Music to Fight Evil
seek inspiration from 50 years of protest with Jon Ewing
featuring artists like
Bad Religion, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Bragg, Mavis Staples, Grace Petrie, The Clash, Woody Guthrie, IDLES, She Drew the Gun, Nina Simone, The Specials
Tolerance is good. There should be more of it. And whether you’re from the Left or the Right, don’t be fooled into thinking you have the monopoly on it. But we need to draw a line.
Let’s be clear: tolerance means accepting opinions and beliefs that conflict with your own. It doesn’t mean accepting prejudice in place of evidence, nor injustice in place of equality. And when the opinions and beliefs of others lead to deprivation and suffering – yours or anyone else’s – you don’t have to be tolerant any more. It’s time to rise up and act. The songs in this list shouldn’t have to exist. We should all just get along. Until that happens, seek inspiration from 50 years of protest, by way of a lot of anger and a little love.
4 March 2021A high-speed combination of punk chorus and ska verse, Mustard Plug’s singalong Unite and Fight is just one of a sensational 28 tracks on the Ska Against Racism album compiled by Bad Time Records in 2020 to raise funds for non-profit organisations working to improve education, opportunity and justice for black people in the USA and beyond. With a barrelling momentum and a repudiation of violent action, this uplifting song is a call to arms for those of us committed to disarmament.
8 September 2020
Celebrating the determination of “one hundred thousand teenagers” to take over the streets of London to save their future from calamity, KIDSTRIKE! by novelist and singer songwriter JB Morrison – aka Jim Bob – is taken from the UK Top 40 album Pop Up Jim Bob released in August 2020 and inspired by the real life activism of countless young activists. But the song is run through with a rueful recognition of the singer’s own fading urge to save the world.
28 July 2020
Inspired in part by the fatal shooting in New York of a ten-year-old black boy by a white plain-clothes policeman, the audacious centrepiece of Stevie Wonder’s experimental 1973 album was a seven-and-a-half-minute meditation on the brutality of black America: Living for the City…
1 June 2020
Taken from the third and final album by Seattle band Pretty Girls Make Graves in 2006, Parade is a jubilant marching song for the emancipation of the workers, a chant to the insistent and uplifting rhythm of two drum kits, brought to life by way of a long-lost 20th Century American playwright whose promising career was stymied by pernicious political paranoia…
29 April 2020
Jess Silk’s unpretentious song of hope in a time of hopelessness encourages us to keep up the fight and hold onto each other “and we will mend – and we’ll get there in the end”.
17 March 2020
Bellowed out from the mighty diaphragm of singer Beth Ditto to the chugging riffs of gawky garage guitarist Nathan Howdeshell, Gossip’s Standing in the Way of Control was impossible to avoid in the UK in 2006 and 2007…
25 February 2020
“I’ve been wondering what it’s like to see / This country as my property / And my inheritance as God’s decree,” sings Nashville-based singer-songwriter Declan Kennedy on his upbeat, acoustic, country-folk track Guilty as Anyone, a song about coming to terms with white privilege in contemporary America and learning how to do something useful with the knowledge…
4 February 2020
Three minutes of upbeat skate punk to remind us that democracy is under threat as the rich get richer while the masses are sometimes forced to choose between food and medicine…
28 January 2020
Some protest singers are inspired by a hardship that affects them individually or a universal injustice that affects us all. For Erin O’Keefe and Colin Gilmore, the inspiration for the brooding, melancholic country-folk song Stand For Your Land came from respect…
20 January 2020
In the week of Valentine’s Day 1978, an anthemic and yet shocking protest song on a 4-track live EP sneaked under the radar to become a Top 20 hit in Britain. It was a song in which The Tom Robinson Band shamed a nation with a first-hand account of the abject indignity of being gay in 1970s Britain…
13 January 2020
