10. “War Pigs” by Black Sabbath
This song discusses the reality of the wealthier class in America using the poor to fight their wars, with little concern for their life, as well as politicians using war as a weapon against American people.
“Politicians hide themselves away/They only started the war/Why should they go out to fight?/They leave that role for the poor, yeah”
9. “American Idiot” by Green Day
With themes about people blindly believing what they’re told by the media, hatred, racism, homophobia, sexism, and more, “American Idiot” is the perfect critique of our society.
“Well maybe I’m the f****t America/I’m not a part of a redneck agenda/Now everybody do the propaganda/And sing along to the age of paranoia”
8. “Born In the U.S.A.” by Bruce Springsteen
Often confused as being a very pro-America piece of music, this song really slams American society and government for being careless with its own people, allowing them to exist in poverty, sending them off to fight a pointless war, failing to support veterans, capitalism, et cetera.
“Got in a little hometown jam/So they put a rifle in my hand/Sent me off to a foreign land/To go and kill the yellow man”
7. “Fight the Power” by Public Enemy
Public Enemy blasts America for its societal racism and white supremacist structures in this song, while hitting on everything from politics to cultural appropriation to the first amendment.
“Elvis was a hero to most/But he never meant sh*t to me you see/Straight up racist that sucker was/Simple and plain/Mother f*ck him and John Wayne/Cause I’m Black and I’m proud”
6. “Nazi Punks F*ck Off” by Dead Kennedys
Using the punk genre and style to discuss racism, populism, and capitalism, Dead Kennedys also use this song to take a swipe at those who cast judgment upon others for being outliers, or being different, while promoting concepts of unity.
“Ten guys jump one, what a man/You fight each other, the police state wins/Stab your backs when you trash our halls/Trash a bank if you’ve got real balls”
5. “Alright” by Kendrick Lamar
Kendrick Lamar has so many songs that could’ve made this list, and it was tough to choose just one. This song, however, criticizes so many aspects of being black/poor/drug addicted/mentally ill/women in America. Hitting on capitalism, racism, sexism, poverty, the stigma and lack of proper mental health care, Kendrick really speaks on the feelings of despair so many Americans face every day.
“Uh, and when I wake up/I recognize you’re lookin’ at me for the pay cut/Behind my side we lookin’ at you from the face down/What Mac-11 even boom with the bass down/Schemin’ and let me tell you bout my life/Painkillers only put me in the twilight/What pretty p***y and Benjamin is the highlight”
4. “Testify” by Rage Against the Machine
If you’ve listened to more than one RATM song, you’re pretty familiar with their aggressive commentary on subjects ranging from police violence to governmental corruption to poverty in America. In “Testify,” we hear a lot about how American people rely on and are placated by the media, after being force fed lie after lie, with an abstract likening of American people to an interchangeable assembly line.
“With precision you feed me/My witness I’m hungry/Your temple it calms me/So I can carry on/My slaving sweating the skin right off my bones/On a bed of fire I’m choking on the smoke that fills my home”
3. “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” by Gil Scott-Heron
Much like number four on our list, this song also criticizes American media for inaccurate and incomplete reporting practices, but in this instance, we hear Scott-Heron tell us how the black community isn’t given much media attention unless it’s negative coverage.
“There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down/Brothers in the instant replay/There will be no pictures of young being /Run out of Harlem on a rail with a brand new process/There will be no slow motion or still life of /Roy Wilkens strolling through Watts in a red, black and/Green liberation jumpsuit that he had been saving/For just the right occasion”
2. “F*ck The Police” by N.W.A.
N.W.A. struck fear in the heart of white America when they came on the scene, loud, aggressive, frustrated, and honest. Their songs told their truth, a truth which was largely unknown to many Americans. There were even Congressional hearings about the nature of their music, and were even arrested for performing this particular song, which is incredibly ironic and exposes the truth of their message.
“F*ck the police coming straight from the underground/A young n***a got it bad ’cause I’m brown/And not the other color so police think/they have the authority to kill a minority”
1. “Get Up, Stand Up” by Bob Marley and the Wailers
In this song, Bob Marley very directly tells people to fight for their rights, fight against oppression and abuses. Very few songs quite so succinctly express the need for and encouragement of activism.
“You can fool some people sometimes/But you can’t fool all the people all the time/So now we see the light (What you gonna do?)/We gonna stand up for our rights! (Yeah, yeah, yeah!)”
Do you agree with our list? What are your favorite protest songs? Comment below!