Greatest Eighties Protest Songs
"(Lets Play) USA ," by Peter Schilling
Peter Schilling is famous for his song Major Tom, but he wrote about more than that, (Lets Play) USA is about people who mostly care and centre themselves around profits and what I think, status. If you listen to the lyrics, he's singing about how moral values are dropping rapidly and being forgotten about.
"19 (Nineteen)," by Paul Hardcastle
This song protests the conscription of young soldiers to fight in the Vietnam War, as young as 19 years old. And the survivors who were traumatized at the senseless destruction and nonsense of war, being a pacifist myself this song means a lot to me. (In 1965 Vietnam seemed like just another foreign war but it wasn't It was different in many ways, as so were those that did the fighting In World War II the average age of the combat soldier was 26 In Vietnam he was 19)
"99 Luftballons (99 Red Balloons)," by Nena
About military paranoia and eagerness to go to war.
"Allentown," by Billy Joel
Great tune about Reaganomics and the develpment of the rust belt.
"All She Wants to Do is Dance," by Don Henley
Protest against the U.S. involvement with the Contras in Nicaragua. All Americans wants to do is dance, while the molotov cocktails, and sales of guns and drugs are going on around her. And the boys (the CIA, NSA, etc.)are making a buck or two.
"Another Brick In The Wall," by Pink Floyd
No more mind control!
"Army Dreamers," by Kate Bush
An anti-war song about the traumas of a mother when her son goes off to war.
"Badman's Song," by Tears For Fears
This song (from The Seeds Of Love is a protest against the injustices of religious leaders and their harsh judgements.
"Bastards Of Young," by The Replacements
The was another "could have been, should have been" song written by Paul Westerberg and Bob Stinson in 1984. It was released in 1985 on the "Tim" LP. On January 18th, 1986 The Replacements played this song on Saturday Night Live. To the best of my knowledge, it hasn't been shown since. The Replacements were not the best live band, and Paul said the f-word. They were visibly drunk. This should have been the rock anthem of Generation X. They wouldn't have wanted all the attention.
"Beds Are Burning," by Midnight Oil
Big song from 1988 protesting the Australian governments confiscation of aboriginal lands in the outback.
"Behind the Wall," by Tracy Chapman
Against domestic violence and police incompetence.
"Belfast Child," by Simple Minds
Fantastic song about the Irish war, 1989, n°1 in UK in February.
"The Big Stick," by Minutemen
Song calling on America to protest the US involvement in Nicaragua and Guatamala. "Uncle Sam supports a fascist regime, That doesnt represent the people over there. We learn and believe there is justice for us all, and we lie to ourselves with a big stick up our ass."
"Biko," by Peter Gabriel
Released in 1980. The song was included on Gabriel's third album, Peter Gabriel. It is about Steve Biko, a noted black South African anti-apartheid activist. Biko had been arrested by the South African police in late August 1977. After being held in custody for several days, he was interrogated in room 619 of the Walmer St prison in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape. Following the interrogation, during which he sustained serious head injuries, Biko was transferred to a prison in Pretoria, where he died shortly afterwards, on 12 September 1977. Gabriel often plays the song at the end of concerts, encouraging the audience to join in the singing, and eventually leaving only the drummer on stage. (From Wikipedia)
"Black Boys On Mopeds," by Sinead O'Connor
Not as much another song condemning racism as it is a hate letter to then-British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
"Blackened," by Metallica
This is a song protesting nuclear warfare and the lack of understanding by governments about the problems it can cause.
"Black Stations White Stations," by M&M (aka Martha And The Muffins)
Accordong to Martha's website, she wrote this song about racial issues after hearing that Van Morrison's hit "Brown Eyed Girl" was supposed to be Brown Skinned Girl, but he had to change it.
"Bonzo Goes To Bitbrg," by The Ramones
This song was written by the ramones, ad expressed their outage when President Ronald "Bonzo" Reagan visited a nazi cemetary called Bitburg.
"Born In The USA," by Bruce Springsteen
This song protests the way that middle class Americans were treated in the the era of "Reganomics."
"Brothers In Arms," by Dire Straits
Released during the Falklands War and promptly banned by the B.B.C. in the U.K. It's a song about the utter folly of going to war.

Editor's Note: The Falkland Islands War took place in 1982. Was this song released before 1985 in the UK?

"California Uber Alles," by The Dead Kennedys
A protest against then-California Governor Jerry Brown.
