Make this boy shout, make this boy scream
July 19, 2017 6:41 AM   Subscribe

I need protest songs.

I need the best protest songs you know, please. Bonus points for 80s songs, but any decade will do. Examples of what I'm looking for: Going Underground , American Idiot and Fight the Power. And as much as I like them, I'm not looking for folksy "paved paradise to put in a parking lot"-type songs right now. I want songs that make my blood boil.
posted by triggerfinger to Media & Arts (35 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Ohio by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, about the shooting of unarmed protesters at Kent State.
posted by FencingGal at 6:50 AM on July 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

Take the Power Back (okay, most of RATM's catalog)?
posted by uncleozzy at 6:56 AM on July 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

Check out Jefferson Airplane / early Jefferson Starship.
posted by tman99 at 6:57 AM on July 19, 2017

MDC - John Wayne Was A Nazi, Dead Cops / America's So Straight, I Remember

Bodycount - Bodycount

Dead Kennedys - Holiday in Cambodia, Kill The Poor, Nazi Punks Fuck Off, I Fought the Law

Consolidated - Friendly Fascism, Brutal Equation, The Sexual Politics of Meat, Your Body Belongs to the State

Pussy Riot - full discography

Chumbawamba - Homophobia, Give the Anarchist a Cigarette

Oingo Boingo - Smart Bomb

More later, I gotta work now.
posted by bile and syntax at 7:01 AM on July 19, 2017

Immigraniada, Gogol Bordello.

This Is Free Europe, Attila the Stockbroker

Fortress Europe, Asian Dub Foundation.

Naxalite, Asian Dub Foundation

Gunboat, Spoek Mathambo

Dance or Die, Janelle Monae

The Underside of Power, Algiers. Blood, also Algiers

Amnesia, Mekons

The Song of Investment Capital Overseas, Art Bears
posted by Frowner at 7:02 AM on July 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

80s Protest Songs?

You want DEVO! Founded as an artistic response to the Kent State Shootings of May 4th, 1970, their music is a lot nastier, angrier, and more political than people give them credit for. Forget "Whip It", you want stuff like: "Freedom of Choice", "Beautiful World", "Worried Man" (cover of the Kingston Trio song in DEVO's imitable style), "Through Being Cool", and "Social Fools" for starters.

A few other protest songs from that same general timeframe: Elvis Costello & The Attractions - Oliver's Army, The Dead Milkmen - V.F.W., and X-Ray Spex - Oh, Bondage! Up Yours!
posted by SansPoint at 7:04 AM on July 19, 2017

Gang of Four, generally, particularly Capital (It Fails Us Now, We Live As We Dream, Alone.

For silliness value, We Don't Need This Fascist Groove Thing, Heaven 17 - banned by the BBC for being too anti-Thatcher!

Aka Grafitti Man John Trudell, especially the first two tracks.

It's sorta folk but it's also very eighties and also sorta rock - The World Turned Upside Down, The Diggers' Song, Billy Bragg, a song I have actually sung at protests. You know what else I've sung (or sort of chanted on the chorus of) at protests? "Tubthumper", by Chumbawamba, also The Blacker the Berry, The Blacker the Berry, Kendrick Lamar. Also "Freedom", off Lemonade, but for some reason I can't seem to find a good link right now, but then everyone has heard it or has it.

One More Time, Haale

Something About England, The Clash

Written On The Forehead, PJ Harvey; The Glorious Land.

Born In Flames, Born in Flames, The Red Krayola
posted by Frowner at 7:25 AM on July 19, 2017

I would say everything by Crass, but particularly "Yes Sir, I Will".
posted by kendrak at 7:29 AM on July 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

Freda Payne, Bring the Boys Home
John Lennon, Power to the People
Chi-Lites, (For God's Sake) Give More Power to the People
Peter Gabriel, Biko
The Specials, Nelson Mandela, also their cover of Maggie's Farm
Barry McGuire, Eve of Destruction
The English Beat, Whine & Grine / Stand Down Margaret
Beats International, Ten Long Years
Elvis Costello, Radio Radio
posted by kimota at 7:52 AM on July 19, 2017

The P.E.A.C.E./War compilation might be up your alley.

One of my faves: False Prophets - Banana Split Republic
posted by box at 7:53 AM on July 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

"We've Got a Bigger Problem Now" by the Dead Kennedys (give it a minute).
posted by saladin at 8:28 AM on July 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

Oh and how about Worms of the Senses/Faculties of the Skull by Refused ("I've got a bone to pick with capitalism/and a few to break").
posted by saladin at 8:31 AM on July 19, 2017

The Flobots have a great album out of protest songs, NOENEMIES. The led a huge group in the women's march and other protests, doing many of these with a live marching band. Super great.
posted by LKWorking at 8:35 AM on July 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

People Have the Power by Patti Smith
posted by janey47 at 8:47 AM on July 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

Waco Brothers
Plenty Tough and Union Made
Bad Times are Coming Round

Middle of the Road by the Pretenders.
posted by brookeb at 10:31 AM on July 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

Conflict - From Protest to Resistance.
posted by googly at 10:49 AM on July 19, 2017

Billy Bragg's "Which Side Are You On" is about the 1984-85 British miner's strike.

