I suspect that for as long as humans have been questioning the authority of rulers and yearning for freedom they have been singing about it too. Music is the universal language of humanity. It’s the voice that reassures the lonely that they’re not alone, the voice that shares and expresses your joy and your sorrow. Music transcends race, nationality and creed and speaks directly to the soul of Man. It’s a form of communication that affects our brains like no other. Harmony, melody and rhythm trigger the same reward systems in our brains that drive our desire for food and sex, which means music, essentially, is like a drug; when we experience it we feel rewarded and then want more. Music is my ‘drug’ of choice and I couldn’t imagine life without it. It has raised my spirits countless times and I know it always will.
I’ve chosen ten songs that brilliantly convey either the universal yearning for freedom or the frustration of life under government and freedom denied, or that decry government violence. They speak directly to my soul, and stir my instinctive urges for freedom and against violence. I hope they do the same for you.
In no particular order here are my Ten Songs of Liberty:
1). Get Into My Groove by Incognito
This is a song about the necessity of humility and self-knowledge, and the arrogance of men in power who falsely believe they know what’s best for everyone else.
“Before you tell the world about the things that they should do, stop and take a look what’s going on inside of you.”
2). Politic Amagni by Amadou & Mariam
This is a moving song, from a wonderfully gifted singing couple from Mali, with a very clear message: politics is violence.
“Politic needs blood, Politic need cries, Politic needs human beings, Politic need votes, That’s why, my friend, it’s in evidence, Politic is violence.”
3). Everybody’s Broke by Herbie Hancock
Not only does this track from a jazz legend make some great observations about government and the economy, but it is also a fabulous piece of music.
“Ain’t nothin’ funny when their messin’ witcha money…”
“See how they legalise how the eagle flies, When will uncle sam find some other scam, Get your hands outta my pocket, dog…”
4). We Had Enough by Arnie love & the Lovelettes
Another wonderful piece of music with great lyrics that convey the anger and frustration of living under government. This song is circa 1980 and reminds us that nothing about economies under government control changes: prices go up, money loses its purchasing power and people get poorer.
“Everytime you ride the subway train, the fare keeps going up but the ride’s the same.”
” We ain’t taking it no more, all you politicians should listen, Internal Revenue you too…”
5). Rough Out Here by The Modulations
Another wonderful piece of music that expresses the daily struggle to survive under government. This song dates from the seventies, around the time when the U.S. economy was in recession, and Americans were experiencing high unemployment and high inflation. Sounds familiar.
“Paying twice as much for everything you buy, inflation’s so great you can’t afford to die.”
6). Taxed To The Max by Tower of Power
The legendary Tower of Power have been performing for 44 years, but this track is a more contemporary effort from the nineties. A superbly crafted piece of music with a great message: tax and politics is a scam.
“politicians doing all they can to get elected to make a better land, in their smoking rooms their making all their plans, but when the smoke gets cleared you know it’s just a scam.”
7). Governmentalist by Joss Stone
This one’s unusual in the sense that it’s an overtly anti-government song from a very well-known contemporary soul artist. The term ‘governmentalist’ is defined as: a theory that advocates the extension of governmental activity. This song, then, essentially questions the morality of those in power and those who advocate the extension of governmental activity, with a focus on the tragedy of war. Powerful stuff. Kudos to Joss Stone, I say.
“How many lives will you sacrifice? Will you ever be satisfied? If in God you trust, can’t you hear him still? I ain’t no preacher but thou shalt not kill.”
8). Act of God by Prince
Although Prince has some rather confused views about contractual obligations and copyright, there’s no doubting that he is an extremely talented musician. I love a great deal of his music. This song talks of how people attempt to absolve themselves of responsibility for their own immoral actions, as well as musing on the true nature of ‘freedom’ under government.
“Tax dollars build a plane drop a bomb, Supposedly to keep us all safe from Saddam, Bringing bad news to another woman, Call it an Act of God”
“…Got news for you, freedom ain’t free, lock you in a cell if you try to be.”
9). Freedom Now by Tracy Chapman
A stirring, soulful folk song with the most powerful message: we must be free.
“Free our bodies free our minds, Free our hearts, Freedom for everyone, And freedom now .“
10). War (What Is It Good For?) by Edwin Starr
This is probably the most popular and well-known protest song of the modern music era. It has an interesting history, actually.
It was first produced in 1969 for record label Motown as an anti-Vietnam War song, with the top-billing Temptations as the original vocalists. The public pressured Motown into realising ‘War’ as a single, which they eventually did, but fear of alienating Temptations’ fans lead them to re-record the song with Edwin Starr as the vocalist. Starr’s version was a huge hit and went to number one on the Billboard Hot 100 of 1970.
Interestingly, it was one of 161 songs on the Clear Channel no-play list (an American mass media company with the largest reach of any radio and television outlet in the U.S.) after September 11, 2001. It seems the U.S. government did not want the people funding the vengeful mass destruction and death it was preparing to inflict on innocent people in the middle-east to be reminded of the profound truth that war is good for “absolutely nothing”.
It’s a great piece of music with a message that is obvious, but which can become obscured from time to time by political propaganda in hard economic times, and so is worth repeating.
“Oh war, is an enemy to all mankind,
The thought of war blows my mind,
War has caused unrest within the younger generation,
Induction, then destruction who wants to die.”