Friday, 5 February 2010

Protest Song in East and West Germany Since the 1960s

Edited by David Robb

The Fifth Burg Waldeck Festival: "Lied 68"

The focus of the 1968 festival, held from 12 to 17 June 1968, was the American protest song rather than the French chanson. The festival's new director Rolf Gekeler had visited the Newport Folk Festival in the USA in 1967 and booked the prominent singers Phil Ochs, Odetta, and Guy Carawan for Waldeck. The festival, with its fifty-one artists, eight speakers, and its neutral slogan "Lied 68" was planned according to the model of the previous years. However, as a result of the shooting of Rudi Dutschke in April and the May unrest in France it took a different course. As soon as the festival started there began to be disruptions of concerts of singers whose songs were perceived as not sufficiently political. Reinhard Mey and Hanns Dieter Husch were the first two victims. Their performances were disrupted by catcalls and other distractions by the audience. Instead of being allowed to sing, they were forced -- in the style of a Maoist People's Court -- to sit on the stage and provide justifications for their texts. The agitators were mostly members of the SDS and pupils of the Aktionszentrum Unabhangiger und Sozialistischer Shuler (AUSS). They did not agree with the festival concept and believed that the participating artists should be more clearly in line with the APO's political agenda and that their songs should reflect this. On Saturday afternoon a meeting was called for AUSS and SDS members and sympathizers. An action group (Basisgruppe Waldeck-Festival) was formed, and promptly came up with a theory on the role of the chanson in the song movement, criticizing the unpolitical stance of the festival organizers and the commercialization and lack of political relevance of the festival. The action group believed that the festival had turned into a meeting place for "singende Fachidioten." Its theories were disseminated in a leaflet that also called for Franz Josef Degenhardt's main concert on Saturday evening to be changed to a "teach-in." During the occupation of the stage, red flags and Vietcong flags were waved and the theories of the leaflet read out over the microphone. This culminated in the slogan: "Stellt die Gitarren in die Ecke und diskutiert."


Despite these controversies, the focus of public attention at the festival was the American political singers Carawan, Odetta, and Ochs. Their concerts were not interrupted and were immensely popular.

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