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Top 10 Social & Political Songs of Our Time

Updated on April 22, 2016

We hear songs everyday, whether on the radio, television, or from music sources such as CD's, iPod, and other sources. Music touches us in a unique way. It is easy to get a song stuck in your head. While you may remember parts from a movie or a television show, you don't play the movie in it's entirety over and over in your head throughout the day. Music touches us.

While there are songs that are meaningless, such as most pop songs, there are songs that have been written through the years that express a deep meaning, meant to move us to action in some way. Here, I want to list the top 10 songs that I believe have a depth of meaning to them, and in some way have caused us to begin talking and thinking about the issues of society. Obviously, this is from my opinion and life experience, but hopefully it gets you to thinking. Some of the songs are more recent, while some come from an era that is becoming quickly distant to us, yet the issues are still before us today.

1. Silent Running- Mike and the Mechanics

I list this one first, because it intrigues me the most. This song has always grabbed my attention. The music fits the lyrics so well. I like songs like this that don't explain themselves. It causes us to have to discuss the meaning, so that we can together arrive at the meaning, then take action. A couple of clues to the meaning of the song will help you in your discussion of the lyrics.

First, there seems to be a consensus that the song is speaking about the cold war, as this conflict between the United States and Russia was going on when the song was written. The band seems to be calling us to take action, and live for a bigger purpose than ourselves.

Too, many think that the song is being sung from the standpoint of Jesus, as there are allusions to someone speaking from heaven who works with the high command. Too, there is an encouragement to pray to God, with the promise that the Father and the Spirit will help from somewhere above the Earth, with Jesus not mentioning Himself.

Whatever all the meaning to this song is, it certainly causes us to think, and to have to consider our own purpose in life.

I originally uploaded the original video to this song, but the recording company took it off. So, here is an impressive video of the song.

Mike&The Mechanics- Silent Running

2. Another Day in Paradise- Phil Collins

In coming to the second song, I chose Another Day in Paradise. I believe this song came out on a Genesis album, but Phil Collins sang it. This is one of those songs that truly cause us to think outside ourselves. Collins doesn't allow us to remain status quo. The lyrics remind us that while we go about our everyday life, there are people all around us who are truly suffering. Let this song remind you that you can make a difference in the people around you.

I want to give you a quick word of advice before we move on. Those people that you see on the street need more than your money. They need a friend. I encourage you to step into their life, and walk with them in the pain. The reward is beyond description.

Another Day in Paradise- Phil Collins

3. Bitter Sweet Symphony- The Verve

Here is one of those songs that jumped out at me the first time I heard it because I liked the music, but I didn't really pay attention to the lyrics. After I did really pay attention, it was a song that caused me to think about the people in my life.

We can tend to push people out of our way to advance ourselves. Knocking people over to climb the corporate ladder only leaves us without friends once we reach the top, wherever that is. In the original music video the singer is knocking people around as he walks down the sidewalk, with no care in the world. Getting wrapped up in our own world while hurting others is easy to do. However, it would make the world a better place if we paid more attention to the people around us.

How are you doing with the relationships in your life? Are you knocking people around physically, emotionally, with your words or in some other way while you achieve your own ends?

Bittersweet Symphony- The Verve

4. Sunday Bloody Sunday- U2

U2 is one of those bands that exist for the purpose of sending the message of social and political change. That message stems from their faith. Bono, the lead singer, travels the world speaking to dignitaries and common people alike to influence change where injustice exists. In their songs you will find many references to injustice, and references to God bringing justice to the world through His people.

This song that I chose has a profound message to it. It was written while Bono was in a hotel room. As the story goes, he was watching the news and saw that a massacre was occurring in his homeland of Ireland. British troops opened fire on a group of innocent civilians. I believe that 14 were killed. It happened to be Sunday when they should have been at peace. The images and story moved Bono to write and sing of that tragic day.

The reason Bono can sing these songs calling for justice is that he has a real faith that leads to action. What a contrast to those involved in that bloody massacre whose faith was not real. True faith causes us to reconcile with those around us.

Sunday Bloody Sunday- U2

5. The Way It Is- Bruce Hornsby and the Range

This is one of those songs that has a catchy tune and lyrics. This song was high on the charts for a long time, and is probably the most well known song of the band. There are people who have next to nothing. We could try to pawn off our responsibility to help them in their need to the government. But, as the song notes, government help is really not much help at all. I encourage you to look around to see those who are truly in need, then take personal responsibility to help them.

