Nation readers take their music seriously! Our recent call for thoughts on the top protest songs ever written generated a torrent of passionate replies — more than 2,600 to date from the four corners of the US and well beyond.
We’re still taking submissions, but early returns indicate strong support, among scores of readers, for six seminal songs vying for consideration for the top slot: Woody Guthrie’s "This Land is Your Land," Florence Reese’s "Which Side Are You On," Bob Dylan’s "Masters of War" and "Blowin’ in the Wind," Barry McGuire’s "Eve of Destruction," and Pete Seeger’s "Where Have All the Flowers Gone."
All timeless classics and deservedly so.
But, our first Nation readers’ list highlighted some slightly more obscure tunes. Now, we’re releasing edition two with hopes of introducing you to at least a few new artists and songs. Enjoy the videos, and check back for more lists coming soon!
Nation Readers’ Top Ten Protest Songs: Edition #2
1. "Mississippi God Damn" by Nina Simone was a 1964 song decrying racial injustice that was so powerful it was actually banned in several southern states, including, unsurprisingly, Mississippi. It was submittied by Laurel Gary of Nellysford, VA.
2. "If I Had A Rocket Launcher" is a song by Bruce Cockburn from his 1984 album Stealing Fire. The song was inspired by Cockburn’s visit, sponsored by OXFAM, to Guatemalan refugee camps in Mexico following the counterinsurgency campaign of dictator Efraín Ríos Montt. Although Cockburn had occasionally touched on politics in his earlier songs, "If I Had a Rocket Launcher" was his first explicitly political song, and earned him a reputation as an outspoken musical activist. It was submitted by Scott Schilling of New Bloomfield, MO.
3. "Deportees" (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos), written by Woody Guthrie and sung here by his son Arlo and Emmylou Harris, told the sad story of a plane crash that killed 34 immigrants being forcibly returned to their home country of Mexico. It was submittied by Steve Schlather of Springfield, Ohio.
4. "Day After Tomorrow," written by Tom Waits, is sung from the perspective of a young disillusioned soldier who desperately wants to go home. It’s timeless and heart-wrenching. It was submittied by Rob Barry of San Diego.
5. "The Internationale," reportedly the most frequently sung song of the cold war era, was written in the 1880s and is performed here by Billy Bragg. It was submitted by Joia Mukherjee of Boston.
6. "We Shall Not be Moved" is a traditional American folk song whose lyrics likely date back to the slave era. It became an anthem of the civil rights struggle in the US in the early 1960s. It’s sung here by Mavis Staples during a live performance in 2007 in Milan, Italy. It was submittied by Thomas Thielemann of Hamburg Germany.
7. "This Little Light of Mine" is a gospel children’s song written by Harry Dixon Loes in about 1920. The song quickly entered the folk tradition and became an inspirational anthem of the civil rights struggle. It is sung here, unusually, by an all-star Irish choir performing live in Belfast in 2008. It was submitted by Steven M. Gorelick of Westfield, New Jersey.
8. "Holiday" by Green Day was released at a time when people were being stigmatized — and worse — for publicly speaking out against the Iraq war. Billie Joe Armstrong, the group’s lead singer, frequently introduced the song as "a big ‘fuck you’ to all the politicians." It also pointed out the ridiculousness of the anti-France campaign at the time. It was submittied by Katie Bandhauer of Meridian, ID.
9. "The March of the Unemployed" or ‘Arbetlose Marsch’ was written by Mordechai Gebirtig during the Weimar period in Germany, and is sung here by the German band Zupfgeigenhansl in the 1970s. It’s a Yiddish Arbeter Bund classic that is as timely now as when it was written. It was submitted by Harris Gruman of Boston.
10. "White People For Peace" by Against Me! released in 2007 scorned war as a sport with media cheerleaders celebrating the violence as fat cat politicians scream for more bloodshed. It was submittied by David Barskiy Jr. of Cleveland.