Saturday, 13 July 2013

The Saturday List #39 - Ten Great Protest Songs

As a musician and a political activist, I am saddened by the decline in the art of writing protest songs. Many great musicians used their high public profile to write songs about issues of the day that really mattered. Here is my personal selection of ten of the best. 

1. The Specials - Free Nelson Mandela
Written during the aparthied era in South Africa. An iconic anthem.

2. The Steve Miller Band - Jackson Kent Blues

This was written after the police massacred anti Vietnam protestors in the USA at Jackson & Kent in 1970. The incidents are chronicled here on wikipedia - - Steve Miller responded by writing this song. The first verse is chilling

I was down in Nashville just payin' my duesHeaded for Ohio when I read the news'Bout the people demonstrating 'gainst the President's viewsFour were shot down by the National Guard troopsJust like Uncle Sam I put on my fighting shoesSchool shot down cause there's no more to loseNow we're headed to D.C. two by twosCause those low down, profound, killin' four blues

3. Michelle Shocked  - Graffiti Limbo

Cracking song about the death of a young graffiti artist at the hands of the LAPD.

4. Tom Robinson Band - Glad to Be Gay

Back in 1978 when this song came out, it was truly groundbreaking. Tom Robinson had blazed onto the scene with a monster hit 2-4-6-8 Motorway. This track as a follow up was a highly risky move. Tom Robinson said that when they first performed it, they didn't know if they would be canned off. For many young people struggling with their sexual identity at the time, this song was a revelation. In many ways it was the first step on the road to the realisation that homophobia was not alright. Whilst I suspect that it didn't really help the TRB become a very commercially successful band, it did something far more important.

5. The Clash - Capital Radio

A full on rant about the crapness of the music played on Capital Radio. As a young Punk rocker I've always loved this rant against bland music shows.

6. Menace - GLC 

This rant against the Conservative policies of Horace Cutler adminstration at the GLC has always been one of my favourites, with the best singalong chorus of any punk rock song. 

7. The Angelic Upstarts - Who Killed Liddle Towers

This was written in protest at the killing of Liddle Towers by the police - - the song was dealing with the issues of lack of accountability of the police. Perhaps the Upstarts finest moment.

8. Bob Dylan - Hurricane

I couldn't find a youtube video of this song anywhere as Bob Dylan has a policy of not allowing them. 

It's a great song about the injustice and the way boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter was fitted up for a murder. Check  it out if you get the chance.

9. The Saints - Security City

A rant against the oppressive policies of the ultra right wing policies of the right wing administration in Brisbane Australia. There was a very oppressive attitude to young people and alternative subcultures.

10. The Pogues - Birmingham Six

This is a beautiful song about the injustice of the incarceration of the Birmingham Six. I've included the clip about the way the song was banned. 

And just as a bonus, perhaps the greatest protest song of all - Country Joe and the Fish -  I feel like I'm fixing to die rag

This was the song of the anti Vietnam war

Have a great weekend

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