"Cassandra," by Anonyma
Hard-to-find folk song. The song starts out from the perspective of Cassandra, who was cursed to tell the truth and be thought insane, then the last verse talks about the women in the UK protesting the housing of US missiles there. Worth looking for.
"Channel-Z," by The B-52s
I believe it is worth mentioning that "Channel-Z" by the B-52s is more than just "vaguely anti-media." The song also identified numerous problems that were brought about during the Reagan regime: "Space junk---laser bombs---ozone holes" - references towards the United States Government's apathy towards the environment and its program to try and colonise space for military purposes with 'Star Wars' "Giant stacks blowin' smoke, Politicrits pushin' dope" - This was a reference again to the lack of concern for the environment, and more importantly to Peter Deutche's illegal drug trafficking in South America while Reagan was busy at home promoting "this is your brain" propaganda (and the irony of it) "Waste dumps---toxic fog---irradiate---and keep it fresh forever" - The continual build-up of nuclear waste in Nevada, the indifference of the US Government, the threat of catastrophe posed by nuclear power plants along with the never-ending threat of nuclear war. "Good old boys---tellin' lies 'Bout time---I got wise" - References to the Iran-Contra conspiracy and Reagan secretly selling weapons to the Iranians in exchange for hostages while simultaneously knocking Carter for failing to find a resolution "Gotta tune in---pico waves. Gotta tune out---PCB's Gotta tune in---market crash. Gotta tune out---polar shift Gotta tune in---narrow minds. Gotta tune out---space junk Gotta tune in---bombs. Gotta turn out---atomic lasers falling from the sky" The market crash led by the Reagan-Bush Savings and Loan scam followed by the government bailout of the conspirators under Reaganomics, the polar shifts that were starting by the lack of environmental regulations with the continual build-up of carcinogens in the atmosphere, the conservative build-up of power in the West, the proliferation of nukes, and the Star Wars programme of conquering space for imperial purposes... "Secret wars!---Take my money away!" - Once again, Oliver North and his Iran-Contra conspiracy, along with Reagan's illegal war in Nicaragua. Yes, on top of that, the song also blends in problems with media deregulation that led up to today's media concentration along with its practice of lambasting the populace into submission via a never-ending barrage of information. One could say it is equally revealing.
"Cheerleaders," by Minutemen
Song relating cheerleaders to war, and about how cheerleading, rah-rah America distracts us from the ugliness of war.
"Cherokee," by Europe
Describes the life of a native American tribe who lived the settlement of the white man on their lands
"The Children Of Kosovo," by The Kelly Family
A song for the victims of the war in Kosovo, also produced in French, Dutch, German and Luxembourgian versions.
"Children's Crusade," by Sting
Compares the militarism of WWI to the Children's Crusade of the Middle Ages. Governments were using propaganda to promote the war effort so much that 14-,15-,16-year-old boys were lying about their age in order to enlist.
"Civil War," by Guns 'n' Roses
Anti war song that tells how we send our children to death and cause pain throughout the society by means of war.
"Clampdown," by The Clash
Greatest protest song ever against letting your government gain too much control. So many lines of this song are appropriate for what's going on right now. "We will teach our twisted speech to the young believers...we will train our blue-eyed men to you be young believers." Sound familiar in this age of fear and "created" enemies?
"A Country Boy Can Survive," by Hank Williams Jr
If you listen to the lyrics, it's a protest about the faluire of all parties in govermant to do what is needed, in all layers and stratas of society, to make it safe and equal. Eg: mking sure that all schools are the best that money can buy, so kids can learn to their fullest.
"D-Day for Stien Stien," by The Fat Moox
Describes the hardships of an overweight child in the war.
"The Dead Heart," by Midnight Oil
Aboriginal protest song. "We don't serve your country, don't serve your king......We carry in our hearts the true country and that cannot be stolen."
"Dear God," by XTC
Strong protest song with atheist feelings. It features lyrics such as "all the people that you made in your image, See them starving on their feet, cause they dont get enough to eat". Or "I wont believe in heaven and hell. No saints, no sinners, No devil as well. No pearly gates, no thorny crown. Youre always letting us humans down. The wars you bring, the babes you drown. Those lost at sea and never found, And its the same the whole world round."
"Dear Mr. Jesus," by Powersource
Song about child abuse. Created after Lisa Steinberg died from beatings she received by her adoptive father Joel Steinberg. Huge issue in NYC at the time because teachers knew she was being abused, but no one helped.
"Death Dealers," by Discharge
A protest song against the UK selling arms to third-world countries instead of helping them out with social programs. Discharge, being an political-minded hardcore band, most of their songs are one way or the other a protest song!
