As millions of people cast their vote in the 2015 general election, I’ve put together a political playlist containing my top seven protest songs. Power to the people!
1. Bob Dylan – Blowin’ In The Wind – 1963
First is Bob Dylan’s timeless 1963 anthem Blowin’ In The Wind. The track asks questions regarding peace, war and freedom. Blowin’ In The Wind became popular among the civil rights movement during the 1960s.
Top lyric: “The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind.” Ambiguous, simple and effective.
2. Rage Against The Machine – Killing In The Name – 1992
Next sees Rage Against The Machine do exactly that with their mammoth 1992 protest song Killing In The Name. Zach de la Rocha controversially implies that US security forces have been infiltrated by the Ku Klux Klan. The track is raw, angry, and lyrically great – everything you need in a protest song! The song even became Christmas number 1 in the UK in 2009 after a Facebook campaign was set up to prevent the X Factor winner’s song from reaching the top spot for a fifth successive year. Even more reason to love this track!
Top lyric: “Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me.” To the point, raw, and raised a few eyebrows.
3. Sex Pistols – God Save The Queen – 1977
This 1977 anti-establishment anthem did everything it set out to do. Released ‘co-incidentally’ alongside Queen Elizabeth’s Silver Jubilee, the band say the song was written purely to shock people, and that it did. The BBC refused to play the song despite it reaching number two. Johnny Rotten stands by lyrics such as, “there is no future in England’s dreaming,” which were written not because they hated the English race, but because they loved them and were fed up with being mistreated. Fair enough!
Top lyric: “God save the Queen, the fascist regime.” Pure shock factor and I love it.
4. Bob Marley – Get Up Stand Up – 1973
It wouldn’t be right to compile a list of protest songs without including the genius of Bob Marley. Get Up Stand Up was inspired by the poverty he witnessed whilst touring Haiti, and it quickly became a protest song.
Top lyric: “Get up, stand up, stand up for your rights.” Simple, effective, and true.
5. John Lennon – Imagine – 1971
John Lennon of the fab four was no stranger to penning a protest song (Happy Xmas (War Is Over), Give Peace A Chance, Working Class Hero). However, I have picked Imagine for this playlist. The track’s message is simple and is one of promoting peace, asking the listener to imagine a world with no religion, material possessions, or nationalities. A world without divisiveness or barriers. The song may not be particularly aggressive and may stick it a little less to the man but what it does do is create a feeling of unity, another very important element of protest. In January of this year after the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris the Parisians gathered and sang Imagine, unifying them in what was their darkest hour.
Top lyric: “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.” Unifying and uplifting. This lyric perfectly captures Lennon’s continuous optimism and passion for world peace.
6. The Clash – London’s Calling – 1979
Punk-rockers The Clash were again no strangers to protest songs (White Riot, Career Opportunities, I Fought The Law) but it is London’s Calling that takes the spot. London’s Calling, the title itself stemming from the WW2 BBC World Service message, “This is London calling,” talks of the state in which the capital is in as well as touching on social criticism, desperation, the flooding of the Thames barrier, police brutality, drugs, the state of the music industry in Britain, and the Three Mile Island accident taking an anti-nuclear stance. All that in a mere three minutes eighteen seconds… Now that is a protest song.
Top lyric: “London is drowning and I, I live by the river.” A great reference to the Thames barrier as well as a now iconic lyric due to Strummer’s delivery of the line. Absolute belter!
7. The Jam – Eton Rifles – 1979
Eton Rifles was The Jam’s first top ten hit. It tells of the difficulties the unemployed and working class face protesting a system full of ex-Eton pupils and the privileged elite. The song is loaded with hatred and highlights the inequalities and just how unfair the system is. In 2008 David Cameron claimed he liked the song and used to listen to it back in 1979 during his time at Eton. This didn’t sit well with Weller who responded with, “Which part of it didn’t he get? It wasn’t intended as a jolly drinking song for the cadet corps.” A song that is still as relevant today as it was then? I’ll let you be the judge of that.
Top lyric: “All that rugby puts hairs on your chest, what chance have you got against a tie and a crest?” Riddled with amazing lyrics, this line highlights the inequality within the political system in England beautifully.
What do you think? Have I missed out your favourite protest song? Let us know in the comments below!