Lately I’ve been listening to my iPod playlist of protest songs. It features a lot of music from Bob Dylan and Rage Against The Machine, of course, as well as some great songs like CSNY’s Ohio, Stevie Wonder’s Living For The City, Buffalo Springfield’s For What It’s Worth, Mercy, Mercy Me from Marvin Gaye, Bruce Springsteen’s Born In The U.S.A., Zombie from The Cranberries, Get Up, Stand Up from Bob Marley and the Wailers, John Lennon’s Working Class Hero, Neil Young’s Rockin’ In The Free World, My City Was Gone by The Pretenders, Capital G by Nine Inch Nails, The Temptations’ Masterpiece, and a whole lot more.
In all, there are more than 230 classic songs on the playlist, spanning multiple decades, all featuring great music and lyrics that pack a punch and convey a clear, pointed political message. There are songs about important social and political topics of the day, like racism, the Vietnam War, oppression, the right to protest, poverty, ecology and the environment, urban renewal, the indoctrination of youth, and the mallification of America. And listening to the songs got me to wondering: where are the new, great political protest songs about our current era?
I guess just about everybody will agree on one thing about President Donald Trump: a lot of people hate his guts and despise his policies. He’s depicted as a racist, as a Nazi, as an imbecile, as a warmonger, as an oppressor, and as just about any other bad thing you can imagine. It seems like President Trump offers very fertile territory for some great modern protest songs. And don’t tell me that more time needs to pass — CSNY’s Ohio, about the National Guard’s shooting of students at Kent State University, was written, recorded, and released to the public in about two weeks, and the immediacy of the anguish about the unwarranted killings, which comes through in the song with raw, crackling power, is what makes it one of the greatest protest songs ever recorded.
So, are there any great new political protest songs about President Trump and his Twitter comments and his policies, and if not, why not? Are they all rap or hip-hop songs, and just not reaching the ears of 60-year-olds?