6 Things We Learned At The GRAMMY Museum's 'Songs Of Conscience, Sounds Of Freedom' Exhibit
John Mellencamp's Gibson Dove Acoustic Guitar

Photo: Josh Giroux


6 Things We Learned At The GRAMMY Museum's 'Songs Of Conscience, Sounds Of Freedom' Exhibit

'Songs Of Conscience, Sounds Of Freedom' returns after debuting as the first exhibition at the GRAMMY Museum’s opening in 2008, offering a deep dive into America’s long history of musical rebellion

GRAMMYs/Jan 24, 2022 - 03:23 pm

The Songs Of Conscience, Sounds Of Freedom exhibit opened Jan. 15 at the GRAMMY Museum in Los Angeles and is an inspiring must-see for music lovers of all ages. Covering over 250 years of American musical activism, the exhibit showcases songwriters and performers, including many under-sung heroes, who pushed culture and social justice forward through music.

Songs Of Conscience, Sounds Of Freedom was the debut exhibition at the then-brand new GRAMMY Museum in 2008. The 2022 edition offers a new section celebrating LGBTQIA+ and Black Lives Matter anthems, along with an expanded exploration into The Sounds of Los Angeles, an in-depth look at the city's musical activism from the '60s to today.

The current exhibit features a plethora of exciting memorabilia including handwritten lyrics, guitars and concert posters. There are a sizable number of video performances on view in the Clive Davis Theater, including eight moving GRAMMY performances of socially poignant songs. While perusing the exhibit, you'll hear a raucous playlist of songs featured in the exhibit, from H.E.R. and N.W.A to Bob Dylan.

Read on to get a taste of what you'll learn at this important, timely exhibit:

Socially Conscious Anthems Began Before The Country’s Founding

Before the United States of America was established in 1776, American songwriters wrote and sang songs against British colonial rule. Using traditional drinking, folk and military marching melodies, these songs flipped known lyrics for political statements. Everyday townspeople also took to the pen in this anti-British musical fervor, writing and printing their own lyrics — known as "broadsides" — and selling them on street corners. The earliest song cited at the exhibit, teacher Peter St. John's "American Taxation," protested the 1765 Stamp Act and was sung to the tune of the English marching song "The British Grenadiers."

Anti-War And Abolitionist Music Had Far-Reaching Influence

After the American Revolution, music protesting the Civil War, as well as anti-slavery songs by abolitionist composers, were popular throughout the country. A vital part of American musical history are the spirituals sung by enslaved peoples, which were coded with messages of freedom and liberation. These songs became the roots of many blues songs, which later influenced R&B and rock ‘n’ roll.

The well-known song "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" is a Black spiritual often credited to Wallace Willis, a freed slave born in Mississippi. First recorded by the Fisk University (a Nashville HBCU) Jubilee Quartet in 1909, the song inspired Black choral ensembles across the country and internationally to perform renditions of spirituals. The enduring power of these spirituals would be utilized a century later during the Civil Rights Movement by gospel artists like Mahalia Jackson.

Related: From Aretha Franklin To Public Enemy, Here's How Artists Have Amplified Social Justice Movements Through Music

Odetta Was The Queen Of American Folk Music

Odetta — a Black woman born in Birmingham, Ala. in 1930 — inspired countless fellow folk singers, including Joan Baez and Bob Dylan, as well as Janis Joplin and Tracy Chapman. She was known as the "voice of the Civil Rights movement," and, as Martin Luther King, Jr. called her, the "queen Of American folk music." She performed at countless Civil Rights events, including the March on Washington in 1963.

When the momentum of the Civil Rights movement slowed following King’s assasination, the spotlight also shifted away from Odetta. Yet she never stopped performing and using her music to fight oppression and effect change. Odetta remained active until her passing in 2008 and her guitar, "Baby," (as well as its unicorn stickered case) is on display in the exhibit.

A Supergroup Stood Up Against Apartheid Through Song

In 1985, E Street Band member Steven Van Zandt gathered together a stellar cast of rock, rap, country and pop musicians to record "Sun City" as Artists United Against Apartheid. On display are Melle Mel’s hand-written lyrics from his "Sun City" verse and Van Zandt's electric guitar, next to a visually captivating music video.

The catchy, synthy song called out the injustice of South Africa’s apartheid government and was a vow by the artists — which also included Bono, Bruce Springsteen, Bonnie Raitt, Run-D.M.C., Pat Benatar and Peter Gabriel — to not perform at the Sun City luxury resort in South Africa, which was luring in global superstars with high fees despite the cultural boycott.

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the U.N.'s Universal Declaration of Human Rights three years later, some of these same artists took part in multi-continent tours to encourage continued support for human rights.

