33 Revolutions Per Minute

33 Revolutions Per Minute by Dorian Lynskey (2010) 

indexDorian Lynskey’s 33 Revolutions Per Minute: A History of Protest Songs takes a close look at the context, history, and reception of 33 protest songs spanning from the 1930’s to 2008. Lynskey begins with the oft-repeated assertion that protest songs are waning in contemporary pop culture and questions where they’ve gone. By exploring such songs as Nina Simone’s “Mississippi Goddamn,” Green Day’s “American Idiot,” and Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power,” this text provides exploration of a range of historical topics from specific historical incidents to general moods of a generation.

Why This Text Works

While very long (500+ pages), the individual chapters are self-contained enough to allow for an intentional selection of readings. Each chapter contains some historical context, explanation of the song’s impact, and connection to other events at the time. Most of the topics are universal enough to have clear connections to modern day issues and events, and this gives students a lot of opportunity to pull in personal experience and familiar songs and discussions that are more contemporary. It is particularly useful at demonstrating the kind of expository writing that students will encounter in future literature, journalism, history, and sociology classes. There are also lots of ways to interact with the text through writing, allowing for a range of assignments that ask students to summarize, reflect, analyze, and argue.


Sample Syllabus



“33 Revolutions Per Minute Review” by Thomas Jones– This review highlights the way the book’s own reflection mimics the pattern repeatedly demonstrated by the musicians highlighted: they start with high hopes of changing the world and end with disillusionment.

“People are Calling for a Beyonce Boycott“- This Business Insider article looks at calls for a boycott following Beyonce’s Super Bowl performance.

“Beyonce’s Formation is Her Best Thing Yet“- This blog post praises Beyonce’s performance and song as a piece of black activism.

“The Improbable Story of How Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Alright’ Became a Protest Anthem“- This post examines Kendrick Lamar’s complicated relationship to the Black Lives Matter movement and shows a clip of his song being sung spontaneously as a police interaction ended without violence.

“Grammy’s 2016: Watch Kendrick Lamar’s Stunning Performance“- This quick post includes a video of Lamar’s performance and some context for his album and Grammy wins.

“Blaxploitation’s Baadasssss History“- This article from The Root examines the history and mixed reactions to Blaxploitation films. (Chapter 11)

“Bill Clinton’s Argument with Black Lives Matter Protesters is 2016’s Sister Souljah Moment“- The Washington Post explores parallels between Bill Clinton’s 2016 comments and the ones he made about Sister Souljah in 1992. (Chapter 27)

“Tweeting Ferguson: How Social Media Can (and Cannot) Facilitate Protest“- This article examines the role of social media in protest culture.

“The Return of the Protest Song“- This Atlantic article is a great companion piece to Lynskey’s conclusion that protest songs are going extinct as it argues that there is a resurgence.


The Dust Bowl/Woody Guthrie: Okies– This PBS clip helps explain the impact of the Dust Bowl and gives context for the chapter on Woody Guthrie and the persona he adopted to perform. (Chapter 2)

What Happened, Miss Simone? (Official Trailer)– This trailer for the Netflix documentary provides some background on Nina Simone’s rise to stardom and struggles with her place in protest culture. (Chapter 5)

Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song (Trailer)– This is the trailer for Martin van Peeble’s Blaxploitation film that is mentioned in the book. (Chapter 11)

What Caused the Stonewall Riots?– This video gives a quick overview of the Stonewall Riots and the events leading up to them. (Chapter 17)

Brixton Uprising 1981-2011– This video gives a quick overview of the Brixton Riots and the context surrounding them. (Chapter 18)

Apartheid Explained– This video gives a general overview of Apartheid and Nelson Mandela’s involvement in ending it. (Chapter 24)

Mandela-The Rebel– This video gives some background on Mandela’s early and more radical years. (Chapter 24)

GRRRL Documentary Excerpt– This video gives some background and context about the Riot GRRRL movement and the challenges it faced. (Chapter 28)


Spotify “Protest” Playlist– This playlist has all of the songs from the book’s title chapters that were available on Spotify as well as some of the songs mentioned in text.

Quick Ideas

Quick Ideas Coming Soon

Instructor Reflections

What Worked and What Didn’t“- Michelle Parrinello-Cason reflects on lessons learned from the first semester of teaching with this text.

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