Clearly, 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 2,250 in all from the four corners of the US and well beyond.
We’re still examining the submissions, but early returns indicate strong support, among scores of readers, for five 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" and Pete Seeger’s "Where Have All the Flowers Gone." All timeless classics and deservedly so.
But our first Nation readers’ list highlights some slightly more obscure tunes. Enjoy, and check back for additional lists coming soon!
Nation Readers’ Top Ten Protest Songs (An incomplete list in random order)
1. "La Marseillaise," written and composed by Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle in Strasbourg on April 25, 1792, is the French national anthem and a symbol of revolution around the world. It was submitted by Scott Morgan of New York City.
2. "Fortunate Son," by Credence Clearwater Revival, is a song of defiance and working-class pride written from the perspective of a man who is being drafted for Vietnam because he’s not fortunate enough to be the son of a Senator or millionaire. It was submitted by Tyler Moss of Oklahoma City.
3. "Wasteland of the Free," by Iris DeMent, derides those claiming the US to be an "advanced civilization" and decries government and media scapegoating of the poor. It was submitted by Jo Ann Greenberg of Brooklyn.
4. "What Have They Done to the Rain?" by Malvina Reynolds, was written in 1962 as part of a campaign to stop nuclear testing in the atmosphere, which was producing toxic fall-out aka acid rain. It was submitted by Christine Eicher of St. Louis.
5. "Little Boy Soldiers," by The Jam, is a furious plea to politicians to stop sending children to die in needless wars. It was submitted by Scott Polk of Austin.
6. "The WTO Kills Farmers," by Anti-Flag, is a call to young people to resist the free-trade agenda of the World Trade Organization, written in 2000 in the wake of the historic Seattle protests of December, 1999. It was submitted by Maria Parlow, Milwaukee.
7. "Illegal Smile," by John Prine, is a wry critique of government censorship. It was submitted by Annette Shacklett from Juneau.
8. "The Partisan Anthem of the Warsaw Ghetto," written in 1943 by Hirsh Glick from the Vilna Ghetto and sung here by Paul Robeson in Yiddish, traveled from concentration camp to concentration camp, offering hope and strength to Jews across Europe. It was submitted by Arlene Austin from New York City.
9. "What’s Going On," by Marvin Gaye, is a prescient environmental classic calling out the radical inequalities bedeviling America’s promise as a genuine melting pot and beacon of freedom to the world. It was submitted by Beverly Goldrup from Los Angeles.
10. "Fight the Power," written by Public Enemy in 1989 for Spike Lee’s film Do the Right Thing, is a seminal hip-hop response to police violence and the enduring impact of racism and discrimination. It was submitted by Daniel Prestridge from Toyko.