Admittedly another vague, catch-all title, as for the purpose of this post this could mean anti-war or civil rights songs, or a commentary on political and social events.
Here are some that moved me, loosely and perhaps contentiously arranged, starting with what is arguably the greatest of them all: ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’.
Please add to this list, including a link to the song or a line or two from the lyrics. Please also share your thoughts on any of the songs mentioned throughout.
General anti-war: Eric Burdon & The Animals, ‘Sky Pilot’; Donovan, ‘Universal Soldier’; Bob Dylan, ‘Masters of War’; Grand Funk Railroad, ‘People, Let’s Stop the War’; Pete Seeger, ‘Where Have All the Flowers Gone?’
Vietnam: The Temptations, ‘Ball of Confusion (That’s What the World Is Today)’; Paul Hardcastle, ‘Nineteen’; REM, ‘Orange Crush’; Kate Bush, ‘Pull Out the Pin’.
Other conflicts: Manic Street Preachers, ‘If You Tolerate This, Your Children Will Be Next’; Dire Straits, ‘Brothers in Arms’; Robert Wyatt, ‘Shipbuilding’; Nena, ’99 Luftballons’; U2, ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’; The Cranberries, ‘Zombie’.
Post-9/11 sentiment: Green Day, ‘American Idiot’; George Michael, ‘Shoot the Dog’; Elbow, ‘Leaders of the Free World’; Neil Young, ‘Let’s Impeach the President’; Michael Franti & Spearhead, ‘Bomb the World’.
Criticism of The System and society: Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, ‘Ohio’; Lowkey, ‘Tears To Laughter’; Joe Hill, ‘Preacher and the Slave’; Rage Against the Machine, ‘Killing in the Name’; John Lennon & The Plastic Ono Band, ‘Woman Is the Nigger of the World’; Pierre Perret, ‘Lili’.
Civil Rights: Sam Cooke, ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’; James Brown, ‘Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud’; Billie Holiday, ‘Strange Fruit’.
A verse from ‘Strange Fruit’ to finish with – from 1939. Does any lyric grab you and shame you quite like this one?
“Strange trees bear strange fruit;
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.”