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2023 Cold War Speaker Series: How Popular Musicians Addressed the Cold War in the US and Canada

October 12, 2023, 7:00 pm8:00 pm

2023 Cold War Speaker Series banner

We invite you to join us virtually this fall for the Diefenbunker’s Cold War Speaker Series! In this series of free talks, hear from experts on a variety of relevant topics to bring you new perspectives on Cold War themes and events.

Session 2

Date: Thursday, October 12, 2023
Time: 7:00 – 8:00 p.m. ET
Topic: How Popular Musicians Addressed the Cold War in the US and Canada
Speakers: Joanna Smolko and Tim Smolko
Cost: Free

– Hosted virtually on Zoom. Advance registration is required to receive the Zoom link.
– Includes a presentation followed by a Q&A, for a total of approximately one hour.
– Session will be recorded for educational purposes.

Presentation Overview:

How Popular Musicians Addressed the Cold War in the US and Canada

This talk will begin with an overview of the 2021 book Atomic Tunes, which shows how popular musicians from the 1940s to the 1990s expressed their views on a number of Cold War topics such as the nuclear arms race, communism vs. capitalism, the proxy wars, civil defense, bomb shelters, McCarthyism, and the Berlin Wall. Then, hear an analysis of the lyrics of several songs by the Canadian progressive/heavy metal band Rush. Their drummer and lyricist Neil Peart addressed Cold War topics frequently in his lyrics, especially in the early 1980s when the nuclear arms race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union was at a peak.

Speaker Bios:

Joanna Smolko, a speaker in the Diefenbunker's 2023 Cold War Speaker Series.Joanna Smolko earned a B.A. in Music from Covenant College (2000), an M.M. in Theory and Composition from the University of Georgia (2002), and a Ph.D. in Musicology from the University of Pittsburgh (2011). She teaches various music courses as an adjunct professor at the University of Georgia. Her areas of research and writing include American popular music from the 19th and 20th centuries, American folk music, film music, and the intersections between American history and music. She was a contributing editor for the 2nd edition of The Grove Dictionary of American Music (Oxford University Press, 2013), and wrote and revised numerous articles. Some of her publications include “Southern-Fried Foster: Representing Race and Place in Looney Tunes Cartoons,” American Music 30:3 (2012), coediting Stephen Collins Foster: 60 Favorite Songs (Mel Bay, 2010) with Stephen Saunders, and coauthoring the “Living in Harmony” chapter from Anxiety Muted (Oxford University Press, 2015) with Tim Smolko. In 2021 she edited the volume Christian Sacred Music in the Americas (Rowman & Littlefield) with Andrew Shenton.

Tim Smolko, a speaker in the Diefenbunker's 2023 Cold War Speaker Series.Tim Smolko is an academic librarian and musicologist. He earned a M.L.S. from the University of Pittsburgh in 2007 and an M.A. in Musicology from the University of Georgia in 2011 where he currently works as a cataloger in the Main Library. His first book, Jethro Tull’s Thick as a Brick and A Passion Play: Inside Two Long Songs (Indiana University Press, 2013), won the 2014 “Best Research in Recorded Rock Music” Award from the Association for Recorded Sound Collections (ARSC).


» Register for the Speaker Series



October 12, 2023
7:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Event Category:


Diefenbunker: Canada’s Cold War Museum
View Organizer Website


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