TOP 5 BEST PROTEST SONGS

Use this post to add YOUR list of top 5 greatest protest songs. The winner (according to my judgement and comment responses) will get a free download of my new live comedy album “Pepper Spray The Tears Away.” You’ll get extra points for creativity.

83 comments
  1. “We’re living in a bad dream,
    they’ve forgotten all about mankind,
    and you were the one they backed up to the wall
    all those years ago.
    You were the one who Imagined it all
    all those years ago.”

    ~ George Harrison

    “So don’t delay, act now, supplies are running out!
    Allow, if you’re still alive, six to eight years to arrive.
    And if you follow, there may be a tomorrow,
    but if the offer is shunned, then you might as well be walkin’ on the sun.

    Twenty-five years ago they spoke out and they broke out
    of recession and oppression and together they toked
    and they folked out with guitars around a bonfire
    just singin’ and clappin’… Man, what the hell happened?!”

    ~ Smash Mouth

    “People of the world all had it together
    had it together for the boys and the girls
    and the children of the world looked forward to a future…

    Remember: tick tock, tick tock, tick tock, people,
    time’s ticking away.”

    ~ Stevie Ray Vaughan

    1 “Hard Times in the Land of Plenty” – Omar and the Howlers
    2 “Send Me Your Money” – Suicidal Tendencies
    3 “Which Way Are You Goin’?” – Jim Croce
    4 “Tell Me Why” – P.O.D.
    5 “Excuse Me, Mr.” – Ben Harper

    “I sat alone in the dark one night, tuning in by remote
    I found a preacher who spoke of the light, but there was brimstone in his throat
    He’d show me the way according to him in return for my personal check
    I flipped my channel back to CNN and I lit another cigarette

    I take my chances. Forgiveness doesn’t come with a debt.
    I take my chances. I take my chances every chance I get.”

    ~ Mary Chapin Carpenter

    “I am not an island! I am not alone!
    I am my intentions trapped here in this flesh and bone!

    And I need to move, I need to wake up.
    I need to change, I need to shake up.
    I need to speak out, something’s got to break up.
    I’ve been asleep and I need to wake up now.”

    ~ Melissa Etheridge

    Will you stand and watch while the seeds of hate are sown?

  2. Pete Seeger – Solidarity Forever
    Woody Guthrie – All You Fascists
    Billy Bragg – The Internationale
    Tracy Chapman – Talkin’ Bout A Revolution
    Dead Kennedys – Kill The Poor

  3. 1) The Universal Soldier (Buffy St. Marie)
    2) Swimming to the Other Side (Pat Humphries)
    3) The Times They Are A-Changin’ (Bob Dylan)
    4) What’s Goin’ On (Marvin Gaye)
    5) We Can’t Make It Here Anymore (James McMurtry)

  4. I could also make an entire list of Gil Scott Heron songs (Quite possibly the most brilliant musical genius in modern history)

    1 We Almost Lost Detroit (anti-nuclear power)
    2 Winter in America (anti-establishment)
    3 Johannesburg (anti-apartheid)
    4 Did You Hear What They Said? (anti-war)
    5 The Revolution Will Not Be Televised (Pro-power to the people)

  5. 1 Agent Orange – Pharoahe Monch (anti-war)
    2 Ghost of Tom Joad – Bruce Springsteen (anti-poverty)
    3 Maggie’s Farm – Rage Against the Machine (pro-worker’s rights and anti-slavery/sharecropping)
    4 Change – Self Scientific (anti-war and anti-establishment )
    5 Trail of Lies – Jedi Mind Tricks (anti-unattainable standard of beauty for women)

  6. Jefferson Airplane – Volunteer
    The Temptations – Ball of Confusion
    The Beatles – Revolution
    Megadeth – Peace Sells
    Rage Against the Machine – Testify
    Sacred Reich – The American Way
    And I could go on and on …. 🙂

  7. Constant Movement – Kill The Autocrat

    Fuck The Police – N.W.A

    Freedom – Rage Against The Machine

    One Big Union – Mathew Grimm

    One Day Longer – Kill The Autocrat

  8. Oops did I do that wrong? Oh fucking well. I was so eager to post my preferences I couldn’t just pick 5 😉

    But if I must…k…let’s see…needs to be protesty not revolutionary…hmm

    Well, FUCK THE POLICE – RATM
    PRISON SONG -SOD
    DEER DANCE – SOD
    RICH MAN’S WORLD (1%) – IMMORTAL TECH
    NATURAL BEAUTY – IMMORTAL TECH

