Musical History


A Musical Teaching Aid

My songs are used as teaching aids by school systems in Germany and Sweden and by the Zinn Education Project in the US. This Exploring World History series here is my effort to put a couple hundred of my songs into context in a way that I hope is engaging for anyone interested in these subjects.

There’s no need to go in order here, but it works best if you do. The prose is not meant to stand alone – it is meant to complement the audio or video that follows, which the text is elaborating upon. Ideally, first you read the section beneath a headline, and then you click “play” and listen to the song.

At the end of each module there are thoughts and questions that might be asked about each section to further explore the subject at hand.


MODULE 1: Empires and Their Discontents
MODULE 2: Robber Barons, Refugees and Rebellions
MODULE 3: World War
MODULE 4: Hot Wars, Cold Wars and More Refugees
MODULE 5: Planet and People
MODULE 6: Civil Wars
MODULE 7: Copenhagen, Cologne, Caracas, California
MODULE 8: A Movement Grows
MODULE 9: Before and After 9/11
MODULE 10: Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, New Orleans
MODULE 11: The Latter Naughties


MODULE 12: 2010-11
MODULE 13: 2012-13
MODULE 14: 2014-15
MODULE 15: 2016-17

The 200 or so songs herein tell 200 or so stories – no more. There are many more worth telling. I always welcome suggestions. After you suggest a topic, my first question for you will be “do you have an idea for a hook line?”

Teachers, professors or anyone else willing to review this teaching aid are encouraged to do so anywhere you see fit, and tag me in the post please! Or just email 1-3 sentences to me describing in your own words why you think this is a useful resource.

For further discussion of the history and the songs, tune in to my YouTube channel on Monday mornings at 10 am Pacific Time throughout the winter, or check out the archived shows in the Musical History Teaching Aid playlist.

To discover more songs by other artists on many other topics, follow the Song News Network.

This resource is free for anyone to use, but if you’re able to support my work by joining my CSA I’d immensely appreciate it.

“David Rovics sings people’s history to life. His songs can be funny, poignant, or outrageous; but they never fail to inform and inspire. These provide a brilliant soundtrack for educators who seek to nurture students’ empathy — to bring them closer to the people whose lives we seek to illuminate in our classes. Now, Rovics has organized many of his songs into themed teaching modules, adding commentary and context. What a gift to educators everywhere.”

Bill Bigelow
Curriculum editor, Rethinking Schools
Co-director, Zinn Education Project

“I have always felt that David Rovics is a true heir to Woody Guthrie.  Like Woody, he has always been passionately committed to telling the buried histories of people’s struggles.  With this new resource, students of both American and global history — as well as current events — will gain a fresh and electrifying insight into the ongoing struggles for people’s justice.  David’s songs belong in the same restorative curricula as Howard Zinn’s histories — they walk hand in hand.  It is tempting to say that they are needed now more than ever; but in fact, they have always been needed.”

Will Kaufman
Professor of American Literature and Culture, University of Central Lancashire
Author of Woody Guthrie:  American Radical (University of Illinois Press)

“Musicians have long played important roles in documenting and transmitting stories of resistance and keeping hope alive. Now, David Rovics has created a great resource for educators through which to engage the power and visions of hidden histories and geographies of people’s struggles against injustice.  With songs that concern inconvenient truths about the state of the world, including the power of collective organizing by ordinary people and inspiring stories of solidarity, resistance and victories against oppression and exploitation, Rovics takes us down rich avenues of possibilities for critical inquiry, learning and action – and it couldn’t have come at a better time.”

Aziz Choudry,  Canada Research Chair in Social Movement Learning and Knowledge Production
Associate Professor, Integrated Studies in Education, McGill University, Montreal
Author of Learning activism: The intellectual life of contemporary social movements (University of Toronto Press)

“Some of the historical and current subjects are familiar; some are little known.  For all them, Rovics gives a short and illuminating background sketch. The stories are told with imagination and clarity… There are many treats here, and a lot of surprises.”

Victor Wallis, Professor of Liberal Arts, Berklee College of Music

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