10 of the most influential protest songs (10 items)

By , Deseret News

Aug. 14, 2014

Forty-five years ago this weekend, the Woodstock Music & Art Fair took place in New York. One former participant in Woodstock was quoted in USA Today as saying the festival "was a miracle. It was the real jelly. There was an energy prevalent at Woodstock, and if you surrendered to it, you didn't need to sleep much, you could do amazing things. It would move you." In honor of the Woodstock anniversary and the "real jelly" rebels who attended, compiled here are 10 protest songs that have been widely agreed to be some of the most influential in modern music.

1 of 10. Fortunate Son - Creedence Clearwater Revival

"The 1969 protest song highlighted the hypocrisy of the privileged class, whose so-called patriotism cost others their lives," according to TIME. Some of the lyrics are as follows:

Yeah, some folks inherit star spangled eyes/Ooh, they send you down to war, Lord/And when you ask them, "How much should we give?"/Oh, they only answer, more, more, more, oh/It ain't me, it ain't me/I ain't no military son/It ain't me, it ain't me/I ain't no fortunate one

2 of 10. Free Nelson Mandela - The Special AKA

"'Free Nelson Mandela' did more than any work of art to make Mandela a global icon of resistance," according to Nina Rastogi of Slate. "Dammers (the lead singer and song writer) received letters of congratulation from the UN and ANC, and even though his South African record label begged not to be sent copies for fear of prosecution, the song spread organically among the black population."

Rastogi wrote that later in life Dammers performed it live for Mandela himself during a concert celebrating his release from prison.

"Ah yes," Rastogi quotes Mandela as saying when he was introduced to Dammers. "Very good."

3 of 10. Sunday Bloody Sunday - U2

"U2’s “Sunday Bloody Sunday” refers to the Jan. 30, 1972, massacre of Catholic civil rights demonstrators by British soldiers in Northern Ireland," wrote TIME, "but the song speaks volumes about conflicts in general."

"The band from Dublin has been singing the song for decades. Unfortunately for us, the lyrics 'There’s many lost, but tell me who has won?' are still as relevant as they ever were."

4 of 10. War - Edwin Starr

"Subtlety is not a requirement of protest songs," according to TIME, "and the message of Edwin Starr’s funky 1970 chart topper couldn’t be clearer: 'War! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing!'”

5 of 10. Blowin' in the Wind - Bob Dylan

"One of its greatest merits is that it so simple," wrote Siegmal Siegel on the BBC website. "Over the decades, I have encountered this song - and the positive spirit that emanates from it - the world over. It ranks among the very few songs that are truly universal. Or, in a nutshell: Never before has so little given so much to so many."

1. Midwest Mom
Soldiers Grove, WI,
Aug. 15, 2014

The DN writing a piece on protest songs? Well done.

Dissent scares people and they don't want to hear, especially when it's the young who are speaking out. I wonder how many good parents from those days turned off this music because of the protest culture and missed the message.

When we had the protests in Madison over the loss of collective bargaining rights, in early 2010, I took my young children with me to let them see what people do when their government shuts them out. It was a powerful experience for them in their right to free speech.

Unfortunately, many of my friends and relatives were shocked at my choice. My then 9 year-old daughter wrote a letter to our governor and eloquently sent her own protest when, a short time later, her beloved school librarian was laid off (within months of pension eligibility) so that they could hire a new, lower-paid librarian.

Whatever your political stripe, "teach your children well" by letting them know that there is still power in our freedom to speak out.

2. Itsjstmeagain
Merritt Island, Fl,
Aug. 15, 2014

One would think that after decades of protesting senseless wars we would learn. I guess we can not not be educated or we're just stupid to listen to the Chicken Hawks in DC.

Consider the outcome if every elected official and senior staffers must have their children and grandchildren, young men and women serve in the Combat Arms branches while the parent is in office. Should be interesting.

3. silverbear
Goshen, UT,
Aug. 15, 2014

All we are saying is give peace a chance. Imagine is not here on this list or eve of destruction. Whats up with that>

4. Ernest T. Bass
Bountiful, UT,
Aug. 15, 2014

This is such an odd thing for the Dnews to publish. It's so much less regressive than most of what it publishes.

5. Instereo
Eureka, UT,
Aug. 15, 2014

There are some great songs listed here, most were not played at Woodstock though. Still recognizing the value of protest songs is important. Songs that unite us to fight oppression or are used to identify us as a group that is being discriminated against, need to be sung. I think of the song Amazing Grace and how it was used to both unite a people and to fight slavery and then goes on to live in respectability after the battle was won.