“Nothing’s changed!” singer Terry Hall told Uncut magazine in 2019 when he re-recorded Fun Boy Three’s hit record The Lunatics (Have Taken Over the Asylum) for The Specials’ comeback album. “When we wrote it, we had Reagan and Thatcher and we thought things couldn’t get worse. Now we’ve got Trump and May!”…
17 December 2019
A Christmas hit in 1980, peaking at No.3 in the UK chart and winner of a prestigious Ivor Novello Award, Stop the Cavalry was an anti-war song for a world living in the shadow of the bomb, harking back to the slaughter of British soldiers on foreign battlefields, pawns in a game played by generals far from the front lines…
26 November 2019
Paying tribute to one of America’s greatest 19th century folk heroes, Harriet Tubman’s Gonna Carry Me Home is a history lesson from a white Southerner sung in the voice of a long-dead black slave – a spiritual in the great oral tradition, giving a lesson in bravery and compassion to a new generation, from the faithful to the faithful…
10 September 2019
Powerful and cinematic, Superheroes by Skint & Demoralised achieves an epic scope within its economical 2 minutes and 42 seconds by setting a spoken word story about a young boy’s innocent wisdom to a rousingly dramatic score. And as it builds to its heart-splittingly moving climax, it is made all the more poignant by the knowledge that it really happened…
4 September 2019
The voice of the legendary Mavis Staples is sounding more soulful than ever on her raw new album, We Get By. And on the opening track, written and produced by Ben Harper, Ms Staples pleads simply and repeatedly for the violence and intolerance of our age to end. “Bullets flying, mothers crying,” she sings in this concise three minute blues, accompanied by a growling guitar riff. “We gotta change around here”…
18 August 2019
“Fists are flying in the name of love,” sings Leyla McCalla on Aleppo, the sobering standout centrepiece of her third album, The Capitalist Blues. “So much violence in the name of love,” she continues as the guitar pierces us with a shriek of obstreperous feedback. “We look on and on, we don’t heed the call / Who knows if we care at all?…
22 July 2019
Lively LA ska punks The Interrupters are calling for greater unity at a time of great division. And their song even contains a few specifics about how we might get there. Unfortunately, it’s going to require a bit of sacrifice, so, you know, just scroll on by if that’s going to be too hard…
15 July 2019
Inspired by his eye-opening, first-hand experience of extreme poverty in The Philippines in 2018, the closing song from Jon Worthy’s new album, Something’s Gotta Give, is a reminder to himself, at a very dark time in his life, that no matter how bad things seem, you have a lot to be grateful for when you are a young, white, American male…
18 June 2019
The song that so perfectly epitomised the dark heart of 21st Century East Coast American organised crime, familiar to millions from the opening credits of The Sopranos, is not even American. It was written in London by an Elvis-loving Mormon from South Wales and a Glaswegian polymath. And it’s not about the American gangland. It was inspired by the true story of a British woman who killed her abusive husband… or was it?…
22 May 2019
This new version of Rage Against the Machine’s mould-breaking rap metal explosion of anger – as interpreted by Brooklyn brass band Brass Against – is Rage as you’ve never heard it before…
1 May 2019
Charlottesville by Bryan Toney is a song about watching the media coverage of an appalling tragedy in your own backyard and realising you can no longer pretend that race hatred is something that happens far away to other people.
9 April 2019
The gentle humility of A Change is Gonna Come, Sam Cooke’s 1964 plea for emancipation, belies the simmering fury that inspired it, a fury that reached boiling point in America where this song became an anthem for millions of disenfranchised black people who took to the streets to make that change a reality…
26 March 2019
It takes a remarkable sort of songwriter to combine a moral code passed down through the generations with a “fuck you” to a disgraced sibling and turn it into a foot-stomping, uptempo, country-folk barnstormer with a sly sense of humour that can get 1,000 Wurzels fans singing along.
