Anyone familiar with the (biased) world of song-ranking lists has probably noticed the the amount of artistic confidence and fearlessness it often requires to create protest song. A truly authentic, emotionally charged protest song. There is a 100% chance that somebody, somewhere will willingly misinterpret your intent...but despite this, there are artists who choose to take the risk and appeal to our inner rebel.
While conjuring up this batch I noticed that some of these songs were met with disgust and repressed airplay while some were embraced. What's funny is that many of the songs that were initially rejected have become anthems today.
Here's a little list of 8 iconic protest songs from the 20th century:
The Times Are a-Changing by Bob Dylan
Written by: Bob Dylan
Produced by: Tom Wilson
Inspired by: Civil rights and antiwar movements
The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast?
What's Going On by Marvin Gaye
Written by: Al Cleveland, Renaldo Benson, Marvin Gaye
Produced by: Marvin Gaye
Topic: Police brutality, violence
Inspired by: Witnessing "Bloody Thursday"
Picket lines and picket signs
Don't punish me with brutality
Give Peace A Chance by The Plastic Ono Band
Written by: Lennon-McCartney
Produced by: John Lennon & Yoko Ono
Topic: Peace, utopia
Inspired by: 70's antiwar movement
Ev'rybody's talkin' 'bout
John and Yoko, Timmy Leary, Rosemary,
Tommy Smothers, Bobby Dylan, Tommy Cooper,
Derek Taylor, Norman Mailer, Alan Ginsberg, Hare Krishna
Hare Hare Krishna
Fuck tha Police by NWA
Written by: Ice Cube, MC Ren, Eazy-E
Produced by: Dr. Dre, DJ Yella
Genre: Gangsta Rap
Topic: Police brutality, unfair search and seizure
Inspired By: Prominence of west coast gangs
They put out my picture with silence
Cause my identity by itself causes violence
Born In The USA by Bruce Springsteen
Written by: Bruce Springsteen
Produced by: Jon Landau, Chuck Plotkin, Bruce Springsteen, Steve Van Zandt
Genre: Heartland rock
Famous ass shot by Annie Leibovitz.
Inspired by: Vietnam war.
I'm ten years burning down the road
Nowhere to run ain't got nowhere to go
Respect by Aretha Franklin
Written by (cover song): Otis Redding
Produced by: Jerry Wexler
Inspired by: Civil rights movement, black pride, feminism.
I'm about to give you all of my money
And all I'm askin' in return, honey
Is to give me my profits
They Don't Care About Us by Michael Jackson
Written by: Michael Jackson
Produced by: Michael Jackson
Genre: Minimalist rock
Topic: Judicial corruption, institutional racism
Inspired by: LA riots, Rodney King, Santa Barbara Police & DA.
Tell me what has become of my rights
Am I invisible because you ignore me?
Your proclamation promised me free liberty
Redemption Song by Bob Marley and The Wailers
Written by: Bob Marley
Produced by: Bob Marley & Chris Blackwell
Genre: Rock/Reggae Folk
Inspired by: Cancer diagnosis
Emancipate yourself from mental slavery,
None but ourselves can free our minds
Do you guys have any favorites on this list? Additional personal favs?