Dorian Lynskey’s comprehensive new book, 33 Revolutions Per Minute, details the history of the protest song in America and around the world.
Defining a protest song as one that "addresses a political issue in a way which aligns itself with the underdog," Lynskey starts his story with Billie Holiday‘s harrowing 1939 anti-lynching ballad, Strange Fruit, and ably takes us through the historic tunes that helped sustain and promote the civil rights, labor and anti-Vietnam war movements as well as non-American music from The Clash in Britain, Victor Jara in Chile and Fela Kuti in Nigeria.
It’s a bracing and informative survey, even if you’re familiar with the topic, and it happily sent us at The Nation thinking about our favorite all-time protest songs.
There are far too many to single out just one and props need to be given to iconic gems like Woody Guthrie‘s This Land is Your Land, Bob Dylan‘s Blowin’ in the Wind, Phil Ochs‘ I Ain’t Marchin’ Anymore, Bob Marley‘s Get Up, Stand Up, Gil Scott-Heron‘s The Revolution Will Not be Televised and Billy Bragg‘s Power in a Union.
But, in this discussion, we also want to highlight some slightly more obscure classics like Stiff Little Fingers‘s 1978 Suspect Device, which assailed the British imperial project in Northern Ireland with ferocious passion and James McMurtry‘s more modern but equally wrenching We Can’t Make It Here Anymore.
Most importantly, we want to hear from you! Please use this form to tell us what you consider your all-time favorite protest song. Please include a link to a video, if you have it, but just tell us the name and artist if you don’t. We’ll publish a survey of readers’ choices next week.