A collection of songs, across a range of musical genres and many liberation movements, the oldest song is from the 17th century, the most recent is 11 July 2011… no deep meaning, just to entertain and inspire, mostly though, to entertain.
If I have missed any that you think should be here please let me know.
(I’m going to say, probably Not Safe For Work
Also possible that some songs may be blocked in some countries)
From Pete Shelley of the Buzzcocks in 1982, this song was banned by the BBC for references to gay sex, but the message of the song is it doesn’t matter who you are, who you love or what you do… We are all homo-sapiens
42. Hunger Strike
Temple Of The Dog with Eddie Vedder, a song of injustice, especially injustice of food distribution, and the amount of starvation in the world, with two main actions of protest featured. Civil disobedience in the stealing bread to feed the poor, and civil defiance of going on hunger strike as an act of solidarity with those unable to eat.
Protest beyond the law is not a departure from democracy; it is absolutely essential to it.~Howard Zinn
I needed a Dylan song somewhere in this list, as many of the articles on protest songs mention him, so this is Bob Dylan: about the racism, police corruption and imprisonment of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter.
44. I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free
“Say it loud, say it clear for the whole round world to hear”, this song has served as both an anthem for civil rights and a brown-carbonated-cola-beverage commercial.
This song has come to be associated with the case of Gary McKinnon in recent years as he waits his fate at the hands of the UK Home Office, in what looks like a malicious, vindictive prosecution.
For more information about the persecution of Gary McKinnon….
45. Ich Bin Ein Ausländer
The title of this 1994 Alternative song translates as “I am a foreigner”, written in response to anti-immigration attacks that were occurring throughout Europe against migrants “When they come to ethnically cleanse me, will you speak out, will you defend me, trampled underfoot by the Right on the Rise”, you don’t defeat racism and racial violence by hoping it will go away “if the answer isn’t violence then neither is your silence”.
Phil Ochs: “A protest song is a song that’s so specific that you cannot mistake it for bullshit”
46. La Marseillaise
Yes, the French National Anthem. Aux armes, citoyens (To arms, citizens) . . . used by revolutionaries and rebels for two centuries. This version by Placido Domingo.
As Lippy Lou sings in this 90s song, “if you’re in the closet… come out! … we are lesbian”, there is practically no information about the artist or this song anywhere, but its a joyous song of liberation (I think), and as Emma Goldman never quite said: “If I can’t dance, it’s not my revolution”, this, is the song you can dance to, for liberation
48. Little Boy Soldiers
An anti-war song by The Jam, in 1979, about politicians that only want to know you at election time (“our only contact was a form at the election”), but when voters plead for peace, these same politicians are deaf to those pleas. They are quite happy to send kids into war “we killed and robbed the fucking lot, but we don’t feel bad, it was done beneath the flag, of hypocrisy” (now, if it was soldiers who sent politicians into war, perhaps there would be more debate before we invaded other countries)
49. Malcolm, Garvey, Huey
By Dead Prez featuring Divine in 2010, this song takes it title from Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey and Huey Newton, “If you want to make it, study Malcolm, Garvey, Huey” and “organise”
50. Mass Destruction
Faithless, UK electronic band, in 2004 released their response to the mad leadership and unfettid ego of George W Bush’s war that destroys families. And while the media was obsessed with the search for non-existent weapons of mass destruction there were other WMDS. Racism, fear, greed, inaction, Haliburton, Enron are also weapons of mass destruction, but so is courage and education.
51. Meat Kills
By Consolidated from Friendly Fa$cism, and, uh, meat kills…. go vegan. This song makes the case that meat kills, not just the animals, but the people who eat them and the planet
52. Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)
Originally written Marvin Gaye in 1971, about human-made environmental destruction, this version was performed again in 2007 by UK soul singer Corinne Bailey Rae & John Legend, and as Bailey Rae says, not much has changed since it was written.
53. Motor City Is Burning
A 70s garage rock song by MC5 that looks at the Detroit (USA) Riots of 1967, when Motor City burned, the role of the National Guard and The Black Panther Party, soldiers, snipers and firebombs “I’d just like to strike a match for freedom myself”.
54. (Free) Nelson Mandela
Variously known as Nelson Mandela or Free Nelson Mandela, released in 1984 by The Specials AKA, this danceable-ska track is singing to Free the future South African president from prison.
And if songs like this become old, history, and no longer relevant, then good. It means the battle was won. They show that things can change… But the struggle for justice goes on
55. Never Buy The Sun
This 2011 song by Billy Bragg, is a celebration of a 22-year Boycott, by Northern Englanders against the Murdoch newspapers in Britain. When people are “crying out for justice” not buying a product can be a form of protest ….(This song is also available for Free legal download from http://www.billybragg.co.uk/sun.php)
56. No Shelter
This 1998 song from Rage Against The Machine, “Make you think that buying is rebelling” when corporations sell you what you think you need, “the thin line between entertainment and war” is just buying other peoples misery, and hyper consumption, when you view the world “behind American eyes”
57. Not Ready To Make Nice
A 2006 country-pop song by the Dixie Chicks, written in response to death threats members of the group received for speaking out against the Iraq War. A song of defiance against hate.
“I’m not ready to make nice, I’m not ready to back down
I’m still mad as hell and I don’t have time to go round and round and round”
58. Nothing To My Name
This song by Chinese-Korean, Cui Jian, was considered China’s first rock song, Cui’s song was popular with protesters in Tiananmen Square, with its themes of disaffected youth and its sense of rebellion
I found numerous references to this CSNY (Crosby Stills Nash Young) song from 1970 about the massacre of students at Kent University by the National Guard. It protests the actions of the soldiers and the oppression and repression in a pro-war culture that was the Nixon government – “Soldiers are cutting us down” and “Four, why? Why did they die?… How many more?”. The scenes in this video, from a 40 year old incident, look so much like the protests that occur now against the WTO and G8 conferences or the Austerity and Uncut protests, when governments refuse to listen to the people.
Different wars, same oppression.
60. Out In The Field
By Gary Moore and Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy, this 1985 rock song talks about the religious turmoil of Ireland.
“No colour or religion… No flag or uniform ever stopped a bullet from a gun”, no matter how many people keep dying day after day, nothing changes.