"Die For Your Government," by Anti-Flag
"Distant Early Warning," by Rush
Environmental, Nuclear War, Acid Rain, you name it....
"Dogs," by Pink Floyd
This song is against society in general.
"Do They Know it's Christmas?," by Band Aid
This was the original anti African Hunger Song, done by a raft of British Pop stars, led by Bob Geldof of the Boomtown Rats. Christmas 1984. Raised tons of money, and spawned both the American "We are the World" and the Canadian "Tears are not Enough", which were recorded by equally famous Pop stars.
"Down And Out In Paradise," by John Cougar Mellencamp
This is a protest against what President Reagan did to America in reducing job and social security for the poor. Written in the form of a letter to the President himself.
"Electric Funeral," by Black Sabbath
This is a song protesting nuclear warfare.
"The End Of The Innocence," by Don Henley and Bruce Hornsby
Protest of Reagan. "They're beating plowshares into swords for this tired old man that we elected king". When Hornsby sings it, he changes it to "that's no longer king." The entire song is a metaphor for the farmer's struggles due to the domestic policies of Ronald Reagan. The second verse is the only verse that directly states this.
Anti the atom bomb and the destruction of Hiroshama and Nagasaki. "Enola Gay, you should have stayed at home yesterday".
"Everybody Wants To Rule The World," by Tears For Fears
This song protests the way some governmental powers want to literally "rule the world."
"Finest Worksong," by R.E.M.
The opener from 1987's Document, this song can be interpreted as call to arms against the status quo, generally, and American-style consumerism (which was at a nadir in 1987) particularly. "Take your instinct by the reins Your better best to rearrange What we want and what we need Has been confused, been confused" That's a terrific opening verse for an album that generally rejects Reagan's pure capitalism and its fallout at every turn. It specifically addresses those of us who were under 30 at the time, not to follow the teeming, mindless throngs blindly: "Your finest hour (blow your song) Your finest hour (blow your horn)" For all the good it did. I'm quite sure he didn't have in mind electing a jackass like the one we have in the White House at the moment. Don't look at me. It never occured to me to vote for that idiot!
"The Fletcher Memorial Home," by Pink Floyd
A protest song against Regan, Begen, Thatcher and the rest of military advanced countries, Waters is dreaming of a safe place for children to live away from reality
"Flowers of Guatemala," by R.E.M.
This song, from 1986, was on R.E.M.'s "Life's Rich Pageant" album and is about the violent right-wing govt in Guatemala and the devastating effect it had on the Guatemalan people.
"For America," by Jackson Browne
Another great anti-war song from Jackson Browne's "Lives In the Balance" LP
"Forgotten Sons," by Marillion
A Song over the Civil-War in North Ireland. Released in 1983. more Infos about Marillion : http://www.morain.de/index/
"For What's It Worth," by Buffalo Springfeild
I think the song is telling us to beware of our goverment. In one part of the song it says "I think its time we stop, children, whats that sound, everybody looks what going down." Could it mean a bomb.
"Fragile," by Sting
Anti-War song. Nothing ever good comes from violence and nothing ever will. (brings tears to my eyes :*( )
"Free Nelson Mandela," by Special AKA
The song that brought Nelson Mandela to the attention of a generation. Kick started the anti-apartheid movement leading to boycotts of Barclay's, Shell & South African sports teams.
"Free South Africa," by Stetsasonic
The Original Hip Hop Band Stetsasonic collaborated with Jesse Jackson to make people aware of the aparthied situation going on in South Africa.
"Freewill," by Rush
Essentially challenges religion, suggesting that people use god as an excuse for irresponsibility.
"Games Without Frontiers," by Peter Gabriel (1980)
Anti-war.
"Ghost Town," by The Specials
About Maggie Thatchers policies in the 80s and how they were leading to high unemployment especially in northern manufacturing towns.
"Give Peace A Chance?," by Yoko and Sean Ono...with other artists.
I believe it was a remake of the John Lennon song...."All we are saying, is give peace a chance." It had a lot of butt rockers in it....but the only one I can seem to remember from the video is Slah.
"Gods Of War," by Def Leppard
This song is from a "man on the corner" perspective of the Cold War that basically thinks, "I know that they have bombs, they're powerful, why set them off?"
"Goodbye Blue Sky," by Black Sabbath
A song protesting the bombing of civilians during wars.
"Hammer to Fall," by Queen (1984)
About the Cold War.