  9. Country Joe McDonald – I Feel Like I’m Fixin to Die Rag
    Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young – Ohio
    War – Edwin Starr – War
    Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On
    Tim Buckley – Once I was a Solider (some think this is a love song, I think it is about the war in Viet Nam

  10. Working Class Hero – John Lennon
    Electioneering – Radiohead
    Mosh – Eminem
    Rebel Music – Bob Marley
    Legalize It – Peter Tosh

  11. Freedom- Rage Against The Machine
    I Don’t Need Society- D.R.I.
    War Pigs- Black Sabbath
    American Idiot- Green Day
    BOOM!- System Of A Down

  12. 1. Anti-Flag – Ranks Of The Masses Rising
    2. Woody Guthrie – All You Fascists Are Bound To Lose
    3. Rage Against The Machine – Know Your Enemy
    4. Rise Against – Hero of War
    5. The Nightwatchman – The Road I Must Travel

    Ranks Of The Masses Rising was the theme for my May Chicago trip for NATO. All You Fascists was one of the songs that got me hooked on Woody. Know Your Enemy is THE primer track for getting into Rage and one of those that are most endearing to my activist side. Hero Of War speaks for itself, and The Road I Must Travel is anthemic about how we must all walk our own path, and to not walk towards a better world is to wither and die. Even when we can’t see the outcome, we must walk!

  13. Turncoat – Anti Flag
    Give it All- Rise Against
    Lotus- Cage the Elephant
    Weatherman- Dead Sara
    Our Ethos: A Legacy to pass on – Set your Goals

  14. Nina Simone-Revolution
    Billie Holiday-Strange Fruit
    MC5-American Ruse
    Woody Guthrie-What are we Waiting on
    Phil Ochs -I ain’t marching anymore
    Public Enemy -Fight the Power
    Black Sabbath -War Pigs
    John Lennon -John Sinclair

  15. Zombie by Fela Kuti (Fela was one of the first musicians whose political career may well have eclipsed his musical)

    Tin Soldiers by CSNY (after Kent state, this song was written, produced, and on the radio in fewer than two weeks, a billboard record)

    Us and Them by Pink Floyd (this song protests war, though it is very abstract about it)

    Fuck Da Police by NWA (the standard for songs about the criminal justice system)

    Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd (this is the only song I know of to protest an actual protest song; it was written specifically as a rebuttal to Neil Young’s Southern Man)

  16. Day After tomorrow- Tom Waits
    Testify- Rage Against the Machine
    London Calling- The Clash
    Vietnam Rag- Country Joe and the Fish
    This Land is your Land- Woody Guthrie

  17. Here’s my thoughts on good protest songs, keeping in mind that I’m Dutch, and am not too familiar with all the protest songs out there. Then again, maybe I can surprise you.

    5. Slipknot by Woody Guthrie

    4. Banks are made of marble by Pete Seeger

    3. I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night by Joan Baez (originally written by Alfred Hayes as a poem, put to music by Earl Robinson).

    2. Two good men by Woody Guthrie

    1. Welterusten, meneer de President (goodnight mister president)
    Dutch protest song by Boudewijn de Groot, written for president Lyndon B. Jonhson. In the song Boudewijn tells the president not to worry too much about all the killing so he can sleep. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xj6vG3LEaVc

    “Mister President, goodnight,
    Sleep tight in your pretty white house
    Don’t think about those far off coasts
    Where your boys are far away from home”

    Bonus-song: On a protest march in Amsterdam a few years back, we sang “We hangen je op Jan-Peter” (we’ll hang you, Jan-Peter) to the music of “Hang down your head, Tom Dooley” to our (former) Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende. I think this moment will stick with me for the rest of my life.

  18. “white people for peace” -against me!
    “renegades of funk” -rage against the machine
    “dead end” -middle class rut
    “drones in the valley” -cage the elephant
    “the state” -porter robinson

    hope you enjoy, and keep up the good work!

  19. Fuck the police- Rage against the machine (cover)
    Darkness of Greed- Rage against the machine
    Revolution- Tool and Rage Against the Machine
    BYOB- System of a Down
    Take the Power Back- Rage Against the Machine

    I think every revolution needs a healthy dosage of rage and hate.
    Also I would like to say fuck pacifism, or atleast dogmatic pacifism i think we need to keep all our options open and strike strategically with nothing being off limits, for those who say violence doesn’t accomplish anything i think those in power would disagree violence is extremely effective, and to quote Derrick Jensen- “Do you really think monsanto is going to stop monsantoing if we ask nicely?”

