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5 Things You Should Know Before Writing Political Songs

 

Tom Morello (Rage Against The Machine) Performing At Occupy Wall Street

Music has the power to create a movement.

Throughout music history, songwriters all over the world have used this power to speak out and raise awareness about political issues. From genocide and racial atrocities, to class warfare and economic unbalance, every (or almost every) major political issue of the last 50 years has been given a soundtrack by a songwriter that felt strongly enough to put their feelings into song.

In fact, some of the best songwriters of all time are considered as such because of their ability to stir the pot and get people in motion to act again political injustice.
 A few important examples of famous political songs are:

  • Bob Dylan The Times They Are A Changin’ – Written in 1964 during the civil rights movement in the US, this song became the soundtrack for the movement.
  • Bob Marley Redemption Song – A hopeful protest song written during time of unrest in Jamaica.
  • John Lennon Imagine – Easily considered to be the most important anti-war, pro-peace song ever written.
  • The Sex Pistols God Save The Queen – Commentary on the economic divide in England during the 1970s, this song took direct aim at UKs elite class, meanwhile giving a voice to the unrepresented, lower class.
  • Rage Against The Machine Killing In The Name Of – Written in reaction to the 1992 acquittal of the four police officers accused of assaulting Rodney King (which sparked the infamous LA Race Riots), this song has since become the soundtrack to racial injustice.
  • Notorious B.I.G Things Done Changed – A terrifyingly realistic portrayal of the economic divide and widespread crack cocaine epidemic that plagued many inner city neighborhoods in the early 90s.

To celebrate Presidents’ Day in the US, we thought this was the perfect time to break down the idea of a political song and give you 5 things that have been shown to work in all of the best political songs, that you should consider when writing your own:


1) Tell a story


Whether you tell a personal story or just paint a picture of what the victim of the political issues would experience, telling a story is one of the most important and effective ways to connect the significance of the issue with the listener.


2) Be personal


Often times, songwriters will try to simply write a political song for the sake of writing one, but without having a personal connection to the issue, the song will likely fall flat with connecting with others on a widespread level. The reason here is because an effective political song should show passion about the issue and more importantly, what it takes to right the wrong, so if you attempt to take on a political injustice through song, make sure it is something you personally feel strongly about.


3) Opinion matters


Writing an effective political song is more than just laying out the facts, it is about adding in your own commentary and again showing the passion as to why you feel it is so important to address the issues within your song head on.


4) The song must be the primary focus


While the lyrical content and political message will obviously be in the spotlight, that doesn’t mean you can forego quality songwriting! This is a big mistake that so many make and believe it or not, it can lessen the effectiveness of the lyrics and message if the song isn’t worth listening to. All of the songs listed above made a difference, and all tell an important political message, but first and most importantly each is a fantastic song worth listening to.


5) Should be current and relevant


This would seem obvious enough but it is important to state; if you are going to write a political song, make sure it is current and relevant if you want it to energize people. While WWII and the Vietnam War were important, writing political songs about them now is less social commentary and more a nostalgia piece. The latter is absolutely fine if thats what you are going for, but it if not, it is certainly something to be wary of.

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9 thoughts on “5 Things You Should Know Before Writing Political Songs

  1. Really enjoying tUnEyArDs – My Country http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EwsTUvSFu8E right now.  Protest songs live on…

    MusicCavity.com
    @MusicCavity

    1. I’ve been following and absolutely in love with the Tune-yard’s album WHOKILL since it was released! Definitely a unique protest song – or rather protest albums for sure!

  2. I would also add The Ghost of Tom Joad by both Bruce Springsteen and redone by Rage Against the Machine. Sadly a song written in the 70’s about social injustice that seens even more relevant these days.

    1. It’s absolutely true that many songs written in the 70’s are now more relevant now. Hense the reason so many Pink Floyd songs continue to rear their head in political situations!

  3. http://www.soundcloud.com/spectrumfashionmusic

    Please take the time to listen to Number 1o if you would be so kind and let us know ya thoughts, it’s pretty political!! 

  4. What Do you think about “We are the bad guys” by Franz Kasper? The only courageous political song I hear these days in Germany (and this by accident and not in the radio).
    franka

  5. 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-songs-about-breaking-law.html

  6. I heard Bobby Brown was singing“What’s Going On” on his way to jail for his 3rd DUI and What a wonderful world when he was released after only 9 hours due to jail overcrowding and good behavior. http://zautos.com/bobby-brown-serves-nine-hours-in-jail-for-third-dui/

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