While many artists have tried their hand at a good old fashioned protest song, some have resonated far more than others – making a defining impact across the nation, and even the world. So, without further ado, we present to you the most politically charged anthems of all time.
1. John Lennon – Imagine
When compiling this list, it was impossible to overlook Lennon’s glorious ode to world peace – which became a posthumous number one hit for the Beatles legend in December 1980. Inspired by Yoko Ono’s poetry about wartime childhood in Japan, the song’s lyrics encourage the listener to imagine a world at peace without the hatefulness spawned from the divisions of nationality and religion. What a wonderful thought.
2. The Clash – Career Opportunities
Fronted by enigmatic upstart Joe Strummer, The Clash well and truly set the benchmark for all politically-powered groups with their inimitable brand of fiery punk. Though we could have chosen any number of tunes from the band’s stacked discography, this Sardinista album track is a definite standout. Set over raucous, rattling guitars, Strummer launches a polemic against the economic climate in England at the time – particularly slamming the lack of jobs available to the youth.
3. Public Enemy – Fight The Power
Undoubtedly the most famous song by this American rap troupe, Public Enemy called on African-Americans to rise up against the racial oppression suffered during the 80s. The rip-roaring protest song was so powerful it cemented their legacy in the annals of music. And as for Flavor Flav’s choice of questionable jewellery, the less said the better.
4. Bob Marley – Redemption Song
This lullaby-like recording is considered by many as the Reggae king’s most defining works. Its focus on slavery in the modern world is utterly sobering, with Marley urging listeners to “emancipate yourself from mental slavery.” The message percolated across the world. Adding to the poignancy, the track was written at the time he had been diagnosed with the cancer in his toe that later took his life.
5. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – Same Love
The most contemporary track to make the list, and also one that tackles an issue which has rightfully come to the fore in recent years. Same Love is Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ thought-provoking analysis of hip-hop and society’s often prejudiced views on homosexuality. So profound was its impact that it was unofficially adopted as an anthem for the LGBT community. It even became the first Top 40 song in the U.S. to celebrate same-sex marriage. Nice one, guys.