Here is what I consider the top five songs of all time that were political statements. Enjoy!
Gimme Shelter Music Video
1. GIMME SHELTER - THE ROLLING STONES
America in 1969 had a war going in Vietnam, race riots and Charles Manson. Mick Jagger sings of needing shelter from this ‘storm’.
Keith Richards wrote most of this song. In this song at about the 3:04 minute mark, when Mary Clayton sings the high note on "Murder," you can hear Mick Jagger in the background saying "Whoo!". The Stones recorded this song using old, worn out Triumph amplifiers to get a distinctive sound. "Gimme Shelter" is the title of the movie that documented The Stones 1969 tour, including the Altamont concert where a fan was stabbed by a Hell's Angels security guard. The movie was rush released in 1970 to come out before the Woodstock documentary. It was released on video in 1992, and re-released in theaters in 2000 for the 30th anniversary. George Lucas of Star Wars fame was on the crew for the movie.
"That song was written during the Vietnam War and so it's very much about the awareness that war is always present; it was very present in life at that point. Mary Clayton who did the backing vocals, was a background singer who was known to one of the producers. Suddenly, we wanted someone to sing in the middle of the night. And she was around. She came with her curlers in, straight from bed, and had to sing this really odd lyric. For her it was a little odd - for anyone, in the middle of the night, to sing this one verse would have been odd. She was great." - Mick Jagger
Bullet The Blue Sky Music Video
2. BULLET THE BLUE SKY – U2
This is a political song that condemns US foreign policy for promoting unrest in Central America.
The lyrics were inspired by Bono's trip to Central America in 1985 as part of Amnesty International. Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen, and The Edge came up with the music, which Bono wrote lyrics around. Bono wanted to draw attention to the damage the US was doing in other countries, which he felt most Americans did not know the extent of. Criticism of America did not hurt record sales there, as The Joshua Tree was the #1 album it's first week. It also didn't hurt Bono's status with American politicians, many of which invited Bono to speak on behalf of various causes.
Bullet The Blue Sky
This was one of the first U2 songs to condemn US politics. They would sometimes call the president on stage during their US shows. The last line about the man who is afraid to leave his house was almost changed to "Because outside is the world" from "Because outside is America." They were not sure they wanted to name the US directly.
Invisible Sun Music Video
3. INVISIBLE SUN – THE POLICE
Sting wrote this song about violence and turmoil in Northern Ireland in the early 1980s.
This song was performed at The Police's final concert, the "Conspiracy of Hope" performance for Amnesty International on June 15, 1986. U2's Bono helped out on vocals.
Ostensibly about the violence and turmoil in Northern Ireland in the early 1980s, this song also takes into account suffering on a much larger scale: "And they're only gonna change this place, by killing everybody in the human race."
A possible influence on the title: in 1658, Sir Thomas Browne (1605-82) wrote in Hydriotaphia (Urn-Burial): "Life is a pure flame, and we live by an invisible sun within us."
Fortunate Son music Video
4. FORTUNATE SON – CREDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL
John Fogerty wrote this song about the lucky well-connected Americans who weren’t forcefully conscripted and sent to the US war in Vietnam.
This is an anti-establishment song of defiance and blue-collar pride, both anti-Washington and against the Vietnam war. John Fogerty and Doug Clifford were both drafted in 1966 and discharged from the army in 1967. Richard Nixon was president of the US when group leader John Fogerty wrote this. Fogerty was not a fan of Nixon and felt that people close to the president were receiving preferential treatment.This spoke out against the war in Vietnam, but was supportive of the soldiers fighting there. Like many CCR fans, most of the soldiers came from the working class, and were there because they didn't have connections who could get them out. It is sung from the perspective of one of these men, who ends up fighting because he is not a "Senator's son."
Creedence performed this on The Ed Sullivan Show, probably because the show's producers didn't realize it was a protest song. The show tried hard not to offend anyone, and usually had bands perform their least controversial songs or alter the lyrics for the show.
When interviewed by Rolling Stone magazine, John Fogerty was once asked: "What inspired 'Fortunate Son'?" His response: "Julie Nixon was hanging around with David Eisenhower, and you just had the feeling that none of these people were going to be involved with the war. In 1969, the majority of the country thought morale was great among the troops, and like 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."
Where Is The Love Music Video
5. WHERE IS THE LOVE – BLACK EYED PEAS
This one is about the state of the post 9/11 world, which all but calls for US withdrawal from Iraq.
Black eyed Peas group member Ron Fair started writing it late in 2001, and another member, Will.I.Am, added the socially-conscious lyrics. This was co-written by Justin Timberlake, who also sang on the track. He came up the chorus after hearing the song on the phone. Timberlake was not listed as a featured singer on this and did not appear in the video. His record company wanted to keep his contribution to this low-key because they didn't want it to interfere with his album Justified.
