Posted by Angelo Lopez on February 14, 2015
I wrote a previous blog about socially conscious music from the 1980s, and thought I'd make another blog about some of my favorite music from that era. I remember it as being a very politically charged time, with many musicians and artists reacting against the conservative politics of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. On a personal level I thought Ronald Reagan was a very kind and gracious man. He was able to make friendships with people irregardless of political affiliation and he got along well with liberals like Tip O' Neill and Ted Kennedy. Reagan's politics however, did great damage to the poor and the blue-collar working class. Many people remember the Reagan economic recovery of the mid 1980s, but people forget that the Reagan recovery was fueled by those industries that benefitted from the increase in military spending that was part of Reagan's strategy to force the Soviet Union into an arms race that the Soviets couldn't afford. Reagan's economic policies were devastating especially to the inner city and the rural farming communities. Both communities had struggled from larger economic trends that started in the 1970s due to the transition to a more globalized economy, and Reagan's free market policies exacerbated the problems in the inner cities and the farming communities. Both the inner cities and the farm communities suffered from unemployment problems, poor schools, high crime and drug problems. Cocaine devastated the inner cities and the number of homeless people skyrocketed as funds for the federal safety net were cut. The gay community was also devastated by the AIDS crisis, as social conservatives demonized AIDS victims. Reagan's efforts to fund right wing governments in Latin America destabilized the area and led to a cycle of violence that spurred residents to try to escape and fueled an illegal immigration problem that we are still dealing with.
Musicians in the 1980s were affected by all these things going on. They wrote songs to try to make sense of all these things and to express the anxieties and struggles that we were all going through at the time.