The Father Of Chicano Rap, Frost, Was Signed To Eazy-E's Ruthless Records

When we think of major movements in L.A.'s musical history, the '80s and '90s West Coast rap of N.W.A, Snoop Dogg, 2Pac and others immediately comes to mind. Yet, just miles away from the powerful street lyricists of South Central, were a group of Latino rappers in East L.A. creating Chicano anthems.

Frost (formerly Kid Frost, born Arturo Molina Jr.) is known as the father of Chicano rap, creating punchy bars in Spanish and English. His first solo single, 1984's "Rough Cut," was produced by N.W.A's DJ Yella, and he'd later become the first Latino artist to sign with Ruthless Records.

In 1990, Frost dropped his debut album, Hispanic Causing Panic, which included the hit single "La Raza." That essential song is cited as one the first Latin hip-hop songs to go mainstream and sampled El Chicano's 1970 track "Viva Tirado," directly nodding to the earlier Chicano rock movement. Always one for building bridges, Frost created the Latin Alliance in 1989, a collective featuring Latino rappers and producers from East L.A., Cuba, New York, Puerto Rico and beyond.

Los Angeles Has Always Been A Hotbed For Political Music

The public image of L.A. is often limited to its miles of beaches, palm tree-lined streets, crowded highways and the neon glitz of Hollywood. But the reality of life in the City of Angels is often far from a beachy V.I.P. daydream, and many L.A.-based artists have offered a glimpse of that reality.

Just as we saw the connection between South Central and eastside rappers, and the Chicano rock and rap movements, the exhibit details contemporary, ongoing activism by artists of color. These artists address systemic oppression in their neighborhoods and beyond, writing songs that reflect upon historic moments such as the 1965 Watts Rebellion and the Los Angeles Uprising in 1992.

“If you look at our community's history, there have been so many historical events that have sparked and inspired the formation of socially conscious music. So that’s why we really wanted to add the Sounds Of L.A. section in,” Nicholas Vega, GRAMMY Museum’s Curator and Director of Exhibitions, told

Exemplifying this intersection are the Compton Cowboys, who run one of the few remaining Black-owned ranches in America. The debut single from cowboy Randy Savvy, "COLORBLIND," was mixed by Compton legend Dr. Dre and released in 2020.  Addressing violence and trauma in Savvy’s community, “COLORBLIND’ became an anthem during Black Lives Matter protests — which the cowboys attended on horseback.

“We look at specific events — everything from the Watts Riots/Uprising to the Chicano Movement to the 1992 Riots/Uprising — but we also look at these ongoing issues that for decades have plagued our city; gang violence, police brutality, economic disparity and poverty,” Vega continued. “So it was the perfect fit to bring this exhibition back here to L.A. and really highlight the music and the artistry.”

Songs of Conscience, Sounds of Freedom runs until May 8 at the GRAMMY Museum. Other special exhibits currently on display are Para Siempre: Marco Antonio Solís through spring 2022), Dave Matthews Band: Inside And Out (until Jan. 31) and Nat King Cole (closing soon). Visit to purchase advance tickets to visit the GRAMMY Museum and learn about their COVID-19 safety protocol measures.

Fight The Power: 11 Powerful Protest Songs Advocating For Racial Justice

The GRAMMY Museum Announces 'Shakira, Shakira: The GRAMMY Museum Experience,' Honoring Her Creative Legacy; Opening March 2023
Shakira performs at Super Bowl LIV in 2020

Photo: Focus On Sport / Contributor / Getty Images


The GRAMMY Museum Announces 'Shakira, Shakira: The GRAMMY Museum Experience,' Honoring Her Creative Legacy; Opening March 2023

To showcase Shakira's enduring career, the GRAMMY Museum presents 'Shakira, Shakira: The GRAMMY Museum Experience,' opening on Saturday, March 4, as part of the Museum's permanent Latin Music Gallery

GRAMMYs/Jan 26, 2023 - 03:20 pm

On Saturday, March 4, The GRAMMY Museum will open Shakira, Shakira: The GRAMMY Museum Experience, showcasing Shakira's enduring creative legacy spanning more than three decades as a singer, songwriter, producer, dancer, visual artist, philanthropist, and global icon.

Visitors can see the exhibit on display in downtown Los Angeles at the Museum's permanent Latin Music Gallery.

A multi-GRAMMY-winning and Latin GRAMMY Award-winning artist, Shakira has sold more than 85 million records worldwide and has won numerous awards in addition to those from the Recording Academy. Her albums and releases consistently break records, and she is the most-viewed and -streamed Latin female artist of all time on YouTube and Spotify. She was also honored as the Latin Recording Academy’s Person of the Year in 2011 for her artistic achievements in the Latin music industry as well as their humanitarian efforts.

