opens at the Cotton Club
This Day in the Arts
December 07, 2003: James Brown receives a Kennedy Center Honors Award
This Day in the Arts
December 08, 1925: Sammy Davis, Jr. is born in New York City
This Day in the Arts
December 11, 1916: Pérez Prado is born in Mantanzas, Cuba
This Day in the Arts
December 25, 1818: “Silent Night” is performed for the first time in Oberdorf, Austria
This Day in the Arts
December 26, 1946: Bugsy Siegel opens the Flamingo Hotel
This Day in the Arts
December 28, 1970: Loretta Lynn releases her album Coal Miner’s Daughter
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