As you can imagine, I really like protest songs. There have been many, many amazing artists who took the time to speak out against the wars of their time through their music at a time where people really did believe that music could change the world (even today, I believe music will play a huge part in changing the world, because, in the words of Alan Moore through V For Vendetta, “a revolution with no dancing is a revolution not worth having”). Here is my Top 5 list of the groups and artists who, in the last few decades, have spoken up against war.
1. Bob Dylan.
This really ought to go without saying, but Dylan didn’t like war, and as far as I know, he still doesn’t lend his support to it. Considered by many to be a champion of the anti-war movement (many war protesters STILL sing his songs at rallies and marches), Dylan inspired a generation to begin thinking for themselves and not simply going along with what the government told them was OK. Here’s Masters of War:
2. Creedence Clearwater Revival
When the Vietnam War began, John Fogerty noticed something about the war:
In 1969, the majority of the country thought morale was great among the troops, and like eighty percent of them were in favor of the war. But to some of us who were watching closely, we just knew we were headed for trouble.”
This inspired Creedence to write “Fortunate Son,” a song written from the perspective of a man claimed by the draft, lamenting that he’s not fortunate enough to be the son of a senator or a millionaire, who could easily escape the draft. While George W. Bush was president, John Fogerty wrote a song called “I Can’t Take It No More,” which refers to W. as a fortunate son.
3. John Legend and the Roots
I’ve talked about these guys before, but they still amaze me. Written in 2008 and comprised of old soul and R & B music, the album Wake Up! was written to a generation entering a new election year, inspiring them to voice their opinion and to vote for the man who best represented them. Even when they aren’t collaborating, both John Legend and The Roots work hard to inspire young men and women to look around them and to change the wrongs in their midst.
4. Rage Against the Machine
Ha ha, how could I not? Seriously, between Zack de la Rocha’s raw energy and vicious lyrics, and Tom Morello’s wild guitar playing, I can’t NOT love this group. They even work hard to back up their words with action, holding benefits and even performing their song “Sleep Now In the Fire” on the steps of the New York Stock Exchange (they were later arrested). I’m still hoping for a new album out of them sometime soon, but even apart, the band works as activists, with Morello performing solo as “The NightWatchman” and de la Rocha collaborating with other artists, such as in the project One Day As a Lion.
5. Edwin Starr
You’re probably wondering who the heck Edwin Starr is. I’m not going to say anything, except…
WAR! HUH! YEAH! What is it good for? ABSOLUTELY NOTHIN’!
That’s right! Edwin Starr is the author of the great anti-war song “War.” I freakin’ love this song.
There are so many more songs and groups and artists I could put up here. The movement to end war even exists today in some of these same artists, as well as other new and old ones who want to see war as a practice brought to an end. Watch the videos, find new songs, and speak out against war!
By the way, when I was in college I was pretty ardent as a pacifist, so my friend Mandy drew this picture of me. Have a good day, everyone!