"It's an honor to have the journey of my career displayed at the GRAMMY Museum," Shakira said in a statement. "These pieces are a testament to so many indelible moments that I cherish, and I'm so happy to be able to relive these memories with those who have and continue to support me as an artist."

Shakira, Shakira explores the artist's musical evolution, from her origins as a Latin rock-loving singer/songwriter in Barranquilla, Colombia, to a global superstar whose catalog spans multiple genres, from bhangra and bachata to rock and reggaetón.

Read More: 2023 GRAMMYs Performers Announced: Bad Bunny, Lizzo, Sam Smith, Steve Lacy, Mary J. Blige & More Confirmed

Early in her career, Shakira began fusing elements of her ethnicities and multicultural roots to construct a richly layered sonic universe that allowed her to grow as a creator while appealing to a worldwide audience. Partly by incorporating her Lebanese heritage on her father's side — along with Arabic dancing and the mainstream pop rock that she grew up with — she achieved international crossover success and broke boundaries for Latin artists.

To deepen visitors' appreciation and understanding of how these cultural elements have shaped every aspect of her songs, music videos, performances, and world tours, the first museum exhibit about Shakira features interactive features that provide fresh insights into her creative process.

It also includes a songwriting notebook with handwritten lyrics from her personal archive along with 40 other artifacts, acoustic and Swarovski-studded electric guitars, iconic outfits from her performances and album covers, three original films, and an immersive space that draws inspiration from her El Dorado tour.

Highlights from the Shakira, Shakira: The GRAMMY Museum Experience include:

  • Forty artifacts from Shakira’s personal archive

  • Shakira’s two 2020 Super Bowl LIV outfits (one red, one gold) and her Gibson Firebird electric guitar, covered with 70,000 black Swarovski crystals

  • Taylor acoustic guitar that Shakira uses for songwriting

  • Fender Stratocaster, covered with pink Swarovski crystals, that Shakira played on her Oral Fixation tour (2006-2007)

  • Gold Yamaha Revstar electric guitar Shakira played on her 2018 El Dorado tour

  • Iconic outfits from Shakira’s 2018 El Dorado tour

  • Leaf-covered bikini Shakira wore on the cover of her 2005 album, Oral Fixation, Vol. 2

  • Songwriting notebook with handwritten lyrics

  • And more!

This announcement comes on the heels of Shakira's latest release with Argentinian producer and DJ Bizarrap, "SHAKIRA || BZRP Music Sessions #53," which has made history in its own way. With the most streams in a single day for a Spanish-language song, it raked in more than 14 million streams in the first 24 hours and became the fastest Latin song to reach 100 million streams. Another historic moment for Shakira, the song debuted at #9 on the Billboard Hot 100, making her the first solo woman to reach the Top 10 on the chart with a song recorded in Spanish. She has also broken the all-time record for most monthly listeners for a Latin artist in Spotify history. The video amassed 160 million views on YouTube in the first week. 

"Shakira is the rare superstar who has discovered a way to keep evolving as an artist while growing her expansive audience along with her," said Jasen Emmons, Chief Curator & Vice President of Curatorial Affairs at the GRAMMY Museum. "She's a serious student of music, and the GRAMMY Museum is excited to offer a dynamic exhibit that reflects her intelligence and artistry."

The GRAMMY Museum Announces Official GRAMMY Week 2023 Programming Schedule

The GRAMMY Museum Announces Official GRAMMY Week 2023 Programming Schedule
(L-R): Merck Mercuriadis, Nile Rodgers and THE-DREAM

Photo: Jill Furmonvsky; courtesy of THE-DREAM


The GRAMMY Museum Announces Official GRAMMY Week 2023 Programming Schedule

Join in on the GRAMMY Museum's GRAMMY Week 2023 education programs and panels ahead of Music's Biggest Night. Here's the lineup for the upcoming, can't-miss events from Jan. 30 - Feb. 3.

GRAMMYs/Jan 23, 2023 - 02:00 pm

With the 2023 GRAMMYs just around the corner, the GRAMMY Museum has announced its official GRAMMY Week 2023 programming schedule ahead of GRAMMY Sunday.

Flush with unique education and community engagement programs, the events offer conversations, live performances and exclusive content from GRAMMY Award-winning and -nominated musicians and industry professionals. From panels discussing what it takes to have a career in the music industry to a celebration of GRAMMY nominee Muni Long, you won't want to miss the GRAMMY Museum’s GRAMMY Week programming.

