20 Songs for Sticking It to The Man
Today is National Disobedience Day. Tomorrow we’ll pay tribute tomorrow to those founding fathers whose rabble-rousing led to our nation’s independence with a healthy dose of beer, BBQ and explosives, but today we celebrate anyone with the courage to stand up to unjust authority with some quality tunes.
We get the sense that most of these artists aren’t fans of traditional order, so in the spirit of equality, we’ve left our picks unranked. Thus, we give you, in no particular order, 20 Songs for Sticking It to The Man. Put ’em on, raise some hell, and be sure to leave your favorites in the comments section below.
1. Public Enemy, “Fight the Power”
You gotta go for what you know
Make everybody see, in order to fight the powers that be
Lemme hear you say fight the power
Fans of Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing will remember how this blazing-hot track set the tone for the entire film.
2. Bobby Fuller, “I Fought the Law”
A’breakin’ rocks in the hot sun
I fought the law and the law won
An early rock ‘n’ roll reminder that breaking the rules doesn’t always yield the results you’d like.
3. Pink Floyd, “Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 2”
We don’t need no education
We don’t need no thought control
No dark sarcasm in the classroom
Teachers leave those kids alone
For many of us, school is where we first learned to challenge authority. We won’t be brainwashed by the institution—and if we want to have our pudding before we eat our meat, well, that’s our prerogative.
4. Beastie Boys, “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right to Party”
Don’t step out of this house if that’s the clothes you’re gonna wear
I’ll kick you out of my home if you don’t cut that hair
Your mom busted in and said “What’s that noise?”
Aw, Mom you’re just jealous, it’s the Beastie Boys
The right to party may seem a little too trivial to be worth fighting for, but when you’re a teenager, rebelling against your parents can be your entire world. The Beasties rail against hypocritical pops and porno-mag-disposing moms everywhere over a guitar riff that can’t be beat on this undeniable classic.
5. Sex Pistols, “Anarchy in the U.K.”
I am an anti-Christ
I am an anarchist
Don’t know what I want but I know how to get it
I wanna destroy the passerby
Pretty much any Sex Pistols track would apply here, but their quintessential ode to disorder fits the bill perfectly.
6. M.I.A., “Paper Planes”
Pirate skulls and bones
Sticks and stones and weed and bombs
Running when we hit ’em
Lethal poison through their system
M.I.A. has stated that the gunshot and cash register sound effects on this Kala track are supposed to be a statement about how immigrants are perceived by mainstream society.
7. Bob Dylan, “The Times, They Are A-Changin’”
Come Senators, Congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside
And it is ragin’
It’ll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’
There are plenty of other songs in Dylan’s catalog—“Masters of War” and “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall,” to name just two—that would also be fitting for this list, but it’s this track that serves as an ominous warning to the establishment: step aside, or prepare to be toppled over.
8. Elvis Costello, “Radio, Radio”
They say you better listen to the voice of reason
But they don’t give you any choice ‘cause they think that it’s treason
In which our favorite bespectacled Brit bites the hand that feeds him.
9. The Kinks, “Powerman”
Well I’m not rich and I’m not free
But I’ve got my girl and she got me
He’s got my money and my publishing rights
But I’ve got my girl and I’m alright
Ray Davies and his band stick it to their record label on this driving Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One track.
10. Aretha Franklin, “Respect”
I’m about to give you all my money
And all I’m askin’ in return honey
Is to give me my propers when you get home
Ultimately, what revolution boils down to is a demand for respect, and while this classic song examines the theme on a micro level—focusing on the relationship between one woman and a man—it’s since become an anthem for underdogs everywhere seeking their propers.
11. N.W.A., “Fuck Tha Police”
Just cuz I’m from the CPT, punk police are afraid of me
This 1988 track remains controversial to this day, and while we definitely don’t advocate violence against the police—or anyone, for that matter—we do think the Straight Outta Compton song is worth a listen if only to get a sense of the racial tensions that plagued L.A. in the late ’80s and early ’90s.
12. Misfits, “Attitude”
You got some fucking attitude
I can’t believe what you said to me
You got some attitude
It’s not exactly eloquent, and it may not be a protest song per se, but sometimes the best way to tell someone know they’re out of line is to crank this song and let ‘em know they’ve got some fucking attitude.
13. James Brown, “Say It Loud (I’m Black and I’m Proud)”
Some people say we’ve got a lot of malice
Some say it’s a lot of nerve
But I say we won’t quit moving until we get what we deserve
It doesn’t matter what color your skin is; we can all appreciate the sentiments of James Brown’s classic civil rights anthem.
14. The Clash, “Guns of Brixton”
When they kick out your front door
How you gonna come?
With your hands on your head or on the trigger of your gun?
“Guns of Brixton” is the first Clash track penned by bassist Paul Simonon, and it features him on lead vocals as well. It paints a picture of the London neighborhood where Simonon grew up and the problems that plagued it.
15. The Rolling Stones, “Street Fighting Man”
Hey! Think the time is right for a violent revolution
‘Cause where I live the game to play is compromise solution
Well, then what can a poor boy do
Except to sing for a rock ’n’ roll band
‘Cause in sleepy London town
There’s just no place for a street fighting man
The Rolling Stones have rarely gotten political over the course of their 50-year career. This 1968 Beggars Banquet track is as overtly revolutionary as they get, calling people to action at the height of the Vietnam era the only way they know how—by singing in a rock and roll band.
16. Dr. John, “Revolution”
Blind eyes of justice, deaf ears of power
Dumb lose our money
Left us in a desperate hour
Off of this year’s Dan Auerbach-produced Locked Down, this track is a relatively new call to arms, but it’s definitely one worth heeding.
17. Rage Against the Machine, “Killing in the Name”
Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me
What’s more fitting for sticking it to the man on Disobedience Day than a band who makes protest its modus operandi declaring, “Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me”?
18. Bikini Kill, “Reject All American”
Mass acceptance, overrated
In which the riot grrrls rail against mainstream society and reject its “all-American” values.
19. The Beatles, “Taxman”
Let me tell you how it will be
There’s one for you, nineteen for me
‘Cause I’m the taxman, yeah, I’m the taxman
This George Harrison-penned track expresses distaste at the high taxes in England around the time of Revolver. Unfortunately it’s not available to stream, but enjoy this cover of it by Stevie Ray Vaughan above.
20. Creedence Clearwater Revival, “Fortunate Son”
Some folks inherit star spangled eyes
Ooh, they send you down to war, Lord
And when you ask them, “How much should we give?”
Ooh, they only answer More! more! more!
Often mistaken for a flag-waving anthem by those who don’t listen carefully, this Vietnam protest song actually takes a stand against nepotism and war-mongering by the entitled.