Music for those Goddamn Liberals?
April 12, 2006 2:33 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for songs that you associate with Liberal ideals. (Or "progressive" ideals, if you prefer.) Examples: "Streets of Philadelphia" by Bruce Springsteen, "If It Were Up to Me" by Cheryl Wheeler, "I'm Not the Man" by Natalie Merchant/10,000 Maniacs, "War" by Edwin Starr, etc. I'd prefer the songs weren't blatantly "Republicans suck and Bush is mean" (though "When the President Talks to God" is a fine song); I'm looking more for songs about social activism and progressive ideals, about the things that Liberals typically hold important. (Songs about the general state of the world are fine, too: "Ball of Confusion", etc.)
posted by jdroth to Media & Arts (82 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Johnny Cash's "Man In Black."
posted by johngoren at 2:34 PM on April 12, 2006

Ben Folds' "Jesusland"
posted by matkline at 2:34 PM on April 12, 2006

Ellis Unit One / Over Yonder by Steve Earle with regards to the death penalty.
posted by Hildago at 2:37 PM on April 12, 2006

Just about anything by Woodie Guthrie.

All of Green Day's American Idiot, which is an entire rock opera devoted to social commentary.

There are lots.
posted by ChasFile at 2:38 PM on April 12, 2006

Mermaid Avenue is a nice group of previously unrecorded Woody Guthrie songs performed by Billy Bragg and Wilco, many political.
posted by scottreynen at 2:42 PM on April 12, 2006

anything by propagandhi...but maybe a little too out there
posted by killyb at 2:47 PM on April 12, 2006

"Fast Car" by Tracy Chapman always makes me think of "progressive ideals," but really pretty much any good folk song should.
posted by occhiblu at 2:47 PM on April 12, 2006

Support Our Troops (Black Angels OH) by Xiu Xiu [Unsettling/NSFW text].
posted by Espy Gillespie at 2:49 PM on April 12, 2006

Lots of U2 -- "New Year's Day" ("And so we're told this is the golden age/And gold is the reason for the wars we wage") and "Sunday Bloody Sunday" ("and it's true we are immune/when fact is fiction, TV reality/and today the millions cry/we eat and drink, while tomorrow they die") both helped shape my political views at a pretty tender age.

Also, a number of Paul Weller's songs over the course of his career are political (his solo stuff is more muted politically, but it's still there) -- "Going Underground" by the Jam and "Walls Come Tumbling Down" by the Style Council, for example.
posted by scody at 2:50 PM on April 12, 2006

Most of Pete Seeger's stuff.
posted by HuronBob at 2:50 PM on April 12, 2006

Johnny Cash's "Man In Black."

Awesome. This is a stellar example because it's about righteous indignation that could really be from any normal person, not just a liberal. Great suggestion. ("Fast Car" by Tracy Chapman's another good one.)

I'll listen to all of the suggestions, by the way, even if they don't all make me go, "Amen!" like the those two did.
posted by jdroth at 2:51 PM on April 12, 2006

Oh, and here's a list of progressive/protest songs from the same site where the Style Council lyrics are posted.
posted by scody at 2:51 PM on April 12, 2006

I'm Afraid of Americans - David Bowie

Born in the USA - Bruce Springsteen
posted by Pollomacho at 2:55 PM on April 12, 2006

Just about anything off of The Times They Are A-Changin and much of Freewheeling Dylan fits the bill. Personally, I like When the Ship Comes In, played at the March on Washington (and a fabulous song to boot).
posted by allen.spaulding at 2:56 PM on April 12, 2006

What ChasFile said about Woody Guthrie. I remember telling my brother that I thought This Land Is Your Land would make a better national anthem than the one we have. He laughingly called me a pinko... :-)
posted by Robert Angelo at 2:57 PM on April 12, 2006

John Prine:

"Your Flag Decal Won't Get You Into Heaven Anymore"
"Sam Stone"

I'd also suggest basically anything by The Coup, but I'm not sure they're quite what you're looking for.
posted by dsword at 3:00 PM on April 12, 2006

Fight the Power! What's So Funny About Peace, Love, and Understanding? We Care a Lot! Those were the first three off the top of my head. If I start actually trying my head is gonna explode.
posted by furiousthought at 3:00 PM on April 12, 2006

I'm not sure which songs specifically, but some System of a Down stuff (moreso post-Toxicity) definitely have liberal sentiments.
posted by jmd82 at 3:05 PM on April 12, 2006

Imagine, John Lennon
posted by Robert Angelo at 3:10 PM on April 12, 2006

About half of the Billy Bragg catalog...

