The Top Protest Songs

The Nation is conducting a survey of the top protest songs of all time.  If you want to tell them your choice, go here.  And here are the choices of one of The Nation editors along with the choices of some people he surveyed.  Some of those mentioned are Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit,” Sinead O’Connor’s “Black Boys on Mopeds,” Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War,” John Lennon’s “Gimme Some Truth,” Sam Cooke’s “Change Is Gonna Come,” Woody Guthrie’s “Vigilante Man,” Steve Earle’s “Jerusalem,” Louis Armstrong’s “Black and Blue,” Leonard Cohen’s “Democracy,” and Neil Young’s “Shock and Awe.”

For me, there are so many to choose from, but, just because it’s very recent and because I love the music, I’ll choose the Bruce Springsteen and Tom Morello live version of Ghost of Tom Joad performed at the 25th Anniversary Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Concert.  It captures the essence of the hardships from “The Grapes of Wrath,” which obviously are still here today.  (I also like the fact that Morello has a hand-printed “Arm the Homeless” on his guitar.)

Another relatively recent protest song I really like is P!nk’s “Dear Mr. President” (Live at Wembley version) about George Bush.  While you think of Bruce Springsteen and Tom Morello for their protest songs, it’s great to see P!nk take a chance by doing something that could have harmed her career (but obviously didn’t) .  (And that always makes me think of Natalie Maines’ comments about Bush, which also did not (ultimately) hurt the Dixie Chicks’ popularity).