Despite its rocky (forgive the pun) start with the American public, rock and roll music is a large part of our history. That being said, it is no surprise that it also commonly used as an outlet for singers to air their political views and rants. Here are some of the songs I find the best when it comes to politics and rock, in no particular order:
10) American Idiot (Green Day)–the lyrics to this song are very satirical with lead singer Billie Joe mocking how Americans seem to believe everything they read or hear in the media without bothering to think for themselves. He seems to believe they (Americans) tend to believe the hype and “dance” along with the paranoia that tends to go along with everything in the media. This theme is popular in rock songs (fighting the man!) of yesteryear so it is no surprise that this is also popular in rock songs nowadays. This definitely deserves to make a list.
9) Holiday (Green Day)–off the same album as the previous song you cannot deny the political message in this song. With lyrics that talk about protesters and a flag being wrapped around twenty men, which could be taken to be talking about soldiers who have died for America’s honor (especially in the most recent Gulf War). There is even a break in the middle with spoken words that many believe is Billie Joe calling George W. Bush a fascist, this song is also a good example of angry rockers protesting via music.
8) Prison Song (System of a Down)–this song is sung very rapidly so you might miss the lyrics the first few times, but it basically is about how we as Americans seem to be so focused on how drugs are bad and destroying our society that we want harsher sentences for drug offenders to get them off our streets. However, it also suggest that drugs are a very vital part of keeping our economy alive and we are so focused on the how bad drugs are we don’t notice that our government is using drugs to fund a lot of American money. Whether this is true or not (don’t want to start a debate here) this song definitely gives us a lot to think about and is a commentary on American policies.
7) American Woman (The Guess Who/Lenny Kravitz)–when I heard this song as a remake by Kravitz for the second Austin Powers movie I just liked it. It was my father who told me it was a remake and that it was a political commentary when it first was released by The Guess Who about the Vietnam war and how it is a metaphor for Americans to stop trying to dazzle people with their reasonings for why they were over in a place many people believed we had no right to be. A great political song.
6) Handlebars (Flobots)–at first this song doesn’t really sound political but if you listen to it you can see how it can be construed as such. It starts off with a guy talking about how he can do something simple like ride a bike with no handlebars. Gradually as the song progresses the tasks he does gets more difficult (and more horrific) until he ends the world. And it all started out with a simple task. It seems to be talking about how someone can start off doing something so small yet impressive and as they gain our adoration and acceptance eventually they can get into a position of power where they can do something horrible and we never really notice because every progression made was small and gradual so we never noticed the direction it was going in.
5 War Pigs (Black Sabbath)–there is so much political commentary in this song it is not even funny. Likening generals to witches who gather to make plans of war, constructing war plans that will lead to death, oiling a big large war machine. It talks about how once war is declared politicians hide behind their position because why would they want to fight in war that they started. The song is a very angry song about how the way war works in our country with soldiers being treated like pawns in a game of life or death but it also says that ultimately these people will be judged for the roles they played in the game of war when they will be treated like pawns themselves in an even larger game.
4) Deer Dance (System of a Down)–apparently System of a Down has a real problem with authority figures, more especially the police force. These lyrics talk about how the police use their power to push people around and basically abuse their power, which leads to police brutality and people not trusting the people who have been entrusted to take care of us. While harsh these lyrics do have a certain bitter truth when one remembers the Rodney King case and the riots that followed that incident.
3) Symphony of Destruction (Megadeath)–this song talks about the danger that comes along with giving one sole person so much power, which is the essential basis of our country’s political way. He makes the rules and we are mere puppets in his play, dancing to the song that he who was elected chose to play. A harsh view about democracy but somewhat accurate since the checks and balances that are in our political rules don’t always work out to help the people they are suppose to.
2) For What It’s Worth (Buffalo Springfield)– this is a soft rock song but the political aspect of it is very clear. It is also about war and how our country tells us that we need to fight for the love of our country and we as Americans must protect our country and what it stands for. We as a country do tend to be a little paranoid about how people want to take away our freedoms and the ideals we started our country out on ad this song and this song is basically asking us to stop and think about the rhetoric that is constantly thrown at us under the label of patriotism.
1) There’s a War Going on For Your Mind (Flobots)–new on the scene relatively, the Flobots are a very politically driven band. This is about how the media takes a somewhat Wizard of Oz approach to telling the public about wars, showing us only what they want us to see and telling us to ignore the little man behind the curtain, pulling all the strings and causing all the chaos. It is played out to be a Hollywood production with scenes that never happened being shown as true and is basically a commentary on how we never get the full story behind the wars we are involved in.
As I said these songs are in no particular order but they are good examples of politics in rock. And since rock has been talking about politics and singing their views since rock’s inception, I don’t wager it will go away anytime soon.