"Hare Rama Hare Krishna," by The Nine Ranges Of Mountain
It's a song against any sort of religion.it is based on how visnavism penetrate in Manipur. And here is a social message that "let's not sleep again let others not make you fool again."
"Help Save The Youth Of America," by Billy Bragg
Though writen in 1985, it rings surprisingly true 20 years later. "Listen to the voice of the soldier, down in the killing zone, talkin' 'bout the cost of living, and the price of briniging him home"
"Hideous Towns," by The Sundays
Borderline '80s (1989/1990) this song is a protest against people being drafted into the military.
"Hope For The Runaway," by Kenny Loggins
This song described the lives and suffering of runaway children.
"How Many People?," by Paul McCartney
A song about, and dedicated to, Chico Mendez, martyr in defense of the Amazon forest
"I Ain't Gonna Play Sun City," by Little Steven
This was an anti-apartheid song because Sun City was a huge club in South Africa that lured big name entertainers.
"If A Tree Falls In The Forest," by Bruce Cockburn
The song describes how we impact nature.
"If A Tree Falls," by Bruce Cockburn
Bruce Cockburn is a very political Canadian folk-rocker who penned "If A Tree Falls" on his 1988 release "Big Circumstance." This one protests the devastation of the world's rainforest and ecological chaos in general.
"I'll Swim, I'll Swim, I'll Swim," by The Kelly Family
Song against the abuse of animals.
"Il Mio Nome ^ Mai Più," by Ligabue, Jovanotti And Piero Pelù
Italian song against the war, particularly in Kosovo.
"Il mio nome è mai più," by Ligabue, Jovanotti and Piero Pelù
Italian song against the war, in particulary in Kosovo
"I'm A Stranger Here," by Five Man Electrical Band
Great song about aliens coming to Earth and being told it was paradise but then why do they hear those children cry? It is protesting injustice and environmental abuse
"In A Darkened Room," by Skid Row
About child abuse.
"Introduction & Dethrone Tyranny," by Gamma Ray
German Heavy Metal Band, The CD : No World Order Wicked band, great lyrics. The two songs kinda go together. Anti N.W.O/Illuminati !
"Invisible Sun," by The Police
Northern Ireland at its worst.
"Island of no return," by Billy Bragg
About the Falkland war. Almost any song from Billy Bragg's 'Back to Basics'
"Is This the World We Created?," by Queen
About social injustice in the world and the numerous perversions subjected to the world .
"It's Wrong (Apartheid)," by Stevie Wonder
Off of the album, In Square Circle . . . . Great Song!
"I Was Only 19 (A Walk in the Light Green)," by Redgum
A song about the effects of the Vietnam War, including the defoilant Agent Orange, on the Australian soldiers fighting in the war.
"I was only 19," by Redgum
Australian Vietnam veteran's traumatic memories... So many of the conscripts can't forget
"Joe McCarthy's Ghost," by Minutemen
Song about the spirit of McCarthy's communist witch hunt being alive and well in the 80s.
"Johannesburg," by The Housemartins
This song was protesting apartheid in South Africa
"Johnny Hit and Run Pauline," by X (1980)
Anti-rape song.
"Just Another Soldier," by Minutemen
Song about how the lives of soldiers were wasted in the Cold War wars. "Over 300 dead, we still got pride. We've lost all our morals,we still got pride. Should we fight this war in some far corner of the globe?"
"Khe Sanh," by Cold Chisel
This song is all about the damage Vietnam does to a single man after he came back -read the lyrics and you will be amazed!
"King Of The Hill," by Minutemen
Song about war and peace with illusions to the cold war, and how the children's game, King Of The Hill, conditions kids to accept war.
"The Landscape Is Changing," by Depeche Mode
From their "Construction Time Again", this song deals with environmental issues in a very graphic way.
"Little Man With A Gun In His Hand," by Minutemen
A song about men who use guns to compensate for their inability to find love.
"Lives In The Balance," by Jackson Browne
About the US intervention in Central America and its profiteers: "And who are the ones that we're fighting for?/These governments killing their own"
"Lives In the Balance," by Jackson Browne
Title track from an album of protest songs. This one falls under the category of anti-war/anti-globalization. Still very relevant today with lines like "There's a shadow on the faces, Of the men who send the guns, To the wars that are fought in places, Where their business interest runs..."
"Living In Sin," by Bon Jovi
The song is a protest to Jon's religon. He was living at the time with his girlfriend Dorothea (current wife). That is what the song is about.
