WhilstinVogue (whilstinvogue) wrote in ohnotheydidnt,

ONTD Original™: 8 Iconic 20th Century Protest Songs

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
Genre: Folk

Topic: Change

Inspired by: Civil rights and antiwar movements

Iconic Lyric:
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
Genre: Soul

Topic: Police brutality, violence

Inspired by: Witnessing "Bloody Thursday"

Iconic Lyric:
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
Genre: Folk

Topic: Peace, utopia

Inspired by: 70's antiwar movement

Iconic Lyric:
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

Iconic Lyric:
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

Topic: Antiwar

Famous ass shot by Annie Leibovitz.

Inspired by: Vietnam war.

Iconic Lyric:
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
Genre: Soul

Topic: Equality

Inspired by: Civil rights movement, black pride, feminism.

Iconic Lyric:
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.

Iconic Lyric:
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

Topic: Freedom

Inspired by: Cancer diagnosis

Iconic Lyric:
Emancipate yourself from mental slavery,
None but ourselves can free our minds

Do you guys have any favorites on this list? Additional personal favs?
Tags: music / musician (other), music / musician (r&b and soul), music / musician (rap and hip-hop), music / musician (rock), ontd original

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