In Solange’s song “Don’t Touch My Hair” Solange addresses many different societal critiques. She discusses racism, micro-aggressions, feminism and black empowerment. With so many different issues addressed, there are several songs throughout history that can connect and helped shape Solange’s hit.


In the title alone, Solange is addressing the need for consent: an issue regularly addressed throughout feminism. Her hair is part of her body, and no one has the right to touch her body without her permission. “You Don’t Own Me” by Lesley Gore was written in the early 1960s, at the height of the second wave of the feminist movement. The song is defiant and strong. A woman is singing to her lover and making sure he understands he does not own her, she is free to make her own choices, and she is not property to be put on display, but rather a strong independent woman.

“Respect” by Aretha Franklin is one of the most notable feminist anthems. Originally performed by Otis Redding, “Respect” was written in the point of view of a man who wants respect from his woman when he comes home from a long day’s work. Aretha turned this song into an empowering song for females by singing it from a woman’s point of view who is in need of a man to respect her and satisfy her. This song was unapologetic and risky for the 1960s. Even today, women are afraid to discuss sex, but here Aretha does just that. This was a gateway for feminism, and allowed other songs such as “Independent Women, Pt. 1” by Destiny’s Child to be born.


As for black empowerment songs, “Say it Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud” – James Brown (1968) → “New Agenda” – Janet Jackson (1993) → “I Am Not My Hair” – India.Arie ft. Akon (2006) all discuss the struggles and eventual acceptance and triumphs of being black. James Brown repeatedly sings “I’m black and I’m proud” throughout his 1968 hit. Especially during the civil rights movement, Brown stayed strong and proud of his heritage and culture. “New Agenda” by Janet Jackson discusses the struggles and under-appreciation black women receive. She discusses the struggle, the sisterhood and motherhood of black women, and the eventual need for a time to rejoice. “I Am Not My Hair” is an interesting song to compare to Solange’s “Don’t Touch My Hair.” Although “I Am Not My Hair” is discussing that there is more to a black person than their hair, and Solange is using her hair to represent her, both songs end up with the same message: don’t find interest in my hair, but rather appreciate me for my culture and soul.


These songs helped build a pathway for artists today, allowing them to feel comfortable discussing sensitive topics. These lineages help to emphasize that this is not just Solange’s problem, or black women’s issue today, but these deep rooted issues go back centuries.