"Living On A Prayer," by Bon Jovi
This song is a protest against poverty and homelessness. It's about couple, Johnny and Gina; who have very little money and even less hope of escaping the life that they know. Johnny has lost his job on the docks because his union has gone on strike and Gina has a job as a waitress she works for her boss, the man; and takes home her pay. Gina holds out hope that their lives will change and that they should focus on to the things that they do have and not the things that they don't have.
"London Underground," by Amateur Transplants
It's about those train workers never being satisfied.
"Luka," by Suzanne Vega
Luka is not necessarily about Child Abuse, but abuse in general. It is contained within the Lyrics: My Name Is Luka, I live on the 2nd floor, I live up stairs from you, I think you might have seen me before. If you hear something late at night, Some kind of trouble, Some kind of fight, Just don't ask me what it was, Just don't ask me what it was, Just don't ask me, what it was...
"Mandela Day," by Simple Minds
A song about Nelson Mandela, his fight and the day he was set free
"The Message," by Grandmaster Flash
Protested against racism.
"Mister Cabdriver," by Lenny Kravitz
About racism.
"Mona And The Children," by
This song re-enacts the true story of a 16 year old Pakistani girl named Mona who executed for defiance. She was teaching young children and didn't cover her head.
"Mona and the Children," by
This song is protesting the mistreatment of a 16 year old Pakastani girl, and all Pakistani women in general, who went to work in secret trying to educate the children about the UN.
"Mona With The Children," by Doug Cameron
This song is about a 16 year old girl who fought for women's rights in Pakistan.
"Mona With The Children," by Doug Cameron
This song is to protest against the execution of 10 women in Iran under the Iatolah and in particular a 16 year old girl named Mona Mahmudnizhad who was hanged because she refused to recant religious beliefs.
"Mona With The Children," by Doug Cameron
This song tells the story of Mona Mahmudnizhad. She and 9 other women were executed by hanging in Iran for their refusal to denounce their Iranian Baha'i faith.
"Mona With The Children," by Doug Cameron
This song tells the story of Mona Mahmudnizhad. She and 9 other women were executed by hanging in Iran for their refusal to denounce their Iranian Baha'i faith.
"Mona With The Children," by Doug Cammeron
Mona with the Children tells the true story of a 16 year old Iranian girl named Mona Muhmamadzar who was excuted because of her political beliefs.
"Mona With The Children," by Doug Cammeron
This song depicts the true story of Mona a sixteen year old iranian girl who was executed for her non-violent political beliefs and supposed acts of "defiance" against the Iatola.
"Mona With The Children," by Doug MacLean
This song protests the shabby way that women in Iran were treated in the years of the Iatolah. It tells the story of Mona who was only 16 when she was order executed by the Iatolah because of her non-violent political beliefs.
"Money Changes Everything," by Cyndi Lauper
Depending upon how it is construed, this innocent sounding effort could be perceived as a thinly veiled social satire of the financial obsession that infiltrated the masses at the turn of the 80s and beyond. With a premise grounded in both Platonic and sexual relationships, the song expounds the breakdown of these physical connections via the dictatorial rule of materialism. "We think we know what we're doing, we don't pull the strings / It's all in the past now, money changes everything," clearly illustrates the deterministic government of monetarism and how we are "puppets" manipulated by the strings of money's cruel seduction. "They say we'll be your friends, we'll stick with you 'til the end / Oh but everybody's only looking out for themselves / And you say, 'Well, who can you trust?' I'll tell you, trust nobody else's money / Money changes everything." These few lines alone resonate a poignant concept of cliques formed on the basis of a shared financial stability, how they can't be trusted and how money inevitably fails us when pitched against the insurmountable power of greed and self-obsession. Ultimately, the song is a reminder of how one's own freewill was (or is!) only to be thwarted by a shallow, financially oriented fate, and how often our materialistic compulsions led (or lead) to ruin.
"Mothers Of The Disappeared," by U2
Dedicated to all those who have lost a friend or family during wars, riots and other types of violence.
"Mothers Talk," by Tears For Fears
There were basically two ideas in this song according to Roland Orzabal. The first idea was an old wives tale about mothers telling their children when they "make a face" your face will stay like that. Which is where the line "My features form with a change in the weather" came from.

The second line was the potential to start another World War which was something that Roland was very afraid of. It also came from a book called "When the Winds Blow."
"When the winds blow, when the mothers talk, when the winds blow."
"Mountains O' Things," by Tracy Chapman
Anti-materialism.