5 March 2019
The modern world is dizzying. Mass communication floods our senses with an overwhelming torrent of new ideas and there are countless influencers – celebrities, intellectuals, politicians, business leaders and spiritual charlatans – proposing the path to navigate it all. Indie.Arie’s Rollercoaster is a modern take on the immortal Sixties graffiti gag “stop the world – I want to get off”,…
19 February 2019
Grace Petrie’s bitter-sweet song of solidarity, Pride, movingly articulates the conflicting emotions of life as a gay person in the 21st Century – on the one hand the legacy of dignity earned by 50 years of liberal activism and on the other the rancour at a lifetime of being discriminated against simply for being who you are…
6 February 2019
California three-piece Consolidated were a polemical, anti-capitalist, anti-fascist band who embraced punk, hip-hop, electronic dance music and cultural and political influences from all around the globe. With filthy bass, pounding beats and bitterly angry hip-hop vocals,…
22 January 2019
They were the self-proclaimed “only band that matters” – The Clash were the voice of a generation, whose music was timely and relevant to its audience in a way that the posturing of pampered pop megastars never could be…
16 January 2019
Taking its cue from one of cinema’s most memorable monologues, this taster from The Chemical Brothers’ ninth studio album is a rousing rave rant that uses a sentiment that has touched a nerve with audiences for more than 40 years: “I’m mad as hell. I ain’t gonna take it no mo'”…
19 December 2018
Yes, it really happened. On Christmas Eve, 1914, as the first winter of the Great War consumed France and Belgium in conflict, the men on opposing sides in the trenches along the front lines ceased the madness and played football in no man’s land to celebrate peace on Earth and goodwill to all men. This enduringly symbolic moment of humanity is celebrated in the words of All Together Now, a UK Top Five hit by Liverpudlian four-piece The Farm in December 1990…
12 December 2018
The Chicago Tribune website has a page dedicated to a weekly running total of shooting victims, both fatal and non-fatal, in the city. That such a total is needed is enough to tell you that Chicago has a very serious problem with gun crime. In 2017, there were a total of 3,386 victims of shootings – on average, more than nine every day…
4 December 2018
Ultrasound should have been huge. Fronted by Andrew ‘Tiny’ Woods, they were an explosive art rock indie five-piece from the North of England who dared to combine glam, prog and punk and audaciously released a double album as their debut in 1999 before imploding at the turn of the millennium…
20 November 2018
No need to lock up your daughters when Denver, Colorado psychedelic metal four-piece Professor Plumb comes around. Midnight Creep is a rumbling, two minute heavy rock celebration of the #metoo movement, eschewing metal’s history of chauvinism, self-indulgence and egotism…
14 November 2018
With the staccato delivery of Devo’s Girl U Want and the irresistibly sleazy riffing of The Knack’s My Sharona, Sleeping Tongues mix pop and pop psychology on Confirmation Bias, a song that tells you that you’re only reading this because you expect to agree with what it says…
16 October 2018
No matter how insignificant and powerless you might feel, you can make a difference. That’s the message of Resister, which starts with an insistent 150 BPM loop and is quickly joined by a torrent of challenging ideas that don’t let up for 2 minutes 53 seconds of uplifting, infectious, political indie pop aimed squarely at motivating “the underdogs, black sheep [and] fighters of the powers that be”…
9 October 2018
Woodrow Wilson Guthrie’s folk songs chronicled the plight of American people during the Great Depression. With his debut album, Dust Bowl Ballads – considered retrospectively to be the first ever concept album – he became one of the nation’s leading spokesmen for labour rights; he was an anti-fascist, anti-racist iconoclast determined to debunk the myth of the American Dream…
25 September 2018
As we near the end of Donald J Trump‘s second year in office, it is chastening to hark back 15 years, half-way through an earlier Republican leader’s first term, to a time when it seemed impossible to imagine a US president more self-serving, ill-educated and unworthy of office…
4 September 2018
The Fever 333’s Made an America owes a mighty debt to epoch-making Nineties LA alternative rock act Rage Against the Machine, delivering music with a purpose, bringing the vicious vitality of Killing in the Name up to date for the Trump era with a song that reminds all Americans that their nation was founded on the backs of black slaves.