"Sixteen Years" by the Jazz Butcher is about the Thatcher years and is very angry and cathartic to bellow along with.
posted by Lexica at 10:52 AM on July 19, 2017

Ahhhh, the 80s - they were actually a really good era for protest songs. You had apartheid in South Africa, an early environmental movement, and the Cold War and the threat of Mutually Assured Destruction on top of the constant ills. Plus Reagan and Thatcher were at their most active.

Grouped into some categories:


* Biko from Peter Gabriel.

*Sun City, from the supergroup "Artists United Against Apartheid." This was a "Band-Aid" type of thing launched by Steve Van Zandt as an apartheid protest thing; the entire album itself would also tickle you, since Van Zandt was bringing in more rockers and punks for the album rather than the people who were on USA for Africa and those groups. The other tracks on the full album contain a lot of rap/jazz/found-footage influenced stuff, ranging from a number with Gil-Scott Heron, Miles Davis, and Herbie Hancock to a collection of news sound bites set to a backing track, to a jam that Peter Gabriel laid down in a day, to Bono doing the original version of Silver and Gold, where it was just him, Keith Richards and Ron Wood, and Bono was trying to channel Howlin' Wolf or something.


* 19, from Paul Hardcastle. I remember this being enough of a "thing" that a counselor at my summer camp that year answered a question about his age by bursting into singing this.

* Bullet The Blue Sky, U2. This is probably more about American imperialism in Central America, but hey.

* Sunday Bloody Sunday, U2. Focusing on the "Troubles" in Northern Ireland. This live clip of the song was taken from the "Rattle and Hum" film, and catches them in concert on the same day that there was a big IRA action on a veteran's day parade in Belfast - and the band is pissed off, and it makes for one hell of a performance.

* Seconds, U2. Yes, U2 did an anti-nuke song.


Beds Are Burning, Midnight Oil.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:14 AM on July 19, 2017 [3 favorites]

System of a Down: Prison Song, Deer Dance

Dead Kennedys: Chemical Warfare

Suicidal Tendencies (circa 1983): Fascist Pig, Two Sided Politics, Memories of Tomorrow, I Shot the Devil, I Want More

Muse: Uprising

P!nk: Dear Mr. President
posted by Amor Bellator at 11:28 AM on July 19, 2017

If you're going to listen to Midnight Oil, how about the whole of Red Sails In The Sunset, in particularKosciusko? And When The Generals Talk?

And I'm not sure if this is my favorite version of the, but Gil Scott Heron's Johannesburg?

Billy Bragg, The marching song of the covert battalions

Also, talk about eighties protest songs to sing to, what about New Model Army? Spirit of the Falklands or Vengeance? They're not the most subtle band in the world, but they're pure eighties left rock music, and they seem to be nice people, which not everyone is.
posted by Frowner at 11:29 AM on July 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

Might not make your blood boil cuz it's in German, but one of my favourite angry songs ever is Revolution by Die Ärzte. (it's not strictly a protest song since they are looking back at the time when they did dream of revolution... but they are still angry!). The Revolution 94 version is also great.
posted by ClarissaWAM at 12:12 PM on July 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

If you don't mind a slow boil, there's always Elvis Costello's Tramp The Dirt Down.
posted by the return of the thin white sock at 1:16 PM on July 19, 2017

Baby, I'm an Anarchist
posted by monologish at 1:38 PM on July 19, 2017

John Fogerty - I Can't Take It No More

Credence Clearwater Revival - Fortunate Son

Incubus - Megalomaniac (written about Bush but frighteningly appropriate now.)

Rage Against the Machine - Killing in the Name

All of them are very angry songs.
posted by MexicanYenta at 2:16 PM on July 19, 2017

If I Had a Rocket Launcher by Bruce Cockburn
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 2:53 PM on July 19, 2017

Seconding the Mekons, Waco Brothers, and Chumbawamba. Alongside Crass I'd also recommend Thatcher on Acid.

Also, the entire output of the Minutemen, but off the top of my head: King of the Hill!
posted by cowboy_sally at 6:27 PM on July 19, 2017

Oh! And! Soft Boys, I Wanna Destroy You.
posted by cowboy_sally at 6:32 PM on July 19, 2017

From 1994, Pop Will Eat Iteslf's Ich Bin Ein Ausländer.
posted by workerant at 6:37 PM on July 19, 2017

The Alarm's 1984 album 'Declaration' (YT playlist). Check out The Stand, Marching On, Sixty Eight Guns, Blaze of Glory.
posted by prinado at 9:34 PM on July 19, 2017

A classic: Newtown Neurotics - Living With Unemployment

You need to go back further for Midnight Oil - Short Memories, If Ned Kelly Was King, Armistice Day, No Time For Games
posted by N-stoff at 10:41 PM on July 19, 2017

R.E.M. - Ignoreland is relevant today, and good to scream along
Bastards stole the power from the victims of the us v. them years,
wrecking all things virtuous and true.
The undermining social-democratic downhill slide into abysmal
a lost lamb off the precipice, into trickle-down runoff pool.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 12:04 AM on July 21, 2017

Several from Tom Robinson Band:

Power in the Darkness
Glad to be Gay
Ain't Gonna Take It
... and let's face it, at least 75% of his songs.

The Clash - Guns of Brixton

Patti Smith's version of My Generation, especially for the way she says "I don't need this fucking shit!"
posted by zorseshoes at 6:34 PM on July 25, 2017

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