Where are the Protest Songs?

There is an old Chinese curse, “你可能生活在有趣的时代” (Nǐ kěnéng shēnghuó zài yǒuqù de shídài) that translates to “May you live in interesting times.” It seems as though, since the 2016 election that we are in the throes of that curse.

I’m not naive enough to believe that the times in which we are living are any more or less interesting than any other periods of history. It is easy, though, to fall prey to that mindset when every day we witness so many worrisome events. Trump’s recent bad behavior at the G7 conference adds to the evidence.

In the late 60’s I was a sheltered little girl living in rural Floydada, Texas. I wasn’t completely clueless, though. I knew about the Vietnam War, after all, it came to our television sets direct from the battlefields every night. Also on my tv I watched protesters marching against the war, young men burning their draft cards and seeking asylum in Canada. And, I’d seen television coverage of the Civil Rights movement. The clashes between protesters and police officers were disturbing, but in my little cocoon none of that really touched me.

Then in May of 1970 four college students protesting the Vietnam War were killed by National Guardsmen on the campus of Kent State in Ohio. I was 13, not much younger than the students who lost their lives that day. The desire to make my voice heard began to rise.

I’d love to tell you that I immediately left my home to join in angry protests, but again, I was just 13. I did start paying attention, though, not just to the protests, but to the protest songs.

Like this one from Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young.


Lately I’ve begun wondering where are today’s protest songs? Am I so old that I am unable to recognize them as such? Are there artists putting out meaningful lyrics that make young people feel the need to change the world? If you know of any, please pass the knowledge along. We need protest anthems for these interesting times.

Author: nananoyz

I'm a semi-retired crazy person with one husband and two cats.

35 thoughts on “Where are the Protest Songs?”

      1. Thanks. I played all instruments, composed the melody, sung, mixed and mastered. That sounds like I’m boasting and I hate boasters. It’s just the way I work on all songs.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Steve Earle has written some good protest songs. In particular his album “The Revolution Starts Now.” That one is comparatively “ancient,” unfortunately. But I still get his “Condi, Condi” coming up on my iPod now and then.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Nana, we have (had) a group in Australia called Midnight Oil “Beds are burning” is from an album called Diesel and Dust. This is the write up:

    Beds are Burning is arguably the most resonantly subversive artistic gesture ever made by Australians. Released by the country’s biggest rock group just months before Australia marked, on 26 January 1988, the 200th anniversary of the first fleet’s arrival in Sydney, it ensured that the dominant soundtrack of our bicentennial year would be a song which reminded that the country we were celebrating was founded on pillage and genocide.

    Beds are Burning is a brisk dispatch from geographical and moral places that Australians generally prefer not to visit – the immense emptiness of our outback, and the grim post-1788 history of Australia’s Indigenous people.

    Diesel and Dust, the album from which Beds are Burning was drawn, was the result of Midnight Oil’s 1986 Blackfella-Whitefella tour of Indigenous communities with the mostly Aboriginal Warumpi Band and Gondwanaland – the latter one of the few groups to have deployed the didgeridoo as a lead instrument.

    Ironically, Diesel and Dust, by far Midnight Oil’s most specifically Australian album, became their biggest global hit; Beds are Burning did notably well in countries which had also acquired their territory at gunpoint, charting high in the United States, Canada and South Africa.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Again, yes it is a good song. Midnight Oil were amazing and have reformed recently. I haven’t heard any of their new songs as yet, but I’m sure they will be excellent and meaningful. I am https://balindseyblog.wordpress.com/ but something is not quite right with my link and I need my son to come by and give me a hand. I should be Createwithbarb.com.au but somewhere along the way things have become mixed up. I get two replies each time someone responds to a blog post. Technology is not my strong suit. Will sort it out eventually, but thank you so much for the follow.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I had the good fortune to attend a concert of Steven Stills and Judy Collins last Saturday night. Stills sang For What It’s Worth. He made the comment that it was relevant when it was written and then became irrelevant but now is relevant again. Man, can that guy play guitar. What was funny about the concert I thought was how old everyone was. Lots of people with walkers and three-footed canes. Made me feel young (and I am older than you!). Thanks for posting.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Greetings from an Icelander, living nomadically in and around Europe! This thread (and page) is awesome! I recently started a media project that focuses on finding protest music and socially conscious musicians working today. Through interviews with musicians from around the globe we share their music and message during these, honestly, tough times.

    I hope we can start a conversation so I can get some recommendations from you.

    Here is the project page: https://shoutsmusic.blog

    and on FB (for shorter updates and protest music news):

    Best regards,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Awesome! I’m hardly a resource for such music, but I did do a follow up piece with links to some songs. My friend Zoolon is making some great music. I’ll see if I can post the link here. BTW, Iceland is on my bucket list!

      Liked by 1 person

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