Join in on these GRAMMY Week festivities from Monday, Jan. 30, to Friday, Feb. 3, with the full lineup as listed below.

Watch the 2023 GRAMMYs, officially known as the 65th GRAMMY Awards, on Sunday, Feb. 5, live on the CBS Television Network and live and on-demand on Paramount+ at 8-11:30 p.m. ET/5-8:30 p.m. PT.

Mon, Jan. 30:

EVENT: Careers in Music: Music Producers Panel with Isla Management

WHAT: A conversation with GRAMMY® Award-winning and -nominated producers Boi-1da, Jahaan Sweet, Sevn Thomas, Leon Thomas, and Isla Management Founder and Manager Simon Gebrelul on the creative process, working with artists, and what it takes to have a career in the music industry as a music producer.

WHEN: 11 a.m. – 12 p.m.

REGISTER: Click here.

EVENT: Careers in Music: Latin Music Panel

WHAT: A conversation celebrating the culture and impact of Latin Music with singer-songwriter, Gaby Moreno, Vice President of Latin Division at Peermusic, Yvonne Drazan, and Founder and President of Cosmica Records, Gil Gastelum.

WHEN: 1 p.m. – 2 p.m.

REGISTER: Click here.

Tues, Jan. 31:

EVENT: Backstage Pass: Global Music Panel

WHAT: A conversation celebrating music from around the world with GRAMMY-nominated artist Zakes Bantwini, CEO of Creative Agency GridWorldwide Adam Byars, TV/Radio personality and entrepreneur Anele Mdoda, Talent Manager and Music/Entertainment Executive Sibo Mhlungu, and Entrepreneur CEO & Founder of Bathu Sneakers Theo Baloyi. This program will also include a live performance by Zakes Bantwini and Nomcebo Zikode.

WHEN: 11 a.m. – 12 p.m.

REGISTER: Click here.

EVENT: Backstage Pass: LGBTQ Panel & Performance presented by the Ally Coalition

WHAT: Backstage Pass is a career exploration program that gives students a first-hand look at what it takes to get a job in the music industry. This Backstage Pass program will consist of a question-and-answer session with music industry professionals from the LGBTQ community.

WHEN: 1 p.m. – 2 p.m.

REGISTER: Click here.

EVENT: Celebrating GRAMMY® Nominee: Muni Long

WHAT: Join us for this exclusive GRAMMY Week event to celebrate this year’s three-time GRAMMY nominee, Muni Long, just ahead of GRAMMY Sunday. Nominated for Best New Artist, Best R&B Song and Best R&B Performance, Long was an in-demand songwriter for Rihanna, Mariah Carey, Madonna, Ariana Grande, and more before breaking through as a solo artist.

WHEN: 7:30 p.m.

TICKETS: Click here.

Wed, Feb. 1:

EVENT: Careers in Music: 1500 Sound Academy

WHAT: 1500 Sound Academy is a trailblazing music education institution that strives to produce passionate sound creators through mentorship, positive mindset and professional development. Join us for a moderated Q&A with founders of the 1500 Sound Academy and of the legendary musical ensemble, 1500 or Nothin', GRAMMY Award winners James Fauntleroy and Larrance "Rance" Dopson.

WHEN: 11 a.m. – 12 p.m.

REGISTER: Click here.

EVENT: Live Out L!ve Presents: Beyond the Mainstage – Black Professionals in Live Music

WHAT: Join us as we go beyond the mainstage and explore the success, challenges and reality of being a Black professional in the live entertainment industry. In this conversation, we will hear from professionals of color who are leading innovation and change in their respective roles. Our panelists will share their journey of becoming a live industry leader and resources for breaking into the industry, and answer questions from the next generation of music industry leaders.

WHEN: 1 p.m. – 2 p.m.

REGISTER: Click here.

Thurs, Feb. 2:

EVENT: Backstage Pass: Hawaii Day w/ Bobby Moderow, Jr. & Kawika Kahiapo

WHAT: A celebration of the music and culture of Hawaii, this Backstage Pass program will consist of a question-and-answer session as well as a live performance of two to three songs.

WHEN: 11 a.m. – 12 p.m.

REGISTER: Click here.

Fri, Feb. 3:

EVENT: Careers In Music: Merck Mercuriadis, Nile Rodgers and 2023 Six-Time GRAMMY®-nominated Singer/Songwriter/Producer THE-DREAM

WHAT: A conversation with Merck Mercuriadis, Nile Rodgers and The-Dream discussing their background in the music industry, the importance and power of the songwriter, sustaining a career, and celebrating the songs past and present that have led to The-Dream having more than 20 GRAMMY nominations and five wins throughout his career. The-Dream is one of the first nominees for the inaugural Songwriter Of The Year, Non-Classical Award and we are here to celebrate his achievements and those of the other great songwriters being honored including his collaboration with Nile Rodgers, Beyoncé and others on "CUFF IT."