Start with "The World Turned Upside Down", if "the Internationale" and "The Red Flag" are too red for you.
posted by pompomtom at 3:12 PM on April 12, 2006

The Logical Song by Supertramp certainly fits the bill.
posted by jgee at 3:14 PM on April 12, 2006

How about "Love Me, I'm A Liberal" by Phil Ochs, which tweaks mainstream liberals for not being progressive enough? (Or the killer cover of that song on the Jello Biafra/Mojo Nixon CD, which updates the lyrics to the Clinton era.)
posted by InfidelZombie at 3:14 PM on April 12, 2006

I find most songs by Dar Williams to be pretty progressive (if you consider why-can't-we-all-just-get-along to be a progressive notion):

note: all links below are audio clips

"Bought & Sold" (this was her attempt to be "banned by Wal-Mart")
"The Christians and the Pagans"
"Teenagers, Kick Our Butts"
"I Had No Right", described here as "A poignant number about civil disobedience in the face of unjust governmental actions, this song takes its inspiration from the poetry and protests of activists Daniel and Philip Berrigan. Williams says, 'They were putting the Vietnam War on trial. I was interested in how they alienated both sides – the mainstream right wing and the left-leaning Catholic workers - by challenging the war, and destroying property to do it.' "
posted by hsoltz at 3:17 PM on April 12, 2006

by Bad Religion:
Kyoto Now
American Jesus
Operation Rescue
posted by CrunchyFrog at 3:21 PM on April 12, 2006

perhaps too explicitly anti-conservative, but the now defunct Rage Against The Machine were extremely political in all of their songs, if not always the most coherent.
posted by rooftop secrets at 3:24 PM on April 12, 2006

Pink Floyd - Pigs and The Wall.
posted by dilettante at 3:27 PM on April 12, 2006

Ani Difranco is pretty progressive.

(these are audio clips)
Subdivision (lyrics begin with: "White people are so scared of black people / they bulldoze out to the country / and put up houses on little loop-dee-loop streets ..."
Grand Canyon (really more of a poem)
Hello, Birmingham
Your Next Bold Move
posted by bisesi at 3:35 PM on April 12, 2006

The Pretenders "My City Was Gone". Bonus: Blue Sky Mining"
posted by Ogre Lawless at 3:37 PM on April 12, 2006

Everything and anything by Midnight Oil or The John Butler Trio.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 3:42 PM on April 12, 2006

Fischerspooner's "We Need A War"
posted by cyrusdogstar at 3:43 PM on April 12, 2006

Forgot to mention that aforementioned song was worked on by the late Susan Sontag.
posted by cyrusdogstar at 3:43 PM on April 12, 2006

REM's "Ignoreland"
posted by Failure31 at 3:56 PM on April 12, 2006

Like half of the songs by System of a Down. "Prison Song," for example.

Also, of course, Rage Against the Machine.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 4:09 PM on April 12, 2006

one my personal faves is "I'm A Patriot" (about 1/2 way down the page) by Steven Van Zandt.
and pearl jam does a AWESOME version of it.
posted by ShawnString at 4:09 PM on April 12, 2006

One In Ten, UB40.
posted by yetanother at 4:10 PM on April 12, 2006

Future Soundtrack for America had some good ones. "100% of the profits from the project will go to progressive non-profit organizations working to counteract Bush administration policies and involve more Americans in our political process." But it's an uneven CD. The David Byrne song is great; the Mike Doughty song is his worst ever.
posted by painquale at 4:11 PM on April 12, 2006

Lots of stuff by the Indigo Girls, specifically "Prince of Darkness" and "Let it be me."
posted by Jeanne at 4:13 PM on April 12, 2006

