Analyzing Music Videos -
Some Student Work

Integrating U. S. History with Educational Technology
Deborah T. Aufdenspring
New Technology High School
Napa, California

(These examples of student work came from an assignment that was introduced by the Analyzing Music Videos - Assignment web page.)

Note: Due to platform and application conflicts, this collection of student work isn't quite ready yet. There are only snippets (but interesting ones) below. Because much of the interesting student work for this project was done in multimedia, I'm beginning to think I should just give a description, with or without screenshots, of the students' work and then a downloadable file of that work.
Sorry. Come back for more soon.

Most students watch music videos - rock, rap, country, Christian, whatever. Our class looked at selected music videos for images that reflected or negated students' view of The American Dream. This was done at the beginning of our course, Integrated U.S. History and American Literature..

Videos analyzed included pre-selected songs from artists such as Billy Joel, Garth Brooks, Van Halen, Bruce Springsteen, Vince Gill, Metallica, and even Rage Against the Machine. In addition, students could suggest their own videos, but the videos had to meet community standards for decency and language, have relevance to our course outline, and be pre-approved. Students were also told about copyright issues

Initially, captured still images (with questions) from four videos were presented by teachers to students on an (internal) school intranet web page so that students could see what the process of analysis included. Some videos were extremely rich in historical images (i.e., We Didn't Start the Fire by Billy Joel and Freedom by Garth Brooks), some had fewer images, but more punch (i.e., Born in the USA by Bruce Springsteen).

Students worked in groups and as individuals.

Students commented on the lesson:

"I'll never look at videos the same way again," said a number of students after their analysis.

"There's really a lot to think about in the good videos," said others.

"That was cool," said still others.

Teacher's note: There are bits and pieces of two music video analyses below. The songs were Leningrad by Billy Joel and One by Metallica. The analyses were done as formal presentations to the whole class. The presentations depended heavily on multimedia content. I haven't succeeded yet in being able to get the full text onto this page, let alone the multimedia parts. But, until I can, maybe you can get some idea of the possibilities of analyzing music videos for historical and social content.

For the sections that are missing or chopped due to porting problems, or because they were presented orally in class, my apologies to you and to the students. dta

Leningrad - By Billy Joel

This video focuses on children - children growing up in the United States, and children growing up in the USSR/Russia, in the time of World War 2 in the 1940s to those growing up in the 1980s. At the end of the video it shows the theme of the video - reconciliation.


Candice Tipett - Video Explanation

Kevin Bates - Start of World War 2

Vince Seruelo - What Happened at Leningrad

Vivien Chua - End of World War 2

Sophie Metz - Main Theme-Reconciliation

Video Explanation

Billy Joel decided to record this video after the birth of his daughter. He dedicated it to children hurt by the war. In Leningrad Russian life was full of so much sadness, which is why most of the footage that you will see about Leningrad is in black and white. The clips about the U.S are in color because it symbolizes the love and the togetherness that America has, and also because the U.S isn,t full of so much corruption. At the end of the video you can see what the theme of the video is. At the end, Billy Joel meets a circus clown from Moscow that had entertained his daughter and made her laugh. The two talked and became friends and they reminisced about the


During World War 2, the event that happened in Leningrad was titled the 900 day siege. In August of 1939 the Germans and Russians signed a non aggression pact. Then in September of 41, the Germans sent an invasion into Russia and Leningrad was one of the main targets. The citizens were completely cut off from the rest of Russia. There were very few supplies, and little food. What made things worse was the severe winter. The weather did help the Russians because it stopped the German advance. The destruction you see in the video is the city of Leningrad after all the bombings and attacks by the Lufwaffe. Even through all this the people stayed strong and never gave up. Thousands were dying of starvation and disease. People even had to drink soup made from boiled leather wallets and ate bread made, in part, of sawdust. Finally, in January of 1943, the blockade was broken, but it took another year to drive the Germans completely out. For its role in the war, the city of Leningrad was honored with the title of "Hero City". The entire siege lasted from 41 to 44. The death toll was counted at approximately a million deaths.


1. Music Video - "Leningrad" by Billy Joel
2. Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia, "World War 2"
3. Microsoft Bookshelf, computer refrence library
4. Macintosh Resouces :
5. San Francisco Chronicle,
6. Encyclopedia Britanica
7. Salisbury, Harrison E., 900 Days
8. World War 2 Encyclopedia


One - by Metallica

Table of Contents

The Story Behind One
Some Scenes
World War I
Dalton Trumbo

The Metallica ONE video is based on the movie JOHNNY GOT HIS GUN by Dalton Trumbo. The movie in turn is based on the book JOHNNY GOT HIS GUN by Dalton Trumbo.

Dalton Trumbo's JOHNNY GOT HIS GUN is a controversial anti-war story of a soldier who lost his arms, his legs, and most of his face in a World War I from a shell. Trumbo's soldier is Joe Bonham who comes from a patriotic background. The boy works in a bakery, supports his mother and sisters after his father's death, he is in love with sweet Irish girl, and enlists in the army because it's the thing a young man did for his country. He's sent on a patrol into war grounds to bury a corpse that was stuck on barb wire in front of his trench. A bomb lands close to him, and he wakes up in a hospital.

The army is convinced he has severe damage to his cerebellum. They decide to keep him alive to learn from him. But he can think, and he figures that he is injured. He is a prisoner of his mind. Joe has flashbacks and fantasies driving him crazy. He exists in a living hell. He can't distinguish between reality and his dreams. Joe has fantasies of his youth, his father, his best friend, his girlfriend, and Jesus Christ. Eventually he finds a way of communicating with a nurse through Morse Code. She informs the soldiers.