11 August 2018
A downbeat, trip hop giant, pregnant with heart-bursting emotion, Charlottesville is simultaneously a tribute to those who risk their lives to stand up against race hatred and a declaration of rage against right-wing extremists – especially those in the highest office.
31 July 2018
The pernicious effect of keeping silent when you ought to be screaming and sobbing is explored in Samaritans, the latest track from IDLES, from forthcoming album Joy as an Act of Resistance. But this article isn’t exactly about IDLES, the intense alternative five-piece from South-West England. Instead, it’s about a group of their fans who, in the last year, have changed each other’s lives and restored their faith in humanity. And if their motto, “All is Love”, means something to you, they would like you to join them.
24 July 2018
Natalie Merchant’s folksy college rock vocal is the perfect conduit for this bitter ballad about corporate negligence tearing apart the lives of helpless, ordinary people, inspired by the true story of a neighbourhood of 221 families completely destroyed by chemical contamination,…
17 July 2018
Black Country alternative rock band Dead Agents remind you to stand up and fight for what you believe in in this pounding revolutionary anthem from the West Midlands of England. With the pop sensibilities of Kasabian and the gruff gravitas of Killing Joke’s Jaz Coleman, Haters urges you not to tolerate the intolerable one moment longer. “Give it up, give it up keep waging war,” sings frontman David James Foster insistently. “Suck it up and make the haters hate you more”…
9 July 2018
In 1998, Derek Bentley was finally pardoned for his part in the death of a British police constable during a bungled burglary 46 years earlier. Bentley, who suffered from learning difficulties, was proved innocent after years of campaigning by his sister, Iris. His story is the inspiration for this chilling song by Elvis Costello…
2 July 2018
Legendary Californian hardcore punks Bad Religion enter the Trump era with their first new material since 2013’s True North album, a mosh-friendly 150 second burst of upbeat agit-pop, speeding up the riff from London’s Burning by The Clash, with sneaky references to the Solomon Burke soul classic Everybody Needs Somebody and of course the Who’s mod anthem The Kids Are Alright.
18 June 2018
Enough is enough. This anthem for the Time’s Up generation draws on a lifetime of catcalls and vulgar remarks from men who treat women like sexual objects. And this is the moment when one woman can’t take any more. “I’m a strong resilient woman who knows how to kick your ass in,” warns New York singer-songwriter Charlotte Morris. “So call me baby one more time and then we’ll see who’s walking away laughing”…
10 June 2018
This long-lost end-of-the-century dance track is nothing less than a reading list of feminist and LGBT cultural and counter-cultural icons. A chorus of female voices chants noteworthy names to a hypnotic beat and the message to those who were still living at that time was clear and unequivocal: “Don’t you stop / I can’t live if you stop”.
30 May 2018
When you think of the archetypal protest singer, the image that comes to mind is probably a weary, earnest, lank-haired folk troubadour gently strumming a battered acoustic guitar with all the energetic tempo of your geography teacher on a Monday morning. But along comes Mike Frazier to wipe the slate clean with a take-no-crap four-to-the-floor protest song powered by the Energizer Bunny with Tony the Tiger on lead guitar.
23 May 2018
A little over a year ago I started adding inspirational music to a Spotify playlist. In that time I’ve been discovering emerging new artists as well as revisiting old favourites and learning about classic songs, all with one thing in common – the artists have something to say beyond boy-meets-girl, something about the state of their nation and the world…
15 May 2018
Rejected by your family and community, your life becomes so unbearable that you would rather give up everything and run than spend another day amongst people who despise you for being who you are. That’s the story behind Smalltown Boy, a UK No.3 hit single in 1984, with an accompanying video that spelled out unflinchingly the emotional agony and physical danger of being one of society’s outcasts in an age of intolerance.
6 May 2018
Imagine David Lee Roth had finally discovered his inner feminist and you’ll have a sense of what to expect from this riffing glam metal juggernaut from Melbourne, Australia in which the primitive thought processes men use to sexualise women are summed up in nine words: “I will beat my chest / Until you are undressed”.
