The Ten Best Protest Songs

Great songs in this list no question, but it all seems a bit err old, who’s protesting now? Tell us, we’d love to know….

Ballad of Joe Hill, 1936 This stirring memorial to labour activist Joe Hill, executed in 1915 for a murder he probably didn’t commit, was made famous by Paul Robeson and Joan Baez. Picture: REX
Strange Fruit, 1939 Earlier songs had hinted at the horrors of the lynching of Blacks in America’s Southern states. Abel Meeropol’s song, immortalised by Billie Holiday, stated them out loud. Picture: REX
This Land is Your Land, 1949 Woody Guthrie’s great song praises the natural bounty of America, and contrasts it with the marks of exclusion and want in the human world; the keep out signs, and the queues at soup-kitchens. REX
USA - Peace Activist
We Shall Overcome, 1948 This song became the unofficial anthem of the Civil Rights movement in the US in the 1950s and 1960s. Joan Baez, it’s most famous exponent, sang it for for President Obama at the White House in 2010. Picture: REX
Moving on Song, 1963 Ewan MacColl, British labour activist, communist and song-writer, shines an unforgiving light on the motives of all those good folk who tell travellers to “Move along, get along, move, SHIFT!“ His centenary is being celebrated in January 2015 Picture: REX
672225d Bob Dylan
Only a Pawn in their Game, 1964 Bob Dylan penned numerous protest songs, but this meditation on the twisted mentality of white racism, inspired by the murder of Medgar Evans, is especially fine.
Get up Stand Up 1973 Bob Marley wrote many songs calling for the overthrow of “Babylon“ (i.e. capitalism) but my favourite is this one, which has the splendid line, “You can fool some people sometimes, but you can’t fool all the people all the time.“ Picture: Rex Features
Ohio, 1970 Neil Young composed this angry response to the massacre of inmates at Kent State Prison for the band Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. Picture: Rex Features
Born in the USA, 1984 Bruce Springsteen pays tribute to the hardship of the soldier serving in the Vietnam War, and his plight on his return, with “nothing left to tie him into society anymore.“ Picture: Rex Features
Fight the Power, 1989 All hip-hop is protest, but this excoriating howl of anger from Public Enemy stands out from the crowd. It unnerved many at the time because it explicity rejected racial integration. It’s still unnerving now. Picture: Rex Features

Thanks to the Telegraph Newspaper for this article







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