When war refuses to end. When blame is shifted and nothing done. When we’ve problems and no solutions. When we’d be better off dead…
When these words ring true, is when great writers and philosophisers sing. Until now however, the collective has never been so silent and immune to injustice. The Urchins, on the other hand, refuse to keep a lid on it. In union with Geo’s series of revolutionary books, we’ve compiled Part Two of the top protest songs of all time. So pull out your turn tables, 8-tracks, cassettes, cds, and iPods. Turn it up and don’t ever shut up.
Rockin’ In The Free World – Neil Young
“We got department stores and toilet paper, Got styrofoam boxes for the ozone layer…” Neil Young’s angry guitar and abrasive shouts against the hypocrisies of modern America, is simultaneously one of the greatest rock songs ever. Written in 1989, Young criticises the current President George H.W. Bush and the ability of so many to “keep on rockin'” when there are so many social problems in the “free world.”
Eve of Destruction – Barry McGuire
One of the first protest songs that became a hit, Eve of Destruction is not so powerful retrospectively, as it is when applied to our current war. McGuire’s incendiary lyrics criticise everything from the lack of government action to violence in the Middle East and at home. Unfortunately, this surprisingly relevant song which invokes an “end of the world” type fear, receives very little radio airtime today.
For What It’s Worth – Buffalo Springfield
The quintessential sound of the 60s, For What It’s Worth was, ironically, not written about Vietnam or the general social unrest in the United States at all. Though Stephen Stills was apparently writing about the Sunset Strip curfew riots in Los Angeles, the song has become a cultural anthem. Perhaps because there was a need?
All You Need Is Love – Lennon/McCartney
Protesting is not always classified as being strictly against something. Why not protest for something? Which is exactly what The Beatles did. The majority of their writings are love-centric, but All You Need Is Love is the only song that sings for a change in philosophy. Why build bombs when you love everyone?
Testify – Rage Against the Machine
Like so many great protest songs, ‘Testify’ is filled with shouts to get up and stand up, but here they’re blended with harsh satire (seemingly, a device that only RATM can pull off) through a torrent of rhythm and rhyme. Additionally, any song that quotes Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four is sure to be an anthem against apathy.
Masters of War – Bob Dylan
Perhaps one of the greatest artistic protestors of our time, Bob Dylan wrote Masters of War in 1963. Propagandists and governments hide the sooty side of war behind grandiose language like “Operation Iraqi Freedom.” Rather than sing of the atrocities and loss of death, Dylan highlighted the big business that is war. As always Bob Dylan was and is simultaneously fitting and ahead of his time.
Fortunate Son – Creedence Clearwater Revival
If there is any one song associated with the thumping chopper blades and gusting wind on the palms, it’s Fortunate Son. John Fogerty sings for the countless men who, “ain’t no senator’s son(s),” were drafted into war. How would our generation cope with the draft?
Great Divide – Hanson
Perhaps one of Sarah’s favourite bands, Hanson wrote Great Divide in 2007. When so many people would rather turn their heads and ignore the painful truths of the AIDS epidemic, Hanson donated 100% of the proceeds from their song to help fight the African HIV epidemic.
Imagine – John Lennon
Want idealism? Here it is in its purest form. In reality, John Lennon may not have lived up to his Utopian dream, but his hopeful words are his legacy and everything we should aspire to in our own realities. “Imagine all the people, living life in peace…” Why should something so simple be so difficult?