29 April 2018
From the city of Bristol’s vibrant music scene comes an unequivocal call for revolution from a guitar rock trio steeped in rage: “We don’t have to accept what our democracy’s become,” shouts frontman and bassist Joe Spurrell of Second Hand Arms Dealer. “Let’s Revolt now, before we’re smouldering ashes / The 1% cannot stand up to the masses”.
23 April 2018
Bob Andy and Marcia Griffith’s joyful ska version of this powerful civil rights anthem was brought to the world by the hugely influential British-based Jamaican record label Trojan – an offshoot of Island Records – reaching No.5 in the UK charts in 1970 at a time when Jamaican music was just beginning to make its irrevocable mark on British culture.
17 April 2018
Generations before us have laid down their lives to protect it and now we’re giving it away in return for “likes”. Freedom is an essential ingredient of justice and democracy, but those of us lucky enough to live in a free country risk squandering it in return for free access to social media. In their gently funky blues song Freedom, Montreal rock band Rival remind us to be alert to the danger: “How could we ever have a right to complain / when we’re the ones that said it’s okay / to take our freedom away?”
3 April 2018
If a shot did ring out in the Memphis sky early on the morning of April 4th 1968, it wasn’t because Martin Luther King Jr was being shot dead – that didn’t happen until past 6pm. There are those who would forgive Bono for his slapdash recollection of one of the saddest days in the history of civil rights (he was, after all, only seven years old at the time)…
26 March 2018
This sweetly soothing instrumental builds to a euphoric climax on the back of rousing brass and angelic backing vocals but the emotional weight is carried not by the growing grandeur of the arrangement but by the words of two working class women from the valleys of South Wales recalling their own humble contribution to an historic struggle for workers’ rights…
20 March 2018
In the summer of 2006, little had been heard from Jarvis Cocker in a while. After more than 20 years as Pulp frontman, he was dropped by Island Records following the release of Pulp’s final album We Love Life in 2001. He had dabbled, almost anonymously, as half of a very low-key indie duo going under the name Relaxed Muscle, but the project had petered out after releasing an album in 2003. So when Running the World came along it ought to have been a big event in the music calendar…
13 March 2018
Former Jam frontman and “Modfather” Paul Weller was determined that The Style Council’s 1985 UK Top Ten hit Walls Come Tumbling Down should be a “balls-out soul tune” from the Motown mould and so you could be forgiven for failing to notice at first that this hip-swaying Eighties pop hit is a red-blooded, revolutionary protest song with the very positive and provocative refrain of “Governments crack and systems fall / ‘Cause unity is powerful / Lights go out, walls come tumbling down”…
6 March 2018
Listening to this furious, caustic, industrial NSFW anthem is like witnessing the nervous breakdown of the British underclass crushed under the boot of an uncaring state. But amongst the confused ramblings that take in escalating working hours, sexual violence, social inequality and media sedation, there’s an embittered clarity – a message for a jaded generation sick of the machinations of politicians in their ivory towers…
27 February 2018
Emerging from the shadow of the Grand Ole Opry, there’s a new, more eclectic sound coming from Nashville today and with it a youthful new broom sweeping away the centuries of conservative Tennessee values. Opening with a sample of Gil Scott Herons’s The Revolution Will Not Be Televised and with a chorus that reminds the disenfranchised that they are not alone, Jon Worthy’s Don’t Let It Go is a product of a fresh and inclusive new Nashville…
20 February 2018
I Am Her is a simmering Southern blues rock torch song that shoulders the enormous weight of being a woman in a world that treats women as second class citizens, shamed for their sexuality as the keepers of original sin. But there’s a difference that gives the song a jagged edge, because Shea Diamond is a black trans woman with a chequered past that would have Simon Cowell salivating down the front of his trademark half-unbuttoned shirt.
