Music has been part of human life since ancient times. It has become an important cultural and political factor witnessed through real-world events and served as motivator for people to accept positive changes and unite during the times when unity amongst people was greatly needed. As such, some songs had huge impact that they have been constant part of people’s lives through times. These songs are ranked based on their influence regarding revolutionary movements, condemned justice, and raising hope for the next generation.
A CHANGE IS GONNA COME (1965) – SAM COOKE
A Change is Gonna Come was a protest song written by Cooke in support of civil rights movement in the US. The song was inspired by Bob Dylan’s Blowin’ in the Wind. Some of the lines in the song describe Cooke and his friends’ experience during their arrest in Louisiana. The song also discusses segregation. However, before the song was released, Cooked was shot by a motel owner on the cause of allegedly raping a young girl. To this day, controversy still lingers around Cooke’s death.
I WANNA HOLD YOUR HAND (1963) – THE BEATLES
I Wanna Hold Your Hand was considered revolutionary song of the 1960s. The Beatles became the biggest rock’n’roll band during that time, and until now, no one can argue regarding the popularity of Beatlemania. The song was a hit in the US during the time when the country was still suffering from the assassination of John F. Kennedy. In 1964, the band performed on the Ed Sullivan show, which was watched by 70 million viewers.
DO THEY KNOW IT’S CHRISTMAS (1984) -BAND AID
The popular Christmas single was spearheaded by Bob Geldof, the lead singer of Boomtown Rats. The song was part of program aimed at raising funds for Ethiopian famine. Some of artists who sang the track included David Bowie, Paul McCartney, and Bono. Thought the song sounds festive, careful analysis of the lyrics indicates its bleak message.
WAR (1970) – EDWIN STARR
War was written by Norman Whitefield and Barrett Song, and it served as protest to Vietnam War. “War” was considered the first political Motown song.
STRANGE FRUIT (1939) – BILLIE HOLLIDAY
“Strange Fruit” was another protest song. It was sung by Billie Holliday and symbolized brutality and racism, which were previously prevalent in the American South. Billie Holliday made history for being the first person to sing a song with such controversial lyrics. The song was Time magazine’s song of the century in 1999. Currently, the song still bears significance, for example, Kanye West, used a sample of it in his album, Yeezus.
IMAGINE (1971) – JOHN LENNON
Imagine is a song that has always been associated with John Lennon and usually considered as best-known solo work of the artist. The track represented Lennon’s desire to achieve peace and harmony. The song became more sensationalized after Lennon’s assassination, but some people managed to criticize the song.
SAME LOVE (2012) – MACKLEMORE & RYAN LEWIS, AND MARY LAMBERT
Same Love professes support for gay rights. The song was especially important for Mary Lambert, who has religious background and grew up feeling sinful because she is gay. Macklemore said that he had wanted to write the song for a very long time but he had no idea how he would tackle gender issues. He also added that the song was not about marriage equality but also the negative connotation of the word “gay.”
SUNDAY BLOODY SUNDAY (1983) U2
Sunday Bloody Sunday is reflection of the horrifying events of Bloody Sunday incident, which happened in Derry in January 1972. In the said incident, 13 Irish citizens were killed by British paratroopers during a civil rights protest. Though the song condemns the incident in Ireland, it was also story of interpersonal struggles of Bono. Bono was known for waving a white flag while performing the song.
GOD SAVE THE QUEEN (1977) – SEX PISTOLS
God Save the Queen is a rebel song against British politics. The song was written during the period when most young people thought that they were estranged from the royal monarchy. The song was released during The Queen’s Silver Jubilee. The Sex Pistols tried to perform the song but authorities came and intervened. God Save the Queen then became a popular song representing the punk movement in England. It symbolized the anger felt by young generation at that period.
FIGHT THE POWER (1989) – PUBLIC ENEMY
Fight the Power is song meant to support the black community, and the additional controversy only made the song more popular. Aside from African Americans, people of other race could relate to the song as well.