Whatever public opinions of him personally were/are, Michael Jackson was an undeniably great entertainer who did cover some sensitive issues in his music. ‘Earth Song’ differs from the rest of the songs on this list in that while it’s a protest song, it’s about the environment and looking after our planet. It doesn’t fit with the rest of the theme, but it deserves a spot on the list for being one of the more mainstream environmental songs in history.
4. ‘Hero of War’ - Rise Against
Back to anti-war, this is a poignant acoustic ballad based on three real-life accounts of soldiers in Iraq. Written from the point of view of a soldier, it tells the story of how he started optimistic about the glory of war, before the growing realisation of the horror. The blunt imagery and tales give the song greater impact, more so because it’s based on personal accounts.
3. ‘One’ - Metallica
Combined with the dark video directed by Bill Pope and Michael Salomon, this is a haunting track that tells the story of a soldier blown up in battle. It’s disturbing and makes an undisputable case against war. Have a read of this line from the end of the track:
“Landmines has taken my sight
Taken my speech
Taken my hearing
Taken my arms
Taken my legs
Taken my soul
Left me with life in hell”
It’s a thought provoking masterpiece from one of metal’s greatest bands. If you’ve not heard it, find it now, we’ll wait…
Done? OK, let’s get to the penultimate entry…
2. ‘Civil War’ - Guns N’ Roses
Another epic anti-war track, Guns N’ Roses hit rock perfection with ‘Civil War’. Suitably epic without being clichéd, it’s everything a political rock song should be. Yes, it’s long, but Slash’s solos are simply mind-blowing. It all ended badly for the band, and Chinese Democracy may have tarnished their legacy somewhat, but this is a reminder that GNR could be relevant, interesting and flawless.
1. ‘Give Peace A Chance’ - John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band
The first song that sprung to mind for this list, it had to go at number one. A beautiful message that no-one can argued, it’s repeated line of “All we are saying, is give peace a chance” helps the song be instantly memorable. The simplicity of the music and melody make it perfect for protests, for which it has remained a staple since its release.
Female First - Alistair McGeorge