  20. Honorable mentions:

    Gene Burnett “Jump you fuckers”
    Katie Goodman “I didn’t fuck it up”

    Sorry had to include these after I reread my post, John Mayer? what was I thinking, damn Smirnoff Ice

  21. 1.) Linkin Park “Wretches and kings”
    2.) Muse “Uprising”
    3.) Rage against the machine “No Shelter”
    4.) John Lennon “Imagine”
    5.) John Mayer “Waiting on the world to change”

    Oh you said protest, not revolution, my bad…

  22. Rage Against the Machine – Renegades of Funk, Bulls on Parade, Wake UP!, Fuck the Police

    Switchfoot – Dark Horses

    Fear Factory – Slave Labor, Drones

    System of A Down – Prison Song, Deer Dance, X, Attack, Vicinity of Obscenity, U-Fig

    Immortal Technique – The entire “Martyr”CD

  23. Incubus – Megalomaniac
    Green Day – Holiday
    Rage Against the Machine – Bulls on Parade
    Cage the Elephant – Judas
    Incubus – Made for TV Movie

  24. Some songs that I love that are not mentioned above,

    Incubus – Megalomaniac (the official video to this is as amazing as the song)
    Incubus – Made for TV Movie
    Incubus – Agoraphobia

    (all those are from the same album, A Crow Left of the Murder)

    Cage the Elephant – James Brown
    Cage the Elephant – Judas

    Green Day – Holiday

    oh and how about Rage Against the Machine – Bulls on Parade

    Got to throw another vote out for Neil Young – Rockin’ in the Free World and the Pearl Jam performance of Masters of War on David Letterman

    Protest is great when it comes from the heart and soul, but don’t let it be an end unto itself. Be at war with ourselves.

  25. In no order:

    The American Ruse – MC5
    Zombie – Fela Anikulapo Kuti
    At Home He’s a Tourist – Gang of Four
    Rockin’ in the Free World – Neil Young
    The Ballad of a Thin Man – Bob Dylan

  26. thats how grateful we are-chumbawamba
    battle of the beanfield-the levellers
    radical dance faction-free martin foran
    the specials-ghost town
    gil scott heron-johannesburg

  27. Black Flags (1st ed. feat. Boots Riley / Anonymous)- Atari Teenage Riot
    War- Edwin Starr
    Freedom- Rage Against the Machine
    Pet- A Perfect Circle
    Anemia- Tool

  28. Lee,

    Because I liked my list, here’s a repost from Facebook. I’m having a hard time excluding the Dylan song, but the other ones seem like the artists were previously listed for other songs…

    “Outside of a Small Circle of Friends” by Phil Ochs (against apathy)

    “Whitey’s on the Moon” by Gil Scott Heron (privilege and priorities – even though I like the space program that was made an example of)

    “Spanish Bombs” by The Clash (Civil war – and how quickly atrocities are papered over)

    “Strange Fruit” by Billie Holliday (Anti-lynching; protecting a minority against a violent element in a majority)

    “Masters of War” by Bob Dylan (The classic anti-profiteering track)

    All the best

  29. born in the USA- bruce springsteen
    the bravery of being out of range- roger waters
    we shall overcome- mahalia jackson
    bury my heart at wounded knee- buffy st marie (covered by the indigo girls
    rockin in the free world- neil young

  30. I can’t narrow it down to 5, so here is 10.
    1. We Can’t Make it Here Anymore – James McMurtry (Most people have never heard this song, but listen to it. Trust me on this one! Absolutely bone chilling.)
    2. Masters of War – Bob Dylan
    3. With God on Our Side – Bob Dylan (One of the lesser known Dylan songs. I love the meaning of this song)
    4. Blowin’ in the Wind – Bob Dylan
    5. The Ghost of Tom Joad – Bruce Springsteen (preferably the live version with Tom Morello)
    6. Give Peace a Chance – John Lennon
    7. A Change a Gonna Come – Sam Cooke
    8. Ohio – Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young
    9. Simple Song of Freedom – Bobby Darin
    10. Fortunate Son – CCR