"My Country I & II," by Roger Taylor
From the 1982 solo album of Queen's drummer, the song attacks wars based on the agendas of ageing politicians, as well as stabbing at politics in general.
"Nicaragua," by Bruce Cockburn
About the contra wars in Nicaragua.
"No More War," by Bronski Beat
"One Man One Vote," by Johnny Clegg & Savuka
Anti-apartheid song written in 1989
"One Vision," by Queen (1986)
Inspired by Martin Luther King Jr. & Live Aid.
"One World (Not Three)," by The Police
Protests against the division of the wolrd into rich and poor countries and shows how much of a delusion it is.
"Paint A Vulgar Picture," by The Smiths
Anti-record industry.
"Painted Moon," by The Silencers
Against the Falklands War.
"Pass it On Down," by Alabama
Song deals with preserving the environment for future generations.
"Peace in Our Time," by Elvis Costello & the Attractions
Sums up the political mood of 1984 quite perfectly. I especially love the line: "We already have one spaceman in the White House, whatcha want another one for?"
"People Have The Power," by Patti Smith
1988, album "Dream Of Life" -- Chorus: "The people/have the power/to redeem/the work of fools. Upon the meek/the graces shower/it's decreed/the people rule," etc.
"People in the USA(Poorman/Richman Suite)," by Randydandy
Basically, this song speaks for the working class. the song includes words such as: "Your walking one night, a man pulls a gun, he didn't want to rob you but it had to be done. His family and business are being destroyed! his american dream has become unemployed." And from the rich people: "Poor People?! There's no poor people."
"Please Forgive Us," by 10,000 Maniacs
This terrific song from 1989 protests American involvement in Central America and our penchant for propping up dictatorial governments (El Salvador, Panama, Nicaragua, Guatemala).
"Poison In The Well," by 10,000 Maniacs
Environmental protest song released on a special radio promo created for Earth Day. On the album Blind Mans Zoo (1989) with MANY of their other songs which are protests against a variety of issues - war, child abuse, etc... most of their music is very political under the sheen.
"Power," by Doobie Brothers/James Taylor
An often heralded yet oft overlooked sweet melody about the healing power of the sun, written by John and Johanna Hall. Performed at the No Nukes concert, Bonnie Raitt and James Taylor and the Doobies.
"Price Of Paradise," by Minutemen
Song about D. Boon's childhood memories of Vietnam and the stories his brother, a vietnam veteran, told him.
"Pride (In The Name Of Love)," by U2
Actually, this song is about Martin Luther King. If you listen to the lyrics, Bono is singing about King and his struggle for equality.
"Pride (in The Name Of Love)," by U2
Pride is not a protest song, and it has nothing to do with N. Ireland. It's about Martin Luther King Jr. (Early morning, April four/A shot rings out in the Memphis sy/Free at last, they took your life/They could not take your pride).
"Pride...In the Name of Love," by U2
This song is also about Martin Luther King Jr. "Early morning, April 4 Shot rings out in the Memphis sky Free at last, they took your life They could not take your pride." Of course MLK was assassinated on the 4th of April in Memphis, Tennessee and within his famous "I Have a Dream" speech, the good reverend says "Free at Last, Free at Last. Thank God Almighty, Free at Last."
"Pride...In the Name of Love," by U2
This song is also about Martin Luther King Jr. "Early morning, April 4 Shot rings out in the Memphis sky Free at last, they took your life They could not take your pride." Of course MLK was assassinated on the 4th of April in Memphis, Tennessee and within his famous "I Have a Dream" speech, the good reverend says "Free at Last, Free at Last. Thank God Almighty, Free at Last."
"Protect and Survive," by Jethro Tull (1980)
Anti-nuclear arms song.
"Put Down That Weapon," by Midnight Oil
Sings about how building up weapons doesn't make people safe.
"Put Out The Fire," by Queen
From their 1982 album, Hot Space, this song is against gun ownership. "Put out the fire! You need a bullet like a hole in the head!"
"Read Between The Lies," by Slayer
Anti-evangelist/Christian song.
"Ride The Lightning," by Metallica
This song is a beautiful example of a song that is protesting the death penalty.
"Rock the Casbah," by The Clash
This song is quite obviously about mideast peace, with the incredibly cheesy image of the rabbi picking up the Arab in a Longhorn Limo in the video. I got a feeling it's also against Islamic fundamentalism, as it portrays the Sharif ("nobleman") as oppressive.
