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SociologySounds Team

Jason T. Eastman

Jason is an associate professor at Coastal Carolina University who studies the replication of inequalities through culture and identity. More...


SociologySounds is a simple site to make it easy for teachers to find and share great music for their classes. Pairing a great song with a sociological concept can be tricky, but here it's just a few clicks away.

How to Use SociologySounds

SociologySounds from Nathan Palmer on Vimeo.

A great way to start class is to play music in the last few minutes before it begins. You set the tone for the discussion, awaken sleepy students, and when the music ends everyone knows to stop talking; it's magic... or classical conditioning.


Breaking the Law by Judas Priest


Why This Song:

In their book Explaining Crime, Hugh D. Barlow and David Kauzlarich (2010) write “in the song ‘Breaking the Law’ Rob Halford, the lead singer of the classic metal band Judas Priest, sings about familiar human and social problems: unemployment, instability, anger, disappointment, and boredom (51).” The authors further explain how feelings, perceptions and social institutions influence behavior—including deviant and criminal behavior. Thus by focusing on the social structure or the social context more generally as inspiring a breaking of the law, this song introduces the Chicago school theories of crime causation, providing a contrast to the classical school and biological or psychological positivism that claims behaviors stem from factors internal to criminally deviant individuals.

Barlow, Hugh D., & Kauzlarich, David. 2010. Explaining Crime: A Primer in Criminological Theory. Rowman & Littlefield.

Submitted By: Mary Nell Trautner


Golden Country by REO Speedwagon


Why This Song:

It has been a little over fifty-years since President Lyndon Johnson declared war on poverty. There were initial victories in reducing the proportion of United States citizens that struggle to survive; but in recent decades the rates of poverty have climbed back to historic highs. In Golden Country, REO Speedwagon speaks to poverty and reinvents the metaphor of the Gilded Age, singing that although there is more-than-enough wealth for everyone in this country to be clothed, sheltered, fed and protected; without embarrassment many readily overlook and ignore those who struggle (along with the racism, sexual violence and exploitation those who struggle are more likely to experience than those well-to-do). And much like Lyndon Johnson, REO Speedwagon also declares it is time to take a stand against this ongoing and intensifying social problem.

Submitted By: Scott Vause


So Long, Its Been Good To Know Yuh, Dusty Old Dust


Why This Song:

Since social scientists regularly focus on religion as a form of social control while simultaneously uncovering many dysfunctions of different faiths with their research, sociologists sometimes overlook the way religions are also a primary source for social solidarity that regularly help both individuals and communities both make sense of, and thereby cope with hardship, suffering and crisis. These functions of religion are highlighted in the classic Woody Guthrie song “So Long, Its Been Good To Know Yuh, Dusty Old Dust” (sung here by the late Pete Seeger) which tells of a people using their faith, to maintain their faith during the then-seemingly-apocalyptic dust storms of the Great Depression.


Jason T. Eastman


Sun City by Artists United Against Apartheid


Why This Song:

Movements sing, and thus singers are regularly on the front lines of protest and social movements. However, there is one especially unique protest song written by Steven Van Zandt about Nelson Mandela and apartheid in South Africa. The song was recorded by Artists United Against Apartheid, a collective of famous rock and rap musicians, all of whom voiced how they were not going to play Sun City—a then segregated casino-resort in South Africa frequented by the biggest stars of the day. Thus, like many musicians (including many noted on this site) these artists sang about a social issue; however this song is also unique because in addition to promoting a cause with music, these artists openly declared a united front in the boycotting of South Africa in their song. Quite ironically, the U.S. version of this song that is critical of the South African government censored the verse where Joey Ramone criticized Ronald Regan’s support of the apartheid regime.

Submitted By: Jason Eastman


Man in the Mirror by Michael Jackson


Why This Song:

A core premise behind Cooley’s work notes that when we peer into the looking glass to assess the self, we metaphorically see a reified society staring back at us. Thus, what are we to do when we don’t like what we see—whether it be ourselves, the world around us, nor our place in that world around us? According to Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror,” changing the world around us often starts with changing who we are first, or what we do as a person (which as Cooley notes, speaks to who we are as a person). Sam Bachman writes “Most people want the world to change and we don't know how to do it. This song has a powerful but simple message; start with the one person you know you can change.”

Submitted By: Sam Bachman