What does it take for a song to inspire the world? It turns out when people come together to fight for a cause they believe in, change can happen. The ONE’s agit8 campaign has brought together tons of amazing artists to relive some of the greatest protest songs that have shaped history as we know it. From Bob Marley’s final “Redemption Song” reflecting on historical and modern-day slavery to Bob Dylan calling out the military-industrial complex growing under Eisenhower, these songs stirred popular conversation that eventually sparked revolutions.
6 Rage Against the Machine – Killing in the Name
This Rage Against the Machine cover, performed for ONE by Biffy Clyro, speaks out against institutional racism and police brutality in U.S. society. “They use force to make you do what the deciders, have decided you must do.”
5 Macklemore & Ryan Lewis ft. Mary Lambert – Same Love
This recent hit came out of Macklemore’s own frustrations with popular culture’s animosity toward same-sex marriage and was recorded during the campaign for Washington’s Referendum 74, which legalized same-sex marriage in Washington State in 2012. “Same Love” gained mainstream popularity when the Supreme Court struck down DOMA in support of the rights of married same-sex couples.
4 Creedence Clearwater Revival: Fortunate Son
This song is said to be inspired by the joining together of two political families when David Eisenhower, grandson of President Dwight Eisenhower, and Julie Nixon, daughter of President Richard Nixon, married. Writer John Fogerty told Rolling Stones he “had the feeling that none of these people were going to be involved with the war. In 1968, the majority of the country thought morale was great among the troops, and 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.”
3 Bob Dylan – Masters of War
This Bob Dylan song is a critique of the Cold War-era arms buildup that occurred in the early 1960’s. Dylan was “speaking against what Eisenhower was calling a military-industrial complex as he was making his exit from the presidency.” Check out Ed Sheeran’s cover for ONE, above, and the original Dylan recording, below:
2 Bob Marley – Redemption Song
When it comes to positive vibrations, few have made things shake more than Bob Marley. The final song released by the king of reggae, “Redemption Song” sings to historic and modern day slavery as well as our struggle with physical and psychological freedom. The song stands out from most of Marley’s other work because it’s a solo acoustic track. In the song, Marley quotes activist Marcus Garvey, singing, “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our mind.” Above is the Wayna acoustic cover of the song for the ONE agit8 campaign.
To complement “Redemption Song,” here is an amazing recording from his final concert in my hometown of Pittsburgh, PA of all places. You may have heard this version before – it’s so magical it’s also the last song on Marley’s & The Wailers Legend greatest hits album.
1 U2 – Sunday Bloody Sunday
Bloody Sunday, sometimes called the Bogside Massacre, was an incident that occurred in Northern Ireland in 1972 where 26 unarmed civil rights protesters were shot by the British Army. The famous U2 song offers a militaristic drumbeat to emphasize the somber content of the song. Larry Mullen, Jr., U2’s drummer, has said that the hit is really less about the event itself and more about the need to step up our collective effort to combat violence and hatred all over the world. What will it take to stop all the unnecessary violence? “How long, how long must we sing this song?” U2 sings.
Which protest songs have most affected you personally? Share with us in the comments.