I don' think of Creedence Clearwater Revival as a liberal band, but when I think song with anti-war, populist politics, I think Fortunate Son . I can't believe it hasn't been listed yet. On the day of the big anti-war rally in NYC, Sleater Kinney closed their show with a cover of it. It was AMAZING.
posted by Sara Anne at 4:15 PM on April 12, 2006

If I had A Rocket Launcher by Bruce Cockburn.
posted by oflinkey at 4:15 PM on April 12, 2006

What's Going On, Marvin Gaye
Nazi Punks Fuck Off, Dead Kennedys
Do They Owe Us a Living?, Crass... hmm, maybe not.
The Hills of West Virginia, Phil Ochs... Oh hell, pretty much everything by Phil Ochs
Beds Are Burning, Midnight Oil
Biko, Peter Gabriel

I could be here all day. Off the top of my head, basically...
posted by jokeefe at 4:15 PM on April 12, 2006

Ooh yes, And They Call it Democracy by Bruce Cockburn, too. Awesome.
posted by jokeefe at 4:16 PM on April 12, 2006

leonard cohen's "everybody knows" and "democracy (is coming to the usa)" might not be exactly activist, but in their world-weary way, they're about liberal ideals...
posted by mdn at 4:20 PM on April 12, 2006

Oh, and Stand up for Judas, by Leon Rosselson. And Who Reaps the Profits, Who Pays the Price is moving and harsh and wonderful all at once.
posted by jokeefe at 4:21 PM on April 12, 2006

War Pigs (Black Sabbath) (shut up, it is)
The Cheerleaders (The Minutemen) <-- my favorite song
posted by theredpen at 4:41 PM on April 12, 2006

The Decline (NoFX)
posted by gemini at 4:45 PM on April 12, 2006

How about:


by Manic Street Preachers?

(or anything off The Holy Bible really)
posted by idontlikewords at 4:54 PM on April 12, 2006

Elvis Costello, "Shipbuilding"
posted by gimonca at 4:59 PM on April 12, 2006

How about XTC, "The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead"?
posted by gimonca at 5:01 PM on April 12, 2006

Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, "Bad Luck"

O'Jays, "When the World's at Peace"
posted by gimonca at 5:06 PM on April 12, 2006

Just a random sampling:

Bob Dylan "Masters of War"

Phil Ochs "I Ain't Marching Anymore"

Bob Marley "Get Up Stand Up"

Pink Floyd "Money"

Common "Retrospect for Life" (about abortion, could resonate with people on both side of the debate)
posted by Cochise at 5:07 PM on April 12, 2006

to throw a few hip hop faves into the mix, see:

Intelligent Hoodlum: No Justice, No Peace
The Perceptionists: People for Prez
A Tribe Called Quest: Push it Along
posted by missmobtown at 5:13 PM on April 12, 2006

Alice's Restaurant by Arlo Guthrie.
posted by Netzapper at 5:16 PM on April 12, 2006

More Steve Earle - the lp's Jerusalem and The Revolution Starts...Now
Stereolab - "Ping Pong"
Public Enemy - tons of stuff

How about music from the civil rights movement?
The Impressions - "This is My Country," "Keep on Pushing," "People Get Ready," "We're a Winner"
The Staple Singers - "Long Walk to D.C.", tons more

See also here, and this thread.

There's tons more, but breaktime's over.
posted by hydrophonic at 5:19 PM on April 12, 2006

The Decemberists - 16 Military Wives
John Vanderslice - Plymouth Rock
John Vanderslice - Heated Pool and Bar
Morrissey - America is not the World
posted by ludwig_van at 5:22 PM on April 12, 2006

Television, The Drug of the Nation - Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy (Ah me, for a moment back then I thought Michael Franti was a sign that hip hop might be growing up...)

A number of things by the inimatable Hammell on Trial fit the bill. eg:

Don't Kill
Check out Uncle Morris further down the page here, too. A lovely rant about a gun-crazy, paranoid, right-wing bigot. Tasty. I love Ed Hamell.

Oh yeah, and Woodstock. Just kiddin'!
posted by Decani at 5:38 PM on April 12, 2006

They're best known for the pub anthem "Tubthumping," but Chumbawamba is quite political. Some people have labeled them anarchists, but they definitely speak out for progressive causes.