Due to a copyright claim by the recording company I cannot play a video or display the lyrics of this song. I encourage you to research the lyrics on your own.

6. Turn! Turn! Turn!- The Byrds

In the 1960s and early 1970s many social and political songs were written as the United States and the World was in social upheaval. The time had come for the institutions and authorities to be challenged. People had grown weary of the systems that had dominated for so long, and they desired for a more natural experience as humans. Among the many songs that came out during this period I chose this one.

This song describes the period well. Everything has it's own time. Times were changing. The time had come for a new order. This song finds it's reference in the Bible in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. Israel was in a similar social upheaval as the new generation that lived during King Solomon's reign desired something better than the old systems.

Even our life has it's time and place. What are you doing with the time you have been given?

7. Age of Aquarius- 5th Dimension

Being a follower of Jesus I believe that God has our times in His hand, rather than us being influenced by the aligning of the stars. However, I am not closed-minded to where I can't listen to what others are saying. In this song, there is strong reference to astrology and the astrological age of Aquarius.

According to the story the age of aquarius is the time dominated by modernization and industrialization. Also, people in this time look to the unity of humanity. I included this song because it touches on an issue that is very meaningful in our society- that we learn to live in unity with each other.

Age of Aquarius- 5th Dimension

8. Born in the U.S.A.- Bruce Springsteen

Though this song is played at fireworks shows on the 4th of July as a patriotic song, this song is not very patriotic. This song is a critique of how soldiers are treated. In the song, the man who became a soldier is not very heroic in that the decision to go into the military seems to be a bit random. When he comes back to the United States, he does not receive a heroes welcome.

As with any song, I challenge you to listen to the words and not just the music. An important message could be there for us to hear and learn from.

I searched high and low for a quality video for this song, but was unable to successfully download one. The sound is not the greatest on the video below, but it gives you the idea of what the song is about as you listen to the words.

Born in the USA- Bruce Springsteen

9. Fast Car- Tracy Chapman

Living in the inner city is no easy task. I know this from experience. Life can be very difficult for people who find themselves living in urban decay. The fight to get out of that situation can be full of disappointment and setbacks. I chose this song because of it's message of life in the inner city and the fight to get out of that life only to be met with disappointment.

If you tend to judge people who live in the less desirable neighborhoods I encourage you to lend a hand rather than putting them down. Many of the people in these neighborhoods are genuinely honest and hard working people who just need a little encouragement.

Fast Car- Tracy Chapman

10. Changes- Tupac

Earlier in this song list I have a song with the same music. This song is a spin off of the song "The Way It Is"by Bruce Hornsby. However the lyrics are quite different. This song is about the need for black people to come together and meet each other's needs rather than killing each other. There are many other issues dealt with in the song as well that the artist felt needed to be dealt with in the black community. He is frustrated because nothing seems to change.

I have white skin, but many of my close friends are black. They tell me of their concerns of gang violence, prostitution, drugs and domestic violence among the black community. My hope is that the goal of this song comes to be- that those in the black community would reach out to each other in love, and that would then cause people of different races to do the same.

Tupac- Changes

 So, there it is. I hope this gets you to thinking. There is so much more to life than going to work and making money. There is a whole world around us in need of what we have to offer. Take time today to look around you and see the difference that you can make.

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    • tony0724 profile image

      tony0724 8 years ago from san diego calif

      Michael there are some really good songs here . But you forgot " Imagine" by John Lennon and "REVOLUTION " by The Beatles

    • Michael Davis profile image
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      Michael Davis 7 years ago

      Thanks for the input. It is hard to include all the great songs. You definitely suggested two songs that made an impact on our culture.

    • profile image

      winniw 6 years ago

      this is a major help foe my work

    • profile image

      stephen 6 years ago

      wow! thanks for this, this seriously helped with coursework :D

    • Michael Davis profile image
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      Michael Davis 6 years ago

      stephen-glad I could could help

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      Corey  6 years ago

      System of a Down has a lot of Political/Social songs. Mostly about about the war on terrorism. Empty Walls by Serj Tankian is another good one!

    • Michael Davis profile image
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      Michael Davis 6 years ago

      Corey- Great suggestions! There are a lot of good artists and songs out there that are trying to make a difference, not just make the money.