13 February 2018
Staking a claim on PJ Harvey’s crown as Britain’s leading female art rock singer-songwriter, Nadine Shah’s third album has been described by The Guardian as “darkly classy post-punk” and by No Ripcord as “captivatingly bleak” and in this title track she confronts the people and politicians who treat a modern day humanitarian tragedy as a tiresome inconvenience.
7 February 2018
Is there a better vocal flourish in all of popular music than when Edwin Starr cries out “Hunh! Good Gawd, y’all!” in the timeless anti-Vietnam protest song War? It’s the inflection of a maestro of the human voice. And with those few syllables, Starr injects a very believable sense of personal exasperation into a song that calls for the warmongers of the world to see sense.
29 January 2018
February 4th 2018 is the 19th anniversary of the death of an unarmed African immigrant in New York called Amadou Diallo. The 23-year-old had the misfortune to match the description of a wanted criminal and was shot dead by police in the street outside his Bronx apartment building in a tragic case of mistaken identity. A subsequent enquiry revealed that the police officers had collectively fired 41 live rounds, 19 of which hit their target. This astonishing fact is immortalised by American storyteller Bruce Springsteen’s most controversial song, American Skin (41 Shots).
23 January 2018
I Am Woman is not exactly a radical feminist protest song, but it did help to crystallise the self-belief of groups of American women in the 1970s to throw off the shackles of centuries of conditioning and assert their own political, economic and sexual potency. Whilst today the song sounds a little kitsch, in 1972 it became a huge No.1 US hit single that represented an irreversible new wave of feminist thinking in the developed nations of the world.
16 January 2018
Self-proclaimed “anarcho-pop funsters” Chumbawamba were unique in becoming the first anarchist collective indie band to sign to a major label and have a massive worldwide one hit wonder, after which they gave most of the money they earned to social welfare projects and striking dockers. And then they followed up their huge US success with the distinctly anti-American Jesus in Vegas.
9 January 2018
Radiohead had a pretty good 2017 by any standards. They headlined Glastonbury and Coachella as part of a tour of the world (which begins again in South America this year) and they re-released their hugely successful album OK Computer to mark its 20th anniversary. But this song goes back even further, to their very first record, Pablo Honey.
12 December 2017
The culmination of two years of peace activism by John Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono, Happy Xmas (War is Over) is a perennial Christmas singalong that started life with the very specific aim of reminding the world, at a time of peace and good will to all men, that war is a choice.
5 December 2017
The opening track from the debut album by Atlanta’s Kyle Troop & The Heretics is a slice of hardcore skate punk that compares the supporters at a presidential campaign rally to oversexed nightclub drunks salivating over a pole dancer. In a song inspired by the 2016 presidential primaries, the preaching star of Disco is handing out “sugar water” guaranteed to “leave you wanting more” and at the end of it all, Kyle tells me, “people get to take their candidate home like a cheap date”…
28 November 2017
Self-proclaimed New Orleans “soldiers of funk” Dumpstaphunk broke the hiatus in their recording career last year to release this “hopeful, yet cautious” track, featuring guest star Trombone Shorty, with the lofty ambition that we might change society and “see the end of all that is wrong”.
21 November 2017
Billy Bragg’s first solo release in four years is a six track mini album called Bridges Not Walls which concludes with this elegy for the way things used to be, viewed through the eyes of the disenfranchised.
14 November 2017
Nordic Giants are not so much a band as a multimedia performance art experience. Like a post-rock Daft Punk, they hide their individuality so that the concept of Nordic Giants is untainted by the banalities of the real world, creating cinematic soundscapes which seem to tell stories of monsters and men in grand, impossible landscapes.
7 November 2017
The irresistibly catchy Trial and Error proves that just because you hate injustice, it doesn’t mean you have to stop moshing. Frank Turner crashes headlong into Sum 41 in a bubbly 2 minutes 50 seconds of pogo polemic by Colorado four-piece One Flew West.
31 October 2017
Opening to the prolonged sound of cattle howling and the machinery of death grinding and whirring, Meat is Murder pulled no punches. This is a difficult song for me because I love The Smiths but I also eat meat, so this song is asking me to consider a grisly reality that, frankly, I would sooner ignore. From my point of view, musing the cultural significance of music, that’s very interesting. From the point of view of the cattle, it’s a different story.