Where Is The Love
The song took a long time to develop. By the time they recorded the version on the album, they added a string section and recorded vocals by their new member - a female singer named Fergie. They had also changed their sound to appeal to a wider audience.
Peter on November 22, 2012:
How about something for the political issues in 2012:
Bradley Jones on March 19, 2012:
I also think It's time to fight by Reh Dogg is a great political statement in 2012. The lyrics are spot on. The song makes me want to do something to protect my rights. I watched it on Youtube
T on November 30, 2011:
Back in college when dinosaurs were still walking on the earth, I learned from a cultural anthropology class that all types of people on this earth have music in common from drums to songs for every occasion.
I think communication through music is non-violent and should be encouraged. Let's make music and not war. There really is no difference between a two-year-old in a playpen due to their behavior and an adult in prison. People need to learn to reason and express their views before they get all "bottled-up" and become violent. Isolation brings on paranoia.
Maybe this world would be a better place if we all learned to write lyrics and harmonize instead of "throw rocks" or "sit around on pavement" (as in Occupy Wall Street Protestors).
God Bless the Good Listeners!!! God Bless the USA!!!
I am a DOVE. First and last I am for peace!!!
Mark Sams on September 17, 2011:
"Cynical and Bitter in the U.S. of A" by Terry Sutton Conspiracy perfectly fits the political climate in this country.
:D on June 08, 2011:
thnx so much for this info, it helped me find the PERFECT song for my history project :D
i'll be sure to credit the artists and this website in my paper. thnx again.
Bobby Valentine on December 08, 2010:
Hey man I reads ur post and and its cool right but the black eyed peas be fat as hell. like that guy in the middle with his hand covering his face is super stupid.
but i rlly can't post to much because my ass girlfriend is trickin around again and im gonna have to kill sum1
No Bull Blogger on November 11, 2010:
I know a lot of older music is political. I am looking for New Music. Some with current issues. Even though I know some of these songs still apply today. I want today's musicians take on the world and our country!
Thomas on November 03, 2010:
How can you ever forget to put Rage Against The Machine in that top 5 list, almost all of their songs are about political issues
666hova666 on October 19, 2010:
Any list on this subject without something by Rage is suspect. It only becomes a political song if it is understood as such. That being said, a dance club hit and blatantly pop "Where is the love" is a super lame choice.
bob on October 19, 2010:
hi what about bob marley huh
mike on September 01, 2010:
The are great surprises in uncovering these songs. It is called Congressman, written and sung by Trigger & Some Dudes Named Roy. Too funny and too true.
dontworry on March 10, 2010:
what about morrisey- irish blood, english heart???
joecool on March 02, 2010:
Revolution by The Beatles
Sabrina on March 02, 2010:
This is great very helpful 4 my history class!! :) ?
billyaustindillon on February 14, 2010:
Can't Say! on February 07, 2010:
Thank you I've finnally found a great site! I was doing a school project on songs with political messages. I love Where is the love, But I doing Fortunate Son.
Thank you so much!
nic on January 27, 2010:
thank you!!!! for and from my stdents miss nicole
dhali 666 on November 26, 2009:
i love system of a down and ministry,great political music
Porthos3 on August 25, 2009:
Check out a song called "Trees" by Rush, listen to the lyrics, look them up if you have to, and then tell me about political statements.
lala on July 13, 2009:
great page, very useful for english class 8D
sasquatch666 on June 30, 2009:
born in the usa bruce springsteen
Haydee Anderson from Hermosa Beach on December 08, 2008:
nice hub on music and politics
billnad on November 13, 2008:
Gimme Shelter and Fortunate Sun are two of my favorite songs. This is a cool list especially with the videos attached. I know the song is overplayed but I have always though that Sunday Bloody Sunday but U@ was the best political song they came up with and Knocking on Heavens Door by Bob Dylan is another of my Faves of the 60's
Weetabix on September 24, 2008:
Have to respectfully disagree. Best 5 (in no order) are:
Lives in the Balance by Jackson Browne
War Child by The Cranberries
Rooster by Alice in Chains
Ohio by Crosby, Stills and Nash
and Tranlin' Soldier by The Dixie Chicks
MaxReviews from Torrance, CA on July 26, 2008:
Very informational! I knew U2 and the Sting/Police stuff can be political sometimes, but didn't know about the others too much. Thanks for the education!
Chris Kanawyer on June 22, 2008:
Korn is the Most political of ALL Time, but you must pay attention!
desert blondie from Palm trees, swimming pools, lots of sand, lots of sunscreen on June 03, 2008:
Just found this hub! Great! Thanks for the reminders of your hub's songs plus all the good comments that added others.