  31. My 10 cents:

    For What It’s Worth (Stills, Buffalo Springfield)
    Eve of Destruction (Sloan, McGuire)
    Fortunate Son (CCR)
    So Long Mom (Lehrer)
    Zombie (Cranberries)
    We Shall Overcome (gospel, Seeger)
    One Tin Soldier (Lambert, Potter; Coven)
    Revolution (Lennon, McCartney; Beatles)
    Won’t Get Fooled Again (Townshend, Who)
    Peace Train (Cat Stevens)

  32. Joe Hill, We were There, Golden Ribbons, This Land is your Land, We shall Overcome

  33. Well, I spent all night making video collages to 4 of my protest songs from my one man band “THE LAST DITCH STAND” Comedian Paul Provenza tweeted the first song to his 10,000 followers a few months ago & the next day Youtube deleted my account. So I’m using this opportunity, to win a copy of your new album, to re-launch the songs publicly.

    Please one & all… listen/watch them here: http://www.youtube.com/iamthelastditchstand
    1) Please Bro Don’t Tase Me

    2) Empires Crumble but the Fool Plays on

    3) Peace Mongering Thought Criminals

    4) LADIDA (a song for children)

    and for my 5th song I choose BUFFY SAINTE MARIE’s “My Country Tis of Thy People You’re Dying”

  34. John Lennon-Give Peace A Chance
    Marvin Gaye-What’s Going On
    Genesis-Jesus He Knows Me
    Pink Floyd-Another Brick In The Wall
    No Doubt-Just A Girl

    Alternate List:
    Pink-Dear Mr. President
    Tom Waits-Day After Tomorrow
    Temptations-Ball Of Confusion
    Green Day-American Idiot
    Randy Newman-Political Science

    Honorable Mentions:
    Weird Al Yankovic -Frank’s 2000″ TV
    Also Weird Al-Why Does This Always Happen To Me
    Rage Against The Machine: Killing In The Name Of
    Actually those 2 Weird Al songs aren’t really protest songs, more like observations about consumerism & being apathetic & docile.

    There are many many other protest songs that I LOVE but if I try to narrow it down even more I’ll be here all night.

  35. 1 Iris Dement- Waestland of the free
    2.Otis gibbs- The peoples Day
    3.Creedence Clearwater- Fortunate son
    4.The Bettles ( : Talking about a revolution
    5.Gil Scott Heron- The revolution will not be televised

  36. Get up, Stand up by Bob Marley & the Wailers The times they are a- changin by Bob Dylan Lives in the Balance by Ritchie Havens Imagine by John Lennon Where is the love by the Black eyed peas

  37. The Point of No Return – Immortal Technique
    Warn Them – Welfare Poets
    Uncle Sam Goddamn – Brother Ali
    Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It – Ice Cube
    Riot – Three Days Grace

  38. which side are you on?
    we shall not be moved
    union maid
    bread and roses
    and of course solidarity forever

  39. NOW:

    1. ‘Waiting Room’ – Fugazi
    2. ‘CIA Man’ – The Fugs
    3. ‘Marching Song of the Covert Battalions’ – Billy Bragg
    4. ‘Fight The Power’ – Public Enemy
    5. ‘We Shall Overcome’ – Pete Seeger

  40. (in no particular order.)

    1. phil ochs – “love me, i’m a liberal”
    2. sinead o’ connor “black boys on mopeds”
    3 bob dylan “only a pawn in their game”
    4. joe hill “the preacher and the slave”
    5 phil ochs “i ain’t a marching anymore”

  41. Anti-Flag – You can kill the protester but you can’t kill the protest
    Anti-Flag – Underground Network
    Metallica- …And Justice For All
    Muse- Uprising
    Rise Against- Blood-red white &blue

  42. Masters of War Eddie Vedder live acoustic my favorite version best protest song of all time

    The big muddy any version

    Immortal Technique the 1%

    File transfer prototypical the 99%

  43. Rebel inc- killing the future
    Chris geo- mad world
    Jordan Page- listen
    Aimee Allen- I’d start a revolution
    Payday Monsanto- what’s life worth