24 October 2017
It’s hard to sum up a band with such an impressive canon as Bad Religion frontman Greg Graffin urges you to always be on the lookout for the true agenda concealed behind the establishment’s strict rules because, as he wrote when he was just a teenager: “they hide behind their lies that they’re helping everyone”.
17 October 2017
Speak My Mind is the protest song equivalent to one of those internet “unboxing” videos, except that instead of a first look at the new iPhone, it’s an unexpurgated reaction to the news that your fellow citizens have elected a leader who not only fails to represent your values but is in fact a very real threat to your way of life and the people you care about.
10 October 2017
Experience the uncomfortable feeling that you’re celebrating the worst excesses of the Eighties, offset by the vague idea that war is basically bad
3 October 2017
The opportunity to do a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay is a basic right in a modern democracy and yet successive governments around the world fail their electorate by allowing corporations to make it impossible for workers to earn a living. Moreover, as pressure from the boardroom forces cutbacks on equipment maintenance and training, workers can be putting their lives at risk on the shop floor. And that’s one of the inspirations for War on the Workers.
25 September 2017
I think I forgot to breathe for nearly three-and-a-half minutes while I was watching Kate Tempest performing at the Mercury Music Prize awards ceremony last week. With all due respect to Sampha, who eventually carried off the prize money, no other words carried such weight and no other performer wielded such a magnetic influence over the crowd as this 31 year-old poet-turned-rapper from Brockley in London.
19 September 2017
So Pretty are a DIY feminist punk rock band from Chicago who not only make a fabulous raucous noise but are also community activists in their own right, creating their own arts space for women and trans individuals.
12 September 2017
Rhode Island rapper B. Dolan calls out the hip-hop haters in this song that samples a folk song written for striking American miners in the 1930s.
5 September 2017
Like a lot of young British movie fans of my age, the deceptively cheerful piano melody of this song first came to my attention in the 1970s as the theme music to the BBC’s long-running Film Review series (Film 1972, Film 1973 etc etc…) and it was nearly twenty years before I learned that this jolly jazz-gospel piano tune was in fact one of the key cultural touchstones of the American Civil Rights movement.
29 August 2017
The music of SLF was a great influence on me as a teenager. Coming from a small, rural town in the East of England, I couldn’t relate directly to a bunch of Belfast boys who had grown up during The Troubles. But I had no difficulty understanding what it was like to be surrounded by generations of adults who thought they knew best about my future, despite making a mess of the world and their own lives.
21 August 2017
From the very start of Now you’ll be able to hear the simmering anger and imagine the sneering curl of London rapper Potent Whisper’s lip as he taunts the establishment. But what you might be surprised to learn is that the backing music isn’t the usual layer upon layer of samples. It’s not even a whole band, although you’d be forgiven for thinking it is. In fact, all of the music on Now is performed on… a harp.
15 August 2017
The mellow sound of Hawaiian folk-pop surf dude Jack Johnson has not got any less gentle on the ear with this first taste of his forthcoming new (seventh) album, so it might sound a bit abrupt when played alongside the likes of Prophets of Rage, but don’t mistake that chirpy, slick production and cooing, treacly vocal for terminal insouciance. Jack Johnson is cross.
7 August 2017
The passion of Better Decide Which Side You’re On is just as strong and most of the lyrics seem particularly apposite 40 years after it was written. This is a song about standing up to fight against extreme right “bullyboys” and giving no quarter to those who are “sitting on the fence”.
31 July 2017
“If you see something and you think somebody needs to stand up for it – whatever issue it might be – then you should,” Maximo Park frontman Paul Smith told The Independent earlier this year as they debuted their sixth album, Risk To Exist. “There’s a responsibility as a citizen and as a human.”
