Top 25 patriotic protest songs
Wed Jun 29 2011
15. "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" by Gil-Scott Heron
In May, we lost one of our greatest modern poets and performers. Heron's catalog is peppered with personal and political lyrics that chronicle the absurdity and darkness that is an integral part of the American experience. But this song is where his ascension to poet laureate of the oppressed began. Featured on his 1970 debut, Small Talk at 125th and Lenox, this poem spoken over music started its own revolution by not only setting the stage for hip-hop but also giving it social consciousness.
14. "Changes" by 2Pac
At the time of 2Pac's death he had moved away from the social consciousness of his early records for more gangster and party-based music. "Changes," which was released posthumously in 1998, sounds like vintage political 'Pac because it was actually recorded in 1992—well before his tenure at Death Row Records and his bid in prison. Strangely, when the record was dropped—six years after it was recorded and two years after his death—the lyrics seemed as if they were ripped straight from the headlines, helping fuel the idea that Shakur was still alive. Even today, couplets like "We got war in the streets and war in the Middle East" still maintain their relevance. Some things never change.
13. "Bulls on Parade" by Rage Against the Machine
This relentlessly pummeling track sounds like the Dresden bombing, the Hiroshima nuclear attack, and the Iraq War's shock and awe campaign all rolled into one—rightfully so, since it's lyrics are directed at the military industrial complex. Nearly all of Rage's songs are political anthems, but this cut from their landmark 1996 Evil Empire LP is a manifesto lyrically and musically. Here, not only does singer Zack de la Rocha explore themes of greed and war, but guitarist Tom Morello introduces his scratch technique, fusing the discord of punk with the scattered rhythms of rap.
12. "One" by Metallica
The travesties of war are not a new theme for metalheads, who've been slipping politics in with their guitar licks since Sabbath dropped "Iron Man" in 1970. However, "One" manages to be revelatory through its imagery inspired by Dalton Trumbo's novel Johnny Got His Gun, about a soldier trapped in his mind after suffering injuries that leave him unable to communicate or move. The horrific circumstances detailed by frontman James Hetfield reveal that we can never really escape the war because it is always in our minds. As a fan favorite from from Metallica's commercial breakthrough, ...And Justice for All, "One" epitomizes the band's ability to crank out dexterous guitar riffs and give headbangers something to think about.
11. "The Message" by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five
This gritty cut from the formative rap group's 1982 debut is often pointed to as the beginning of social consciousness in hip-hop. Like Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land," it paints a bleak picture of urban American life. Unfortunately, unlike Guthrie, the Furious Five offers no way out.