"Russians," by Sting
Sting sings out against any kind of war, but particularly Nuclear War with the Soviet Union. Some lyrics are, "There is no historical precedent to put the words in the mouth of the President. There's no such thing as a winnable war, it's a lie we don't believe anymore." and the chorus says "Believe me when I say to you, I hope the Russians love their children too."
"Rust in Peace," by Megadeth
This is a song protesting nuclear warfare.
"The Scattering," by Cutting crew
This song was released in 1989 from the album bearing the same name.It depicts the lives and hopes of people of Northern Ireland during the trouble years.
"Scatterlings of Africa," by Savuka
The leadear of Savuka, English born Johnny Clegg was one of the many persons who wanted to get rid of apartheid in South Africa. Although not engaged politically in the fight against this evil regime, he fought against apartheid with his songs. The band formed in early 1985 was made up of 3 white and 3 black musicians. Other well known protest songs made in the late 80's included,"Asimbonanga"(1988),"Great heart"(1987) and "One man one vote"(1989).Johnny Clegg was often known as the "white Zulu"
"Self Destruction," by The Stop The Violence Movement
1980s hip hop artists ( KRS1,Kool Moe Dee,MC Lyte,Stetsasonic,BDP,Just Ice,Heavy D,Doug E Fresh and Public Enemy )collaborate on a message to all youth of America,as well as all listeners to stop black on black crime.
"Shipbuilding," by Elvis Costello & the Attractions
One of EC's most topical songs, which was written in the wake of the U.K. Faulkland Islands debacle. It's a sorrowful look at the plight of the British working class combined with a scalding reproach of Thatcherite imperialism.
"Shock The Monkey," by Peter Gabriel (correction)
Hello, I have a small correction to your comment re: "Shock The Monkey" being anti vivisection. The song is actually about jealousy; how the experience of envy/jealousy as one of our more primal emotions arouses our more visceral and primal instincts and reactions. Shocking the "monkey" to life, so to speak.
"Sign 'O' the Times," by Prince (1987)
Aids, crack, the Space Shuttle. One of the best opening lines: "In France a skinny man died of a big disease with a little name..."
"Small Town Boy," by Bronski Beat
This song beautifully describes what it is like to grow up gay in an environment without understanding. Haunting.
"Soldier of Plenty," by Jackson Browne
Anti-war, anti-Reagan, anti-globalization tune from 1986's "Lives In the Balance" LP. "...Who's left when the war is won?, Soldier of misfortune--, Soldier of an angry call, Soldier on foreign soil..."
"Solidarity," by Angelic upstarts
About the riots of the Polish workers.
"Something Inside So Strong," by Labi Siffre
Anti-Apartheid song.
"Sowing The Seeds Of Love," by Tears For Fears
This is basically a protest against political corruption.
"State Of The World," by Janet Jackson
This song is about homeless people and teenage pregnancy.
"Stop In The Name of Love," by The Hollies
Originally written as a love ballad for Diana Ross & the Supremes, The Hollies (including Graham Nash) briefly reunited to cover this as a plea to disarm nuclear weapons. The video even featured blank-eyed children lip syncing.
"Stop The Violence," by Boogie Down Productions (KRS-One)
This song is about the need for world peace, specifically in the states.
"Streets Of Sorrow/Birmingham Six," by The Pogues
The songs was a protest against the wrongly imprisoned Birminghaam six and Guildord four, and to an extent the situation in Northern Ireland at the time, the song was banned by tv and radio, and then un-banned after the for mentioned were found cleared and released.
"Subdivisions," by Rush
About social isolation in suburbia.
"Sun City," by United Artists Against Apartheid
This song was to protest against the Apartheid government in South Africa.
"Sunday Bloody Sunday," by U2
"Sunday Bloody Sunday" is not only about the horrible massacres in Ireland, it is also about Bono's struggles with religion. His mother was Protestant while his father was Catholic. "Sunday" pertains to the day when church is held. "Mothers, children, brothers, sisters torn apart," tells about how he went to church with his mother and brother, while his father went to the Catholic church.
"Tears Are Not Enough," by Northern Lights
Canadian song, as influenced by Band Aid, as a way to raise funds to help relieve the famine in Ethiopia in 1984 - 85. Song was written by Bryan Adams, Jim Vallance and David Foster.
"Telegraph Road," by Dire Straits
From their album 'Love Over Gold'. A song about how society in general has gone badly wrong. It tells of how a town was built from scratch and then wrecked by capitalism. Contains the very poignant lyric 'The birds upon the wires and the telegraph poles, they can always fly away from this rain and this cold'. A very haunting song and a personal favorite of mine.