24 July 2017
A song doesn’t necessarily have to earn its place on the Music to Fight Evil playlist by arguing a well-reasoned political point. Sometimes it’s enough to be angry at… whatever. Like this rousing battle cry from the first Manic Street Preachers album, Generation Terrorists.
18 July 2017
This year’s first new Prophets of Rage material, Unfuck the World, has all the characteristics you’d expect from RATM and Public Enemy. Frankly, it feels like it was made for the Music to Fight Evil playlist.
10 July 2017
Most protest songs concern themselves with the symptoms of the problem rather than the problem itself. But Get Better by Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip takes a wider and more positive outlook, challenging young people to rise above their circumstances rather than be consumed by them.
4 July 2017
Ah, the Europop one hit wonder. Usually it’s as close to a definitive expression of disposable, fun-while-it-lasts, harmless bubble gum pop as it’s possible to be – Whigfield’s Saturday Night, Lou Bega’s Mambo Number 5, Cotton Eye Joe by Rednex, Blue by Eiffel 65… I could go on, but as the list grows it begins to seem less like harmless fun and the more like a pandemic of mindlessness.
27 June 2017
The word is schadenfreude – the German bon mot that describes the pleasure taken from someone else’s misfortune.
In this case, of course, as the title suggests, Eric Anders isn’t able to experience that pleasure quite yet…
20 June 2017
Apparently every nation has to have an anthem. Presumably this is so that footballers can stand awkwardly before important matches, incoherently mumbling the words while a TV camera probes their faces in close-up before they’re allowed to get on with what they came for.
4 June 2017
It Says Here is a warning about the danger of fake news, released in the year synonymous with George Orwell’s “doublethink”. The opening track on Billy Bragg’ second album Brewing Up with Billy Bragg scorns the newspapers and warns their readers to “just remember, there are two sides to every story”.
24 May 2017
At the very peak of The Beatles’ career, modern communications technology gave them the opportunity to spread the message of what would become known as the “Summer of Love” all around the globe. Our World was a worldwide satellite TV broadcast on June 25th 1967, for which The Beatles were chosen to represent the United Kingdom by singing their specially composed song All You Need is Love.
12 May 2017
When Neil Young picked up the new issue of Life magazine in May 1970 and saw the now infamous photograph of a young girl kneeling over the dead body of a student protester, he was filled with rage. He walked off into the woods and when he came back an hour later, he had written this song.
28 April 2017
The whole paradoxical tangle of guilt and innocence is summed up in four familiar words – a single, weighted question at the heart of a riff-fuelled, two minute blast of vitriol.
27 April 2017
For this year’s Record Store Day, Matt Johnson has released his first new material for 15 years – a one-sided 7″ single called We Can’t Stop What’s Coming. In fact, as he reveals in the new documentary The Inertia Variations – a film essay that uses Johnson’s experience to investigate the notion of creative stagnation resulting from anxiety – it’s the first time he’s written a song or even sung one in a very, very long time.
10 April 2017
Often credited as one of the godfathers of rap music, Gil Scott-Heron didn’t set out to be a singer-songwriter. He started his career as a youngster writing poetry but a cult legend was born when jazz producer Bob Thiele – recognising the raw charisma of Scott-Heron’s vocal delivery – set Scott-Heron’s poetry to music for the first time. These early recordings included The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, a scything indictment of white America’s blind ignorance of racial issues.
30 March 2017
Exactly the sentiment that the Fight Evil playlist was created for, this is a song for anyone who has washed their hands of the current crop of hypocritical politicians and demands an alternative.
It’s also a belter of a protest song by a melodic pop punk three-piece from the outer limits of London.
18 March 2017
A leviathan of a rebel-rousing track… Martin Gore’s lyrics are strong stuff and difficult to contradict
7 March 2017
It seems unlikely that a ska revolution started at 51 Albany Road, Coventry – go ahead and take a look on Google Street View and tell me I’m wrong – but from these inauspicious surroundings, songwriting mastermind Jerry Dammers and his friends introduced the world to the music of the Caribbean filtered through the prism of the West Midlands.