WHEN: 1 p.m. – 2 p.m.

REGISTER: Click here.

Where, What Channel & How To Watch The Full 2023 GRAMMYs

Global Spin Live: LAY Combines East And West With A Magnetic Performance Of "Veil" At The GRAMMY Museum

Photo: Zhang Yixing Studio


Global Spin Live: LAY Combines East And West With A Magnetic Performance Of "Veil" At The GRAMMY Museum

Chinese rapper LAY combines traditional Chinese instruments with contemporary Western choreography in this live performance of "Veil."

GRAMMYs/Jan 17, 2023 - 06:00 pm

With every release, singer/songwriter LAY has paid homage to his Chinese heritage. His latest EP, West, is no different, as he croons over the sounds of traditional instruments.

Released as a sequel to his 2021 EP, East, West continues LAY's global exploration and comprehension of western culture through the lens of his upbringing in China. "I'm a proud Chinese person first before an artist," LAY detailed in a media conference. "I just want to share the good things about my culture. I hope it inspires others to do the same."

In this episode of Global Spin Live, LAY offers a highly energetic performance of West's lead single, "Veil," at the GRAMMY Museum. He smoothly transitions between English and his native language, Mandarin.

It's a metaphor for LAY's multicultural mindset that's not only manifested in his lyricism, but additionally in the song's choreography and production; he balances contemporary hip-hop moves with the soft tapping of the Chinese erhu.

Though West presents two versions of "Veil" — one in Mandarin and one predominantly in English — LAY performs the latter on the GRAMMY Museum stage. "'Veil' is [asking listeners to] be more real. Take off your mask and show me the real you," he shares, further emphasizing the message of "Veil" that encourages listeners to share our most authentic selves.

Global Spin Live is held in conjunction with GRAMMY Museum and as a live event extension of the popular online series, Global Spin, showcasing Global Music artists. Press play on the video above to watch LAY's suave performance of "Veil," and check back to for more episodes of Global Spin.

It Goes To 11: The Rose Introduces The Acoustic Guitar That's Been Part Of Their Career Since The Beginning

Press Play On GRAMMY U Mixtape: New Year, It’s Poppin'! Monthly Member Playlist


Press Play On GRAMMY U Mixtape: New Year, It’s Poppin'! Monthly Member Playlist

The GRAMMY U Mixtape is a monthly, genre-spanning playlist to quench your thirst for new tunes, all from student members. GRAMMY U celebrates new beginnings with fresh pop tunes that will kickstart 2023.

GRAMMYs/Jan 6, 2023 - 12:17 am

Did you know that among all of the students in GRAMMY U, songwriting and performance is one of the most sought after fields of study? We want to create a space to hear what these students are creating today!

The GRAMMY U Mixtape, now available for your listening pleasure, highlights the creations and fresh ideas that students are bringing to this industry directly on the Recording Academy's Spotify and Apple Music pages. Our goal is to celebrate GRAMMY U members, as well as the time and effort they put into making original music — from the songwriting process to the final production of the track.

Each month, we accept submissions and feature 20 to 25 songs that match that month’s theme. This month we're ringing in 2023 with our New Year, It's Poppin'! playlist, which features fresh pop songs that bring new year, new you vibes. Showcasing talented members from our various chapters, we felt these songs represented the positivity and hopefulness that GRAMMY U members embody as they tackle this upcoming year of exciting possibilities.

So, what’s stopping you? Press play on GRAMMY U’s Mixtape and listen now on Spotify below and Apple Music.

Want to be featured on the next playlist? Submit your songs today! We are currently accepting submissions for songs of all genres for consideration for our February playlist. Whether you write pop, rock, hip hop, jazz, or classical, we want to hear from you. Music must be written and/or produced by the student member (an original song) and you must be able to submit a Spotify and/or Apple Music link to the song. Students must be a GRAMMY U member to submit.


GRAMMY U is a program that connects college students with the industry's brightest and most talented minds and provides those aspiring professionals with the tools and opportunities necessary to start a career in music.     

Throughout each semester, events and special programs touch on all facets of the industry, including the business, technology, and the creative process.

As part of the Recording Academy's mission to ensure the recorded arts remain a thriving part of our shared cultural heritage, GRAMMY U establishes the necessary foundation for music’s next generation to flourish.

Not a member, but want to submit to our playlist? Apply for GRAMMY U Membership here.