Constant Walker from Springfield, Oregon on June 01, 2008:
Great hub, SunSeven. There were, and are, so many political songs. 90s band Rage Against the Machine was VERY political - if one could ever understand the guy's lyrics. Kid Rock recently released a song called "Amen" which complains about politics AND religion. I guess he didn't want to leave anyone out.
Sandilyn from Port Orange, FL on May 29, 2008:
There were many of them written during the Vietnam war but you did make it a very good point in showing songs written during different eras.
"We Are The World" was one for the starving people across the world that so many popular singers perfomed in was poitical in nature to as we do not look upon all of these people out there.
I did not that Justin Timblerlake was part of "Where Is The Love". That was interesting to know.
I do have to agree with a fellow hubber that Dylon should have been in there with "Blowing In The Wind".
haunted_heartbeat on May 15, 2008:
I'm loving this list but adding one more... PINK-Dear Mr. President!
Kelly Comas on May 03, 2008:
I thought Bob Marley's "Get Up Stand Up" should have been on this list but its only 5. Good 5 though.
Where is the love ? on April 22, 2008:
seriosuly you have love in your world ??
solarshingles from london on April 18, 2008:
I'd had a chance to enjoyed The Rolling Stones live a few times and it was just amazing experience!
Bob Dylan Fan on March 24, 2008:
I can't believe that you didn't include Blowing in the Wind by Bob Dylan. Or any song for that matter!! He's such a big deal when it comes to political statement.
Manoharan from Bangalore - 560097, Karnataka, India on March 11, 2008:
GREAT WRITINGS - If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.
anonymous on February 24, 2008:
what the heck is this supposed to mean!!!!
Social Conscience from Earth - Where are YOU from? on January 28, 2008:
Great info and a new way to experience some songs I've already been listening to for quite some time.
Kylyssa Shay on January 04, 2008:
I love the style you've used here and the topic is great. Music is very influential and viral in our society. I wish more artists were open to activist topics.
ReidMcCarter on January 03, 2008:
That's a good list but I missed seeing Rage Against the Machine, Public Enemy, The Beatles and a few others. Lists are impossible really though and I love the format of what you've done on the Hub, with featuring the song, the lyrics, the background, it's great. Good work.
ElatedState from Edmonton on December 13, 2007:
Great hub especially during these times. I find it interesting to listen to the music of the Vietnam war era and the music of the 'Dubbya Bush' era... the messages are almost directly interchangeable. As a response to markion though I think that musicians know that by becoming political they are likely to recruit more fans who share the same political viewpoint, which are much more meaningful than fans supporting the 'other side'. For true musicians quality is better than quantity.
Ralph Deeds from Birmingham, Michigan on December 04, 2007:
Pete Seeger and Bob Dylan sang and wrote the most powervul political and anti-war songs in America. Great hub however. I'm going to watch and listen to the videos when I have a bit more time.
William F Torpey from South Valley Stream, N.Y. on December 04, 2007:
I'm unfamiliar with these musicians, but I think it's great when people take an interest in politics. My favorite music predates the Beatles and Elvis. I guess I'm stuck in that era. My favorite political album is "Sing Along With Millard Fillmore," a compilation of campaign songs for presidential candidates from Washington to Kennedy.
Angela Harris from Around the USA on November 11, 2007:
Really interesting hub. I am a huge CCR fan- "Fortunate Son" is a fantastic song.
bunnerabb on October 21, 2007:
Let's not forget "Killing in the Name Of" by Rage Against The Machine. Cold rage and fury aimed directly at the old boy racism of southern America and the violent abuse an lynching it used.
ger on September 26, 2007:
great site think u should include the unknown soldier by the doors
Raymond Philippe from The Netherlands on August 22, 2007:
5 Great songs indeed. I missed some CSN&Y songs. Enjoyed your commentary though.
ali on June 21, 2007:
Robin Edmondson from San Francisco on May 28, 2007:
Great hub and I really like the layout, SunSeven! ;)
bluewings from Milkyway on May 28, 2007:
This was a very enjoyable hub,Sunsix!
Ralph Deeds from Birmingham, Michigan on May 26, 2007:
Very nice Hub, BTW.
Marti from Grain Valley on May 26, 2007:
THis is a great page! I was a young teenager in 1969, and I rmember what turbulent times they were. Music can change a nation.
Thanks for putting this together. Best wishes to you!
Cory Zacharia from Miami Beach, Florida on May 26, 2007:
Thank you, SunSeven for this excellent page on music and politics, with some of my favorite artists!