    • profile image

      gregg 6 years ago

      glad an older white male could appreciate a song from a young black male and include it in this list. that's change itself right there. good job man.

    • Michael Davis profile image
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      Michael Davis 6 years ago

      Gregg- thanks for the props. I have loved the music that comes from the black community since I was a teenager. We all need to learn to listen to each other.

    • DavePrice profile image

      DavePrice 6 years ago from Sugar Grove, Ill

      Man I love your taste in music - thanks for opening my eyes to Bittersweet Symphony, I hadn't heard that one before. I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who thinks a lot of popular music carries the message the church should be out in front on.

    • Michael Davis profile image
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      Michael Davis 6 years ago

      Dave- Amen. Hope the church figures it out soon.

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      Alex Cosper 6 years ago

      All great songs, Michael ... I made my own list on my page of political/social commentary songs ...

      http://www.tangentsunset.com/socialcommentarymusic...

    • profile image

      Bob Ferdickson 6 years ago

      Sir, I have read through your blog post and although I do agree with most of your choices I feel it would be really great if you were to elaborate on my favorite artist; Tupac Shakur. I feel like you addressing his song in the fashion of referring to his message as something just the black community needs to address is unfair. I believe if you were to divulge yourself further in the Hip-Hop culture you would better understand that these issues although can be considered specific in his true lyrical writing to a certain, they can be interpreted to affect all cultures of all colors and speak of the disgusting nature of humanity. Thanks Bob Ferdickson!

    • profile image

      Sunniva 6 years ago

      This was a major help!

    • Michael Davis profile image
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      Michael Davis 6 years ago

      Bob- Thanks for the comment. Although I am white I live in a predominately black neighborhood and hear my friends and neighbors lament the injustice that black people bring on each other. One of my friends said to me that black people need to stop enslaving each other with drugs, rape, prostitution and domestic violence, then they can look to people of other races. The sad fact is that white people enslave white people, asians enslave other asians, etc. Shakur was tired of the problems that black people were bringing on each other. He didn't feel that freedom could truly come to the black people as long as they taught their young men to abuse their wives, enslaved their children to drugs, and failed to teach helathy relationships to their kids. I love the lyrics of Shakur in this song for standing up to this problem. Too, I love how in other songs he confronts the powers for their abuse of power. He was a bold man and very much missed. He was a rare jewel in the music world.

      You are right that the message of this song can be applied to people of all races.

      I have immersed myself in all genres of music including hip hop and am surrounded by the hip hop culture. The thing I like especially about hip hop culture is that it deals with social issues more than other forms of music.

    • profile image

      victoria 6 years ago

      pink floyd- Hey You

      no further comments...

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      Amanda 6 years ago

      these are some useful songs. good, old, boring . see ya!

    • Michael Davis profile image
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      Michael Davis 6 years ago

      Victoria- Pink Floyd confronted their fans at a concert in frustration, because the fans were just partying to the music and missing the point. Pink Floyd was all about change and confronting the social norms.

    • profile image

      asleemdsafsd4d 6 years ago

      I loved your city. During a brief stay there for a conference we went to the Inner Harbor and to one of the restaurants there where we tried those great crab cakes.

    • Michael Davis profile image
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      Michael Davis 6 years ago

      asleemdsafsd4d- i have been here almost 14 years from the Midwest originally. I love this city. Despite what people think of the rain, it is actually a rather dry city. Many compare us to Seattle, but Portland is 75 miles in land and there are mountains between here and the coast to create a rain shadow. The eating is great-becoming quickly world renowned. Glad you enjoyed your visit.

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      Rishav 6 years ago

      Good songs

    • Michael Davis profile image
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      Michael Davis 6 years ago

      Rishav- thanks for the feedback

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      DuffMan 6 years ago

      Looking at your list I can't believe you didn't include hard hitting politicaal songs like Peter, Paul and Mary - Blowin in the Wind and Puff the Magic Dragon

    • Michael Davis profile image
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      Michael Davis 6 years ago

      Duffman- Good stuff. Limiting myself to ten songs makes it difficult to choose whichh songs are the top. There have been so many good songs written through the years.

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      Lars 5 years ago

      I was wondering If Cake would be up there, they are just not popular enough yet I guess.I agree though that it would difficult to name all of them in just 10.

