Protest Songs


What is a protest song? I've been struggling with this idea all day while trying to write a blog post, and I just don't know where to draw the line.

I started out thinking specifically of the 60s and 70s protest songs like "The Times they are a Changin'" by Bob Dylan or "Imagine" by John Lennon, two legendary artists who wrote songs that, while bleak, seemed to encapsulate a hope for a better world. Dylan's song, at least for me and my menial understanding of the protests of the 60s and 70s, seems to be like the start point for the counter-culture of the 60s, which includes hippies, free love, and Vietnam. There's a whole range of songs after "Times" including such classics as "Eve of Destruction," written by PF Sloan and performed by Barry McGuire, and "Peace Train" by Cat Stevens. Lennon closes the era with "Imagine," which I always see as a very sad farewell to the idealism that characterized the period both right before, during, and after the Vietnam War.

But there are other songs that could be called protest songs which came from the 80s. I mean, John Mellencamp's "Authority Song" music video starts with spinning newspapers of the headlines that are obviously things that most people don't agree with, and then a little boy rips the sleeves off his shirt to the shock and horror of stereotypical 1940s old people. Twisted Sister's flamboyant song "We're not gonna take it" was both inspiring to fight "the man" and a call to throw our fathers from second story windows. (Aside: The Dad in this video totally deserved it. What a fucking twit).

More recently, there have been songs by Rise Against, more specifically "Hero of War" which is easily classified as a protest song, in this case against the war in Iraq. But what about songs that deal with protesting things that aren't the government? Songs that are more a protest to narrow-mindedness like Lady Gaga's "Born this Way" (please ignore the bizarre bit of theatre at the beginning of this music video) or Lily Allen's song "Fuck you" which are both songs promoting acceptance of gay people?

So, as you can tell from this blog, I have a rather eclectic (some might say "fucked up") selection of music on my iPod. But what do you think? Are these all protest songs? Are there any monumental songs that I am missing?

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