"Testure," by Skinny Puppy
Protests animal testing.
"Testure," by Skinny Puppy
Protests testing on animals.
"Thank God For the Bomb," by Ozzy Osbourne
"If it's the only thing that keeps their peace, then thank God for the bomb" -cold war/nuclear weapons protest song.
"This Ain't No Picnic," by Minutemen
Another song about how capitalism screws over the workers. "I got my bills and the rent, I should go pitch a tent. But our land is not free, so i'll work my youth away, in the place of a machine."
"Till I Go Down," by Jackson Browne
"I'm not gonna shut my mouth, I'm for the truth to come out, About the leader with the iron will, And his allegiance to the dollar bill" What more can I say?!
"Toy Soldiers," by Martika
It doesn't necessarily show in-your-face protest, but it's still a song that brings the dangers of drug addiction to attention. "...we all fall down, like toy soldiers..." (damage from drugs) "...How could I be so blind to this addiction? If I don't stop, the next one's gonna be me..." (death, overdose)
"Tramp the Dirt Down," by Elvis Costello & the Attractions
Elvis's most directly mean-spirited song, which came off as a direct personal attack on Margaret Thatcher. The title describes what he'd like to do to her grave.
"U.N.I.T.Y.," by Queen Latifa
A great song addressing domestic abuse and calling for respect for women.
"Undercover Of The Night," by Rolling Stones
About "the Disappeared" under Pinochet. Its not alone though, Sting ("They Dance Alone, Cueca Solo") and Pink Floyd ("Fletcher Memorial Home"-refers to meat packing glitterati)also protest about the situation in Chile then.
"Union Sundown," by Bob Dylan
Who but Bob Dylan would have the cahones to write an anti-Union protest song?
"Veteran," by Ignite
A song about the poverty or poorness in the United States
"Violence is Golden," by John Fogerty
Released in 1986, another song about war and its consequences.
"VX Gas Attack," by Skinny Puppy
Protests the United State's support of Saddam Hussein (Released in 1989)
"Wallflower," by Peter Gabriel
A song about not letting go of what you believe in, even if will cause your torture or death.
"War Pigs," by Black Sabbath
Anti-war and the architects of war who are called out as being evil sorcerers. Not specific to Vietnam, but certainly intended as its primary target.
"'War' ," by Edwin Star
Anti-war.
"We Aren't Gonna Take It," by Twisted Sister
How did this song not make it in?
"We Are The World," by USA For Africa
It's about feeding people in Africa who are starving.
"We Can't Make It Here Anymore," by James McMurtry
Describes the pains that many working class Americans endure in our coorperate society; including unemployment, violence, war, and oil.
"Weeping," by Bright Blue
Anti apartheid song by south African band from the eighties - one that managed to get past the censors. Iinteresting use of old and new national anthems.
"Why?," by Bronski Beat
Anti-gay bashing. Members of the band were openly gay at the time. Opening lines: "Contempt in your eyes/As I turn to kiss his lips/Broken I lie/All my feelings denied/Blood on your fist/Can you tell me why?"
"Witch Hunt," by Rush
Preaches about how fear feeds the mob mentality, particularly amongst fundamentalists.
"Woman In Chains," by Tears For Fears
This song is about the maltreatment of women throughout the world, and appears actually to refer to wife abuse (Trades her soul as skin and bones/Sells the only thing she owns.)
" Working Men Are Pissed," by Minutemen
"Bodies stacking, hands shaking, Have you been there? ITMve been there!, ITMll put it in simple words: working men are PISSED."
"You're In The Army Now," by Bolland
This song from 1981 is a anti-Vietnam song. Original made by Bolland (two Dutch brothers who also produced "Rock me Amadeus" by Falco. It was later covered by Status Quo (and they made it a hit). "A vacation in a foreign land, Uncle Sam does the best he can". "Now you remember what the draftman said, nothing to do all day but stay in bed". "You'll be the hero of the neighbourhood, nobody knows that you left for good". "You've got your orders to shoot on sight, your finger's on the trigger, but it don't seem right". This song was from the album "The Domino Theory", a conceptalbum about the Vietnam war.
"You're the Voice," by John Farnham
"We're not gonna sit in silence, We're not gonna live in fear"

Special Mention

  • Dead Kennedys's were very anti-everything and wrote a lot of protest songs.
  • R.E.M. had a lot of protest songs in the early eighties.
  • U2, Just about any of their songs from the first 3 albums.

For a look at just nuclear war, check out the nuclear war songs page.

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