  44. 5. California Über Alles – Disposable Heroes Of Hiphopris

    4. Joe Hill – Traditional (but the Billy Bragg version is just tough)

    3. Your Next Bold Move – Ani Difranco

    2. Tramp the Dirt Down – Elvis Costello (Margaret Thatcher make Elvis MAADDD!!!)

    1. The Revolution Will Not Be Televised – Gil Scot mutherfuckin’ Heron (R.I.P.)

  45. nina simone ~ revolution
    rage against the machine ~ killing in the name of
    david Bowie ~ rebel rebel
    pink floyd ~ vera lynn (THE WALL)
    holy!holy!holy! ~ fuck shit up

  46. Marvin Gaye: “What’s Going On?”
    Woody Guthrie “This Land is your Land”
    Edwin Starr: “War”
    CCR “Fortunate Son”
    Bob Marley “Get Up Stand Up”

    Alternative List
    Sex Pistols “God Save the Queen”
    Billy Bragg “The Price of Oil”
    Bob Dylan “Master of War”
    Black Sabbath “War Pigs”
    Bruce Springsteen “Born in the USA”

  47. “Heaters” – Ill Scarlet

    They are ‘cool beans’…yup I just embarrassed myself for this thread!

    Keep on Fightin Lee!

  48. 01. ain’t nobody gonna turn me around [updated: ain’t no bankster …]
    02. which side are you on
    03. bread and roses [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LWkVcaAGCi0]
    04. i didn’t fuck it up [katie goodman]
    05. We Are the 99% (as we gather together) [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3qZDtjJpFrI

  49. Talking about a Revolution
    Yell Fire
    The revolution starts now
    WAR! What is it good for!
    Lives in the Balance

  50. I’m not going for winners in the most obvious sense of the definition; these are the songs that inflame my passions for causes enough that just relistening to them refocuses my efforts. If you haven’t heard one of the ones I’m listing, I suggest you do. You’re a smart guy and will appreciate them.

    1 – I’m Not Marching Anymore – Phil Ochs

    2 – R.E.S.P.E.C.T. – Aretha Franklin

    3 – My Youngest Son Came Home Today – Eric Bogle (but Billy Bragg’s version makes me cry every time.)

    4 – Ballad Of Hollis Brown – Bob Dylan (Not a protest song as such but one hell of an indictment)

    5 – Self Evident – Ani Difranco

    Fuck it, I’m not trying to win. Just check these out if you haven’t already.

    6 – Yesterday’s Men – The Fureys

    7 – They Took The Children Away – Archie Roach (About the Aboriginal stolen generations; children taken from blacks as part of Australia’s government policy to raise them in white Christian homes between 1869 and 1969. Yes… 1969!)

    8 – Red Flag – Billy Bragg again (Look, everything Billy does is brilliant, even his reworking of classics.)

    9 – This Land Is Your Land – Woody Guthrie (Really should have had this higher up the list)

    10 – Gold Watch Blues – Donovan

    If you’d like to know another couple of hundred, let me know. Sorry.
    Keep up the awesome work.

  51. I’m taking a pretty straight shot at this, especially since the Vietnam War produced a shit-ton of protest songs, many of which have been forgotten or surpressed. Some of the best made this list. Shit, actually 80% of it is Vietnam War protest songs. Who would believe today that Stevie Wonder wrote and recorded one of the best anti-war songs of the 20th century? Listen to it and you’ll be sad for the disappearance of that talent from today’s pop world.

    5) For What It’s Worth – Buffalo Springfield

    4) The Medal – Ruth Copeland (http://www.maxilyrics.com/ruth-copeland-the-medal-lyrics-0fc9.html)

    3) I Can’t Write Left Handed – Bill Withers (http://youtu.be/O4RyYtkifTM)

    2) There is Power in a Union – Joe Hill

    1) Front Line – Stevie Wonder (1982 version http://youtu.be/DKRqzxeJ0bc)

  52. The Harder They Come- Jimmy Cliff
    Redemption Song- Bob Marley
    Assimbonanga- Johnny Clegg & Savuka
    Get Up Stand Up- Peter Tosh
    Biko Drum- Christy Moore

  53. Hey Lee, Makana did this Woodie Guthrie tribute with contemporary political focus las t year. He backed it up with a protest of the President’s APEC dinner in Honolulu. The associated links to the video give the background. Thanx for your work. Wise Up & Rise Up!

  54. Country Joe and the Fish – I Feel Like I’m Fixing to Die
    Sam Cooke – A Change is Gonna Come.
    Bob Dylan – Blowin in the Wind.
    John Lennon – Give Peace a Chance.
    Crosby Stills Nash & Young – Ohio.

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