At the end of the movie Joe wants them to put him in a sideshow where, as a freak, he can make a living by making people see what happened to him in the war . If they won't do that, he wants them to kill him. The army does not do either. The nurse tries killing him but does not succeed because a army officer walks in on her when she was in the middle of the act. The irony of it all was that a patriotic young man went off and was wounded for no great reason. His mind remains the only thing alive in his vegetable like body. He becomes a prisoner of his own mind who will live that way until he dies of natural causes or what ever comes first.

by Ali Razi



When Johnny Got His Gun was released, it was considered highly controversial because of its strong anti-war message. Because of the strict guidelines set-up for unpatriotic books, and movies during the McCarthy Era (1940's-1950's) this book and many other books written by Dalton Trumbo were banned and he himself was sent to prison. Dalton Trumbo was a victim of censorship.

Censorship is a set of guidelines that is used to take out material that is believed to threaten the current social, political, or moral views. Censorship is most often imposed by dictatorial or theocratic governments, or in times of war. But censorship has been in use in the US for as long as an established government has existed here. Materials such as, films, books, or school text have often been restrained because of controversial views concerning politics, morals, and religious organizations. The United States also has many censorship agencies that express their view of what is right or wrong, such as the New York Society for Suppression of Vice, and the Watch and Ward Society in Boston. At many times industry's self censor-ship has been put in effect to prevent outside censorship, and/or boycott..

by Cael Gustaveson


Lyrics - Most of this section is lost.

The lyrics describe the way Joe is Feeling in the movie. He has awakened blind, deaf, mute and in pain.

by Nick Shoults


Some Scenes Include - The pictures and captions from this section haven't been converted yet.

Joe is having dreams that he can't distinguish from reality these are just a few of the conversation pieces going through his mind as his mind mixes memories with illusions. One memory that sticks in his mind is his job at the bakery , as this memory enters his head he mixes it with an illusion of people sending him of to war. And the echoing voice of his father's words comes back to him though the voices of the workers as the began to sing in unison "keep the home fires burning."

by Marisa Cumpian


World War I

After Germany's second attempt at Paris was ended by the allied counter-offensive, the war slowly came to an end, with Austria-Hungary surrendering because of civil wars. After the second Battle of Marne, a revolution erupted in Germany causing disorder within the German army, which led them to surrender by signing the Treaty of Versailles on Nov. 11, 1918.

by Cael Gustaveson


James Dalton Trumbo

James Dalton Trumbo born December 9, 1905 in Montrose, Colorado. A journalist who turned to screenwriting. Dalton Trumbo was one of the most influential people in film history. During his day Trumbo was the highest-paid screenwriter. When McCarthy ruled in the 1950's, The House of un-American Activities Committee, fearing that subversive messages might be coming from within the USA, focused their attention on Hollywood. They particularly targeted screenwriters. Of all individuals forced to testify by HUAC, 60 percent were screenwriters. Dalton Trumbo's name had come to the attention of McCarthy successor John S. Wood while making a list of Hollywood Communists. Wood had very little evidence of leftist messages in films, and had resorted to citing lines that had been scripted by Trumbo.

Eventually, 10 were called to testify. The group became infamous as the Hollywood Ten; Edward Dmytryk, Joun Howard Lawson, Lester Cole, Albert Maltz, Alvah Bessie, Samuel Ornintz, Herbert Biberman, Adrian Scott, Ring Lardner Jr., and Trumbo. They were represented as a group. They exercised their Fifth Amendment rights by refusing to act as informers against others or answer any questions about their political affiliations. All ten men were convicted of contempt. Their appeals were denied. In 1950, they were sentenced to prison for one year each.

While in prison, Trumbo began the first of more than 3 scripts he would sell using various aliases. He wrote many of his finest scripts during this time. One of the most famous alias he used was Robert Rich. Under that name he was awarded an Oscar for Best Screenwriting on The Brave One (1956). In 1975, The Academy corrected the credit and gave Trumbo a special Oscar for his contributions. In 1960, actor Kirk Douglas placed Trumbo's name on credits of Stanly Kubrick's Spartacus. The blacklist was broken. The effects of the time of the period in his life were documented by Trumbo in a book called The Time of The Toad. Dalton Trumbo Became part of "Hollywood's liberal heritage."

In 1993, Trumbo was honored with another Academy Award, 16 years after his death. This time the Oscar was for the screenplay of Roman Holiday (1953), a film he had made but had released under the name of his friend Ian McLellan Hunter 40 years earlier.

Johnny Got His Gun

Written in 1938, about an American GI wounded in W.W.I. He is so severely wounded that his legs ,and arms were amputated. His eyes were blinded and his ears deafened. He lived through a nearly disembodied brain almost completely cut off from the rest of the universe. The movie questions the true nature of life and humanity, and what really matters.

by Ali Razi


Partial Bibliography 

Movie "Johnny Got His Gun" Dalton Trumbo

Film Encyclopedia of Baslin

Metallica Web Page

Microsoft Bookshelf Microsoft

These examples of student work came from an assignment that was introduced by the Analyzing Music Videos - Assignment web page.


E-mail me.

Return to your previous page by clicking your browser's "Back" button, or
go to Next Page, or
go to the Site Index, or
Return to Ms. A's Class Home Page