    • Michael Davis profile image
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      Michael Davis 5 years ago

      Lars- I have to admit that I don't know them. Tell me more. Do they have a website?

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      BremhillBob 5 years ago

      Couple of suggestions?

      Dick Goughan - Revolution - Very relevant on the world stage at the moment, or maybe Song Of Choice - think Bankers

      Billy Bragg - Between the wars

      Peter Gabriel - Don't give up - Surely the most beautiful song about unemployment

      Sinead O'Connor - This is a Rebel Song - Really moving song about the Irish Trouble (Biased from the Irish Perspective but a lovely example of Persuasion)

      Who - won't get fooled again - what is there not to like about this one

    • profile image

      student @ large 5 years ago

      Zombie by The Cranberries regarding the Warrington Bomb Attacks by the IRA

    • Michael Davis profile image
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      Michael Davis 5 years ago

      student- thanks for the input

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      Rebecca 5 years ago

      Thank you for share such inspiring song. One suggest how about one in ten by ub40.

    • PhoenixV profile image

      PhoenixV 5 years ago from USA

      Bittersweet Symphony-Verve and Tracy Chapman's Fast car are my favorites here. I like this hub a lot. Tracy Chapman gets a really great sound out of that acoustic. I like her technique.

    • Michael Davis profile image
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      Michael Davis 5 years ago

      PhoenixV- thank for the input. Yes, Chapman is great on this guitar piece, very smooth.

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      Katrina C 5 years ago

      Do you know of any songs from this decade, the 2000's? This would really help me for schoolwork.

    • Michael Davis profile image
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      Michael Davis 5 years ago

      Katrina C- There is a lot from this decade. A few suggestions to get you started would be a Christian Death Metal band called August Burns Red. Two of their most socially charged songs are "Empire" and "Your Little Suburbia is in Ruins". Too, you may want to research the band Coldplay. While their songs aren't typically confrontational, they do speak to some social issues of our day. Another band who existed from the 90's into this decade is Rage Against The Machine. With them you will just have to research out their songs and take your pick.

      Bruce Springsteen just came out with a new album. He had the song "Born in the USA" in the80's, but it became a national anthem, which caused the song to lose its true meaning. So, on the new album he is coming out with a new song that confronts the political corruption of the United States. There is a lot out there, but this should get you started. Oh yes, I forgot to mention Green Day. When you google these artists, you should get suggestions on bands that are of the same persuasion. Best to you.

    • profile image

      Jordan Harley Wildman 5 years ago

      great list dude, the suggestions are great too, a few other good ones are "Peace Sells" By Megadeth, "Another way to die" by Disturbed, "Critical Acclaim" by Avenged Sevenfold, "All hope is gone" by Slipknot, a lot of Metal and Hard Rock artists are into politics.

    • Michael Davis profile image
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      Michael Davis 5 years ago

      Jordan Harley Wildman- great songs. I personally am into Death Metal which is highly politically critical, confronting issues of our day. I am just appealing to a general audience in this list.

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      charlie 4 years ago

      bob marley chould definetly be up there

    • Michael Davis profile image
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      Michael Davis 4 years ago

      charlie- yes sir. Agreed

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      niccoreClounc 4 years ago

      When i accustomed to get high on lifestyle but as of late I've truly built up a new resistance.

    • Brandt Hardin profile image

      Brandt Hardin 3 years ago from Clarksville, Tennessee

      Music can change the world, change laws and confront or promote any social movement. You can see the Top 10 Songs about Breaking the Law at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2013/05/top-10-...

    • Michael Davis profile image
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      Michael Davis 3 years ago

      Brandt- So true. Thanks!

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      NNOUT 3 years ago

      Marvin Gaye "What's Going On"

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      NNOUT 3 years ago

      "Putin Lights the Fires"

    • Michael Davis profile image
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      Michael Davis 3 years ago

      NNOUT- Thanks for the input. So many good songs out there

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      Steven 3 years ago

      Pat Benatar Hell is for Children makes for some social commentary.

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      Letho 13 months ago

      This is a good webcite

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      MusicFan 11 months ago

      I feel like M.I.A.'s "Bad Girls" has a very important message for women equality. Please consider it.

    • profile image

      rubsch 5 months ago

      borders by mia

    • Michael Davis profile image
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      Michael Davis 3 months ago

      Good suggestions. Thanks for the feedback

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