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Social/Political Songs of Our Time- Pt. 2

Updated on March 23, 2014

In a previous hub I presented what I thought to be the top 10 social/political songs of our time. However, it is difficult to limit the subject to just 10 songs, so this hub presents 10 more songs that have influenced Western culture over the last four decades. Also, for fun there will be a bonus "social" song offered, though I am not sure of its true impact on culture.

New Year's Day- U2

New Year's Day- U2

I consider U2 to be one of the greatest bands of all time for their desire to not produce songs based on what is popular, but based on what is necessary. They do not produce songs that are shallow, but rather they present us with songs that speak to us, challenge us, and do not allow us to remain where we are.

Of the countless songs they have sung that are of a social or political nature, the one that I chose was "New Year's Day". This is a song that runs through my head often. It has a profound meaning that most people realize deep down, but never voice, which is that nothing really changes on New Year's Day. The main issue they are dealing with is war, and how that war continues on through New Year's Day. They also try to make us see the true motivation behind war, which is gold.

Let this song move you to not just speak of change, but to follow through in making the world around you a better and more peaceful place.

Nena- 99 Luftballons

99 Luftballons- Nena

I chose this song because it is catchy. It tends to stay in your head. Nena is a band from Germany. They sang this song in the 80's as a protest of the Cold War between the U.S. and Russia. The idea is that both nations were ready at any moment to bomb each other. The song is a satire depicting red balloons floating randomly into the other country and setting off a war. It is as if the country seeing the balloons views it as a threat and starts bombing the other nation.

There has been some controversy as to the interpretation of the title as to whether it is "air balloons" or "red balloons". The popular notion, however, is that it is red balloons.Those from Germany feel free to correct me.

I wonder how often we start personal war with those in our life over something as stupid as a red ballon?

Revolution- The Beatles

The Beatles (and their members as singles) produced quite a few songs that influences culture, but I must pick one. The one I chose was "Revolution", because of its broad nature. While the other songs, such as "imagine" by John Lennon and "My Sweet Lord" by George Harrison deal with specific issues, "Revolution" deals with the broad issue of a need for revolution in society. Songs that deal with social or political issues have been around for hundreds of years, but when The Beatles came on the scene things had reached a climax. The general sentiment of society was that a total restructuring was needed. It was believed that the old structures needed to be torn down, and a new way to rise for society to continue. "Revolution" embraces the spirit of the 1960s, and really brings home the desire and need to rethink the way things have been.

Take the Long Way Home- Supertramp

This is another one of those catchy songs. It is also one of those songs that can slip right past us without us even knowing it. Yet, this song has so much meaning. We often get caught up in rushing to the next appointment that we miss life, so sometimes we just need to take the long way home and take life in. 

Take the Long Way Home

Respect- Aretha Franklin

One issue not often dealt with in songs is the equality of women. However, this very familiar song does just that. Aretha Franklin causes us to pause and think about respect for women. The main theme of the song is the man treating his wife with respect when he comes home. This song is in your face and leaves no room to run. Of course, it is hard to go wrong when Aretha Franklin is singing. So, her soulful touch and the lyrics combine for a powerful punch to an issue that we must daily face.

All She Wants To Do Is Dance- Don Henley

This is a song that escaped me all along. I did not realize the meaning behind it until doing a little research. The song is dealing with the Iran-Contra weapons selling scandal of the Reagan Administration. While people were being killed and suffering, Americans worried more about their own needs. Thus, the song gives us images of people bleeding, suffering, and dying while all we do is "dance, dance, dance".

I wonder how often we go about our merry way, thinking of our own selfish desires while people suffer all around us?

Youth of the Nation- P.O.D.

P.O.D. (Payable on Death) is a Christian band based out of San Diego, CA. They are one of those honest Christian bands that deals with the tough issues of life. They have many songs that deal with life on the streets, teen suicide, and other issues of life in the inner city. One of their popular songs of a few years ago is Southtown where they get honest about the battles that happen on the streets where kids don't play like other kids do, but wonder if they will make it through another day alive. This song is sort of a summary song of the themes that they cover, though the themes in their songs are broad.

I chose Youth of the Nation because of its call for us to think about what is really going on with our kids. Rather than taking a nice guy approach to the issues of teen sex and teen suicide, they get in your face and force you to face the music. I hope that this song inspires you to pay more careful attention to what is going on in the life of your children or the life of those around you.

Clocks- Cold Play

This is one of those songs that are highly debated as to its meaning. Some believe the lyrics are about love, and missed opportunities. Others see it as being about the limitation of time and the desire to be in heaven, or at least thinking towards the afterlife. Given Colplay's tendency towards social and political activism, it seems that they are alluding to the contrast of life and death, and the urgency of the moment to think towards what is after this life and to take in this life while we have it.

Something that makes this song stand out is its haunting riffs on the piano. It truly sticks in your head once you hear it. One of the things that makes a great song with a statement is the marriage of lyrics with a tune that are memorable.

Do you think only of the here and now or do you live as if there is a life after this one? To not think about life after death and preparing for it is not wise. Luke 12:13-21 is a good scripture to read in thinking of time and what we do with it.

Coldplay- "Clocks"

American Pie- Don McLean

I chose this song because it brilliantly summarizes the 1960s. Many have debated on all the meanings of this song, but it becomes clear when you understand that it is a summary of the major events of the 60's. From the death of Buddy Holly to Woodstock many events of that era can be recognized throughout the song. I am just amazed that McLean could remember all the lyrics, but I guess that is way he got the big bucks. To this day radio stations play this song with frequency. While this song does not necessarily protest against anything or make a political or social statement, what it does is bring to light the events that did make those statements.

Give Me Something To Believe In- Poison

This is one of those songs that captures the desire of many people. People really want to have something that is real, which makes a real difference in the world. There are just too may fakes. There are too many who have a facade of compassion, yet when you get down to it they only care about the money. I am a Christian and am all too aware of the fakes on television that portray themselves as authentic, but rob the poor. This song begins with this theme. What we need in this broken world are people who are the real thing, with no hidden agenda. In this song we are confronted with hypocrisy, which we are guilty of at times. Will we really reach out to the hurting or just play the game?

And Now the Bonus- Pants on the Ground

Yes, for the finale I have included a song that may not be a world changing song, but it does speak to a social issue- people who wear their pants too low. We've all seen them. They are those individuals who walk down the street with their pants down to their knees. We wish they would pull them up! Well, one American Idol contestant had enough and sang a song telling people to pull up those pants. Thank you Larry Platt for calling attention to this much needed social change.

 There you have it. While there are many great songs that have been written over the years dealing with the need for social and political change, I chose these for their broad appeal. Too, these are songs that have personally touched me and caused me to stop and think about what I was doing as I pass through this world. I hope that they challenge you to live beyond yourself and see the needs of people you pass by each day.


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