I'll also toss in Nena's "99 Red Balloons."
posted by wintermute2_0 at 5:49 PM on April 12, 2006

God, at least two thirds of all popular music ever? It's almost as if popular music tends to be liberal with respect to its context because it tends to be purchased by liberals, especially Boomers who all think they were at Woodstock.

On some level, this isn't answering your question, but on the other hand your question just becomes meaningless chatfilter when applied to the broader experience. I can make a solid argument for Glam being explicitly liberal though rarely polemic in nature, I can argue that every rap song ever to deal with poverty has a leftist undercurrent, I can present a case for the folk music of Appalachia being liberal in scope due to its economic themes, hell, I can put forth a decent connection between pop love songs and liberal ideals regarding sex. Some may toe the line, but the question as it stands is mush.
posted by klangklangston at 5:56 PM on April 12, 2006

-- Dancing on the Ruins of Multinational Corporations, by Casey Neill
-- Perfect Government, by NOFX
-- War, by Bob Marley
-- almost anything by Utah Phillips
-- almost anything by Operation Ivy (don't miss Unity, Freeze Up, Gonna Find You, & Big City)
posted by salvia at 6:06 PM on April 12, 2006

Dry Drunk Emperor - TV On The Radio.

It was released free on mp3 by the band, but my quick searching couldn't turn up the actual file, just some embedded streaming nastiness. If you want it, shoot me an email and I can post it somewhere for you to grab.
posted by heresiarch at 6:07 PM on April 12, 2006


1)Video of Good Night, New York written by Julie Gold and sung by Nanci Griffith with backup by Emmylou Harris. Fantastic song. (give it a couple seconds to start the video. It works just fine)

2)Video of What? written & sung by Antigone Rising (use Internet Explorer to play video). Lovely women with something to say. You'll be hearing a lot more from them. Trust me.

Other songs I'm sure you can easily find on iTunes:

3)White Limousine -- Duncan Sheik

4)Tis of Thee -- Ani DiFranco

5)American Dream -- CSNY

6)War -- Jonatha Brooke

7)People Have the Power -- Patti Smith

8)For Everyman -- Jackson Browne (meaning behind song)

9)Queen and the Soldier -- Suzanne Vega
posted by bim at 6:16 PM on April 12, 2006

I'll second (third?) NOFX's The Decline; Most of the War on Errorism album would probably fit the bill, too.
posted by ThatSomething at 7:11 PM on April 12, 2006

plenty of early rap was pretty progressive in it's way,

Tupac Shakur fer instance.

Anything by Spearhead with Michael Franti (who was part of the Disposibale Heros of Hiphocracy)

A few tracks off Tom Waits' last album (Real Gone)

Rickie Lee Jones' last album (Evening of My Best Day)

Some Lou Reed stuff (tends to be angry stuff) such as the song, Sex With Your Parents

tonnes and tonnes of stuff
posted by edgeways at 7:20 PM on April 12, 2006

New Kicks by Le Tigre
It's a club track built around the rhythms heard during rally calls.

From their web site: mp3 quicktime video

Lots of Quebecois music is intensely liberal. Most of "Les Colocs", and most of "Les Coyboys Fringants", for instance.
posted by gmarceau at 7:36 PM on April 12, 2006

another vote for 'what's going on' by marvin gaye, the best song evah!
posted by brandz at 7:37 PM on April 12, 2006

I second CCR's "Fortunate Son". Also recommend The Dead Kennedys' "The Man With The Dogs", and Matthew Sweet's "Holy War" (I don't know what's going on
In the scenes behind
I worry about it some of the time
And I hope there's not a war
Cause I'm not in for killing another man
Defending my holy land
As if there's a god who would understand)
posted by supercrayon at 8:37 PM on April 12, 2006

Let me add a suggestion for another Cheryl Wheeler song: Makes Good Sense to Me.
posted by oaf at 8:38 PM on April 12, 2006

"Glory Days" by Pulp.
We were brought up on the Space Race
Now you expect us to clean toilets
posted by beaucoupkevin at 8:54 PM on April 12, 2006

Thirding Ani DiFranco, I'd suggest "Serpentine".
posted by lazywhinerkid at 9:08 PM on April 12, 2006

