Saturday, April 23, 2011


Peter Rothberg of The Nation emails to say, in part:

Dorian Lynskey's comprehensive new book, 33 Revolutions Per Minute, details the history of the protest song in America and around the world. It's a bracing and informative survey, even if you're familiar with the topic, and it happily got us at The Nation thinking about our favorite all-time protest songs.

Seriously picking a top-ten is an impossible task, but in the interests of getting the conversation started, here are my choices.

Please tell us what you consider the single best protest song of all-time. We'd love to publish your choices in a special post at

I'm not sure that this is my all-time favorite, especially compared to some of Rothberg's choices (1, 4, and 9, especially) but I filled out the form to nominate this for inclusion on any short list: Country Joe and the Fish, "I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-To-Die Rag."

Live solo version:

Studio version:



Ocean said...

I know only a few of Rothberg's selection. I'll listen to all of them and I'll see which ones I like. The first one is one of my favorites. But a whole bunch of my favorites are from Latin America and not relevant for this selection.

bjkeefe said...

... and not relevant for this selection.

Oh, I severely doubt that. I encourage you to share some of your favorites, especially if you can find versions of them on YouTube or someplace like that.

Unknown said...

I always liked this one:

Don't know what the hell they're saying, but they sound like they mean it!

And this, another classic:

Ocean said...


The song in Spanish seems to be by a Chilean group and it's mostly a celebration to workers, not much more than that.

Ocean said...

I picked just a few. One of them has two versions that I like. The others are variations of different "protest" topics from Spain, Cuba and Uruguay. Sorry about the language barrier. But you encouraged me!

Mercedes Sosa (Argentina)

Leon Gieco:(Argentina)

Cancion urgente para Nicaragua(Silvio Rodriguez- Cuba):

La maza (Silvio Rodriguez):

Angelitos negros (Los Olimareños-Uruguay):

El sur tambien existe (Joan Manuel Serrat- Spain):


bjkeefe said...

Thanks for the links, Mark and especially Ocean. I'll try to give them a listen soon.

bjkeefe said...

PS @OCean: Did you listen to Rothberg's picks? Any others besides Marley that you liked?

bjkeefe said...

Also @Ocean: I see you repeated a link. What you have for "Angelitos negros" is actually the link for "La maza."

Did you mean, perhaps? Or something else from here?

Ocean said...

"Also @Ocean: I see you repeated a link. What you have for "Angelitos negros" is actually the link for "La maza."

Did you mean, perhaps? Or something else from here?"

Yes, that's the right link. Thanks! I liked the images and it's the original recorded version (by these singers).

I listened to a couple of the other Rothberg's picks. I'll let you know when I'm done.

I spent too much time yesterday looking for the Latin American songs I wanted to post. Unfortunately many of the ones I like only make sense for the local or regional politics of the time and they wouldn't make sense for an international audience. So for example, one of my favorites from Uruguay is Alfredo Zitarrosa. His songs are poems. Many are not political, but the ones that are political refer to events of the time in Uruguay. He was banned by the military dictatorship and had to leave the country. The same for Los Olimareños, although they were far less political. By the way, until a few years ago, they used to come to perform in New Jersey pretty regularly.

bjkeefe said...

To the extent that I can judge a song after one listen, I liked "Angelitos negros." "Solo le pido a dios" is also appealing.

Ocean said...

So I finally listened to Rothberg's selection. I liked 1 and 3 (both reggae, which I like and I knew the songs). Number 2, I liked the music (rhythm) but the lyrics not so much. Number 4 and 5, didn't really like. Number 6, liked the lyrics, didn't care about the rhythm. Number 7 was okay. Number 8, I knew the song, and like Dylan a lot. Number 9, also knew the song and like Aretha, but is it considered protest? Number 10, I can appreciate the lyrics, but dislike the rhythm.

I would put in a lot of Dylan, Joan Baez, John Lennon, more Marley, Peter Tosh, Tracy Chapman, CCR, Cat Stevens, Neil Young, gosh I can't even remember how many more!

bjkeefe said...

I never thought of "Respect" as a protest song until I saw it on Rothberg's list, but I think it is legitimately called one.

Great tune, in any case.

Unknown said...

@Ocean: Thanks for the heads up. I loved that album in college, but never studied Spanish...