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Music and 9/11

Music and 9/11

Author: Amee Wittbrodt
  • Understand, analyze, evaluate, and use different types of print, digital, and multimodal media.
  • Critically analyze information found in electronic, print, and mass media and use a variety of these sources.
  • Gain an understanding of the types of music played after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
  • Begin to analyze the effect music has on a society.

Students will listen to four popular songs that were played on the radio following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. They will explore each artist and some background information explaining how the song is connected to the tragedy. Students will begin to analyze the impact music has on society.

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Background Information

Music played on the radio following the 9/11 tragedy

The September 11, 2001 attacks consisted of a series of coordinated suicide attacks by al-Qaeda on that date upon the United States of America.

On that morning nineteen terrorists affiliated with al-Qaeda hijacked four commercial passenger jet airliners. The hijackers crashed two of the airliners into the World Trade Center in New York City, one plane into each tower, resulting in the collapse of both buildings soon afterward and extensive damage to nearby buildings. The hijackers crashed a third airliner into the Pentagon in Arlington County, Virginia. Passengers and members of the flight crew on the fourth aircraft attempted to retake control of their plane from the hijackers; that plane crashed into a field near the town of Shanksville in rural Somerset County, Pennsylvania. In addition to the 19 hijackers, 2,974 people died as an immediate result of the attacks, and the death of at least one person from lung disease was ruled by a medical examiner to be a result of exposure to WTC dust. Another 24 people are missing and presumed dead, bringing the total number of victims to 2,999 — most of whom were civilians.

Immediately following 9/11, radio stations responded by playing music chosen to help Americans get through this event.  Musicians responded by writing songs specifically about patriotism, heriosm, war, America, and 9/11.

U2 "Walk On"

This was probably the most played song in that first week after 9/11. Great song; perfect theme.

Lyrics and Background Information


Toby Keith "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue

Toby Keith wrote this song in 20 minutes, a week after 9/11. It immediately became a hit. According to CBS News, bombs were branded with the song title and so was one of the first tanks that went into Baghdad. He has also received a lot of criticism because of this song, but he says his critics won’t silence him.

Lyrics and Background Information


Bruce Springsteen "The Rising"

According to Time magazine, The Rising, an entire album, is about Sept. 11, and it is the first significant piece of pop art to respond to the events of that day. Many of the songs are written from the perspectives of working people whose lives and fates intersected with those hijacked planes. The songs on the album are sad, but the sadness is almost always matched with optimism, promises of redemption and calls to spiritual arms.

Lyrics and Background Information


John Lennon "Imagine"

This song was actually banned from radio stations shortly after 9/11. Why? The message is hope, hope for a better world where things like this don't happen.

Lyrics and Background Information


Discussion Questions

  1. How is this song and artist connected to 9/11?
  2. How does this song make you feel?
  3. What do you think of when this song is playing?
  4. Why did the artist write this song? What is the artist's message and purpose?
  5. Who is the intended audience?
  6. Summarize what you learned from the background infomation about the song and artist.
  7. How does a society use music to express feelings and heal from tragedy?
  8. How does music help bring people together?