Mostly on the "general state of the world" end:

Livin' for the City - Stevie Wonder
Living through Another Cuba - XTC
Fast Cars - The Buzzcocks ("Sooner or later/You gotta listen to Ralph Nader")
Compared to What- Les McCann ("God dammit!!")
Give It What You Can- The Meters
People Say- The Meters
And I hate myself for saying it but...
We Didn't Start the Fire- Billy Joel
posted by Eothele at 9:15 PM on April 12, 2006

CSNY again:

Teach Your Children

...And you (can you hear?), of the tender years (do you care?)
can't know the fears (can't you see we) that your elders grew by (must be free to),
and so please help them (teach your children) with your youth (to believe),
they seek the truth (make a world that) before they can die (we can live in).
Teach your parents well, their children's hell will slowly go by,
and feed them on your dreams, the one they picks, the one you'll know by.
Don't you ever ask them why, if they told you, you would cry,
so just look at them and sigh and know they love you...
posted by bim at 9:52 PM on April 12, 2006

Peter Himmelman "G*d Don't Have To Teach You This Way"
Exene Cervenka "Leave Heaven Alone"
Leonard Cohen "Anthem"
Faithless "Mass Destruction"
Libbie Shrader "Mr. Bush"
Eliza Gilkyson "Hiway"
posted by extrabox at 10:01 PM on April 12, 2006

Lou Reed's entire New York album is EXACTLY what you're asking for, and a good one to boot.
posted by vito90 at 10:24 PM on April 12, 2006

"Common People" by Pulp.

I'll second someone's suggestion above for the Internationale, though I'm not sure "liberal" is really the word for that one.

I'm sure something by The Clash belongs here, but I can't decide what.

"Strange Fruit" by Billie Holiday

"You've Got To Be Carefully Taught" from South Pacific

"Jesus of Rio" by the Violent Femmes
posted by moss at 10:28 PM on April 12, 2006

"Russians" by Sting:
There's no such thing as a winnable war / It's a lie we don't believe anymore

Ah, those innocent '80s!
posted by rob511 at 11:25 PM on April 12, 2006

Neil Young's "Welfare Mothers". 9 of 10 progressives agree: welfare mothers make better lovers. Neil Young's concert cd "Freedom" has a number of political songs, including "Crime in the City".

Wyclef Jean had a track on the album Creole 101 called "President" that is very good. Available here.

"I Was Afraid of Malcolm" by Garland Jeffreys is a great song about middle-class reaction to Malcolm X and racism in general. It looks like you can download it here.

"The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" by Gil Scott-Heron.

And I think Bob Dylan is a natural answer for music progressives like, but I'd mention "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35" aka "Everybody Must Get Stoned" specifically. Lots of good covers of that song too.
posted by McGuillicuddy at 2:51 AM on April 13, 2006

Wasteland of the Free and There's a Wall in Washington by Iris Dement

Justice Brennan etc etc etc by Fugazi

A nail sticks up etc etc etc by Born Against
posted by OmieWise at 6:02 AM on April 13, 2006

A couple of things by Bob Marley have been mentioned, but there's a lot more, Exodus, etc., as well as Peter Tosh solo stuff. An awful lot of reggae meets this requirement.
posted by OmieWise at 6:11 AM on April 13, 2006

Love is the Answer by Todd Rundgren
posted by bim at 6:16 AM on April 13, 2006

Hm. No mention of The The yet. I would suggestion TheThe's Mind Bomb and pretty much the entire album of Infected.
posted by smallerdemon at 6:29 AM on April 13, 2006

"Oliver's Army" - Elvis Costello
"Black Steel In The Hour of Chaos" - Public Enemy
"For America" - Jackson Browne
posted by SisterHavana at 7:27 AM on April 13, 2006

Folk Song Army - Tom Lehrer
(Screw 'em if they can't take a joke.)
posted by IndigoJones at 8:19 AM on April 14, 2006

Bruce Springsteen & The Seeger Sessions Band's "Bring 'Em Home (If you love your Uncle Sam)". [YouTube link]
posted by blueberry at 7:39 PM on July 10, 2006

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