Here is my first crack at a list of the top liberal rock songs. My criteria for the list was that each song had to be relatively well known and the liberal content needed to be fairly obvious. No obscure songs that were used as album filler and got no airplay. And no songs where the message is vague and muddled.
Most rock songs are apolitical and deal with universal concepts such as love and heartbreak. It’s hard to write a really good song with a strong political message that doesn’t come off sounding forced and/or preachy. The following songs, in my opinion, succeeded in getting across a mostly liberal political viewpoint while still being good, solid rock songs.
1. “All You Need is Love,” by the Beatles
2. “Give Peace a Chance,” by the Beatles
Just the titles of these two John Lennon songs tell you everything you need to know. Simple but powerful message, irresistably catchy songs.
3. “Imagine,” by John Lennon
Derided by many on the right because of its anti-religious sentiments, I think it is one of the most beautiful odes to an idealistic future that has ever been put to music.
4. “Blowin’ In the Wind,” by Bob Dylan
5. “The Times They Are A Changin’,” by Bob Dylan
I’m sure there are many other Dylan songs that could be included, but these two are probably the best known.
6. “Man in Black,” by Johnny Cash
Since the National Review decided to include one country song, I decided to pick on as well.
7. “Ohio,” by Crosby Stills, Nash & Young
Protest songs don’t get much better than this. A hard-rocking number that slams home its point with full force and doesn’t sound outdated 30 years after the tragic incident that inspired it.
8. “For What It’s Worth,” by Buffalo Springfield
A lot of the hippie protest songs from the ‘60s sound naive and outdated today, but this one has stood the test of time and is still relevant today.
9. “Get Up Stand Up,” by Bob Marley
A rousing rocker that spun in my head the whole time that my son was learning to walk.
10. “What’s Goin’ On,” by Marvin Gaye
I never paid much attention to this song until Cuba Gooding Jr. sang it in the film “Jerry Maguire.” It has grown on me ever since.
11. “Living For the City,” by Stevie Wonder
I love this song. Very powerful and moving.
12. “War” by Edwin Starr
One of my favorite political cartoons from the start of the Iraq war shows a picture of the White House and someone inside is singing “War! Huh! Good God, y’all! What is it good for?” And then someone from the other side of the room (probably Karl Rove) says “Put a sock in it, Colin.”
13. “Pride (In the Name of Love),” by U2
It seems like such an obvious thing now, juxtaposing Christ’s crucifixtion and Martin Luther King’s assassination, but when I first heard the song it seemed profound.
14. “Fortunate Son,” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
A populist shot across the bow of the U.S. military establishment that relies on the American underclass to supply its cannon fodder for the wars started by the privileged sons of the wealthy. It speaks very loudly to this day.
15. “Born in the USA,” by Bruce Springsteen
Ronald Reagan tried to co-opt it for his re-election campaign, but he obviously wasn’t listening very closely to the lyrics.
16. “Pink Houses,” by John Mellencamp
Populist, patriotic and progressive all wrapped into one catchy tune.
17. “The Way It Is,” by Bruce Hornsby
The man in the silk suit telling the old beggar lady to “get a job” is an image that has stuck with me from the first time I heard this song.
18. “Sowing the Seeds of Love,” by Tears for Fears
They threw everything into this song including the kitchen sink, but somehow it still works.
19. “Tom Sawyer,” by Rush
“His mind is not for rent, to any God or government.”
20. “American Idiot,” by Green Day
The most recent addition, but notable in that it came out in 2004 before the election when the Bushies were still riding high.
21. ”Allentown,” by Billy Joel
A personal favorite and similar in structure to “Born in the USA.”
22. ”Ebony & Ivory,” by Paul McCartney
Yes, it’s sappy and syrupy, but its liberal message is unmistakable and everyone knows the song by heart whether they like to admit it or not.
23. “Land of Confusion,” by Genesis
I can’t listen to this song without seeking the MTV video with the puppets of Reagan and Gorbachav.
24. ”We Are the World,” by Michael Jackson
Back when Michael Jackson still had the Midas touch, this was a monster hit in the late ‘80s that helped to raise lots of money for African famine victims.
25. ”Sun City,” by Little Steven
Written around the same time as “We Are the World,” this was an even better protest song that became the anthem for the anti-apartheid movement.
26. “In The Ghetto,” by Mac Davis
Covered most notably by Elvis, this song by Lubbock, Texas native Mac Davis paints a haunting picture of life in the urban jungle.
27. “Big Yellow Taxi,” by Joni Mitchell
As suggested by Ann, this song takes on the developers who keep paving paradise to put up another parking lot.
I’m sure there are more and I will be adding them as I think of them...
28."Fly Like an Eagle," by Steve Miller Band
Feed the babies, shoe the children, house the people! Yes, there IS a solution. It's called government get off its ass and start providing for the general welfare rather than wasting hundreds of billions on never-ending wars around the globe.
29. “Saturday Night Special” by Lynyrd Skynyrd
The NRO list claims these southern rockers as right-wing partisans because they wrote “Sweet Home Alabama” in reponse to Neil Young’s angry swipe at the south in “Southern Man.” But I have little doubt that these long-haired southern rockers would have been chased out of any GOP convention by wild-eyed, screeching gun nuts for penning these lyrics:
Hand guns are made for killin
Aint no good for nothin else
And if you like your whiskey
You might even shoot yourself
So why dont we dump em people
To the bottom of the sea
Before some fool come around here
Wanna shoot either you or me
30. ”The Wall,” by Pink Floyd
It’s hard to pick out just one song from this magnum opus, so I am including the entire album here.