Choosing a list of the best political songs is largely subject to musical taste, as well as political leaning. Rise Against is pretty far from John Prine musically, even if their music deals with the same sort of subject matter. And Pink’s “Dear Mr. President” and Toby Keith’s “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue” are both political songs, but they’re likely to grace the play lists of very different persons. That said, here’s my list of best political rock songs.
Top 10 Political Rock Songs
10. “Fortunate Son” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
Like Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.,” this song is sometimes mislabeled as patriotic by those who hear the phrases “red white and blue” and “star-spangled eyes,” and don’t pay much attention to the rest of the lyrics. In fact, it’s a blatant protest of the Vietnam War and a social commentary on the American class system. The “Fortunate Son” that John Fogerty had in mind when he wrote the song was David Eisenhower, grandson of Ike and son-in-law of Tricky Dick.
Read the Lyrics: http://www.metrolyrics.com/fortunate-son-lyrics-creedence-clearwater-revival.html
Watch the Music Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ec0XKhAHR5I
9. “Anarchy in the UK” by Sex Pistols
The classic that graced the lips and jackets of a whole counter-culture and gave the finger to…well, everything. You can’t find a much more anti-establishment political rock song than this. This song was so controversial when it was first released in 1976 that some distribution companies refused to ship the album and many record stores refused to stock it.
Read the Lyrics: http://www.lyricsfreak.com/s/sex+pistols/anarchy+in+the+uk_20123592.html
Watch the Music Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0TZ_9-rbslo
8. “Terror” by KMFDM
Off of the 1995 album “Nihil,” this song is a standout track that describes a tyrannical and violent political situation. The lyrics are straight-forward and unapologetic, demanding “How much longer do we tolerate mass murder?” This was one of the first KMFDM songs I ever heard, and what I consider one of the best political rock songs of the late 20th century.
Read the Lyrics: http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/kmfdm/terror.html
Watch the Music Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SIlU8pZ8Zpw
7. “When the Tigers Broke Free” by Pink Floyd
While this song was written at the tail-end of the Vietnam -era, it’s actually about World War II. The song describes a battle in Italy that claimed “a few hundred ordinary lives,” including that of Roger Waters’ father. It wasn’t on the original album version of The Wall, but it appeared in the film, along with a touching sequence where young Pink dresses up in his late father’s military uniform. This image may be interpreted as either touching or disturbing, but in either case, this political rock song deals with one of the 20th centuries darkest times.
Read the Lyrics: http://www.metrolyrics.com/when-the-tigers-broke-free-lyrics-pink-floyd.html
Watch the Music Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hg12PHed0zc
6. “Capital G” by Nine Inch Nails
This is obviously a political rock song, but the identity of the “Capital G” is up for interpretation. YouTube versions love to pair it with images of George W. Bush. But it could be following the tradition of older NIN songs like “Terrible Lie” and “Heresy,” and refer to God. Or the G could stand for a more abstract entity like Government or Greed. Ambiguity can be a beautiful thing.
Read the Lyrics: http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/nineinchnails/capitalg.html
Watch the Music Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cBWhh5Jq9p4
5. “The Times They Are A ‘Changin'” by Bob Dylan
Dylan has a lot of songs that might have made this list, but this one recently gained new relevance when it was featured on the soundtrack for Watchman. The song plays over the introductory credits with a montage that sets up the character histories but also highlights all of the most important political moments of the mid-20th century. Rather than speaking to a specific political situation, Dylan’s lyrics refer to a general political and generational shift, so they apply just as much today as they did in 1964.
Read the Lyrics: http://www.metrolyrics.com/the-times-they-are-achangin-lyrics-bob-dylan.html
Watch the Music Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VTNxXezCulU
4. “Imagine” by John Lennon
The lyrics of this song are so evocative that it’s been covered by numerous artists, including A Perfect Circle, Our Lady Peace and Elton John. Lennon’s message of peace and hope is one of the best political rock songs ever recorded, proving that political music doesn’t need to be angry to make a strong statement.
Watch the Music Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-b7qaSxuZUg
Read the Lyrics: http://www.oldielyrics.com/lyrics/john_lennon/imagine.html
3. “Revolution Calling” by Queensryche
I could actually make a 10 top political rock songs list simply with tracks from the Operation Mindcrime album, but “Revolution Calling” is one of the best political rock songs that stands out in this very political album. Operation Mindcrime is an amazing rock opera about a man named Nicky who joins an underground revolution, only to realize that the head of the revolution is as corrupt and sinister as the government he is revolting against. “Revolution Calling” is track #2, and expresses Nicky’s dissatisfaction with politics and the world, when he still has hope that a revolution will turn it all on its head.
Watch the Music Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1DGfXAvgknM&NR=1
Read the Lyrics: http://www.darklyrics.com/lyrics/queensryche/operationmindcrime.html#3
2. “Bulls On Parade” by Rage Against the Machine
No list of top 10 political rock songs would be complete without some RATM. Rage Against the Machine is an inherently political band, and “Bulls on Parade” is one of their most popular songs. Musically it’s one of their most rocking, and one of the best showcases of Tom Morello’s awesomeness. Lyrically, it’s a poetic and in-your-face political statement about war and social injustice.
Watch the Music Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-58-36lSqG4&NR=1
Read the Lyrics: http://www.metrolyrics.com/bulls-on-parade-lyrics-rage-against-the-machine.html
1. “War Pigs” by Black Sabbath
When I saw Black Sabbath at the 2001 Ozzfest, Ozzy barely had to sing this song: the crowd did it for him. You could tell the posers in the crowd by the people who weren’t screaming each word in perfect timing. But seriously, “War Pigs” could easily make my top 20 list of best rock songs of all time, and it’s a great commentary on the war machine, so it takes first place of my list of top 10 political rock songs.
Watch the Music Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HHLoq65aBKQ&feature=related
Read the Lyrics: http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/blacksabbath/lukeswallwarpigs.html