Protest Songs of the Times CCR: Fortunate Son & Green Day: American Idiot


In 1969 Creedence Clearwater Revival, better known as CCR, released the song “Fortunate Son”.  Fortunate Son became known and embraced as an anthem to protest the war in Vietnam.  Its main message was that American men were forced to go to war in Vietnam against their will, due to the reinstatement of the Military Draft.  There were some instances of high powered government officials who allegedly got their sons draft numbers not called, sparing their child’s life and sending another person in his place.  This is shown by the lyrics “It ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no senator’s son, son
It ain’t me, it ain’t me; I ain’t no fortunate one, no …It ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no millionaire’s son,It ain’t me, it ain’t me; I ain’t no fortunate one, no”.  The draft is portrayed as an inevitable and horrendous event that can’t be avoided unless you have power or influence in government. America embraced the song because it was saying what everyone was thinking, the fear of unjust death. The moment a boy became a soldier and was sent off to war is captured by the lyrics “And when the band plays “Hail to the chief”, Ooh, they point the cannon at you, Lord”.  Once the president called you into service, you were soon to be sent to the battlefield, it was essentially a death notice.


In 2004 the band Green Day released the song “American Idiot” and it instantly catapulted them into the stratosphere and made them one of the world’s most prominent rock bands.  American idiot is a song that brings light to the fact that the media controls what Americans know about the world events, whether it is true or not.  The lyrics: “Don’t want a nation that doesn’t know media; And can you hear the sound of hysteria?; The subliminal mind f— America” are meant to encourage Americans to break the trend of listening to what they are told, and instead ask questions and investigate what they have been told.  The lyrics: “I’m not a part of a redneck agenda; Now everybody do the propaganda; And sing along in the age of paranoia”, poke fun at the former Republican President George W. Bush (him being the redneck with an agenda).  This song was so popular in its time that President Bush actually banned it for a while, claiming that it was a threat to national security due to it Anti-American tone.  This was proving the power of his propaganda in removing kinks in his armor, and the fact that that time was a time of terror, war and death certainly added to the country’s feeling of paranoia. Green day also sarcastically says: “Welcome to a new kind of tension. All across the alien nation”.  This is easily interpreted as the heightened terror alerts that were put in place across all the major cities is “the alien nation”, easily interpreted as the USA.  Green Day pretty much nailed the physical, emotional, and mental feelings of an entire nation in their hit song.



War Protests 1960-2011

Fortunate Son: Creedence Clearwater Revival

Merle Haggard: That’s the News


In the first song by CCR they are pprotesting the draft during the Vietnam War.  Specifically the fact that those young men being drafted tended to be poor/middle class and politically unconnected while those from the upper class were able to avoid service.  The song by Merle Haggard, while also about war, is about how while the government has declared the war in Iraq “over” there are still soldiers fighting and dying.

While both are about war and also address the duplicity of those in power (not sending their sons to Vietnam, and declaring the war over when it is not) the biggest difference is their focus.  CCR in their song were acting as “The Media” getting the word out to the people.  In the Merel Haggard song his focus is addressing the media and its part in getting information / misinformation to the people.  This shift in focus in protest songs I feel is a product of our 24/7 news cycle and people’s total acceptance of what they see there.


Protest songs of the past generation

West of the Wall

World Wide Suicide

Both of these two songs serve the same purpose of informing the public on a current issue the artist as well as much of the country/world wants changed.  The song, West of the Wall serves to protest the Berlin Wall which was formed in 1961 in Germany to seperate the country into West Germany and East Germany to prevent the spread of fascismism.  The singer of this song is protesting the song because the wall prevented freedom of movement, she sings in a very casual and direct manner, as opposed to Pearl Jams “World wide suicide” which is a rather indirect subtle manner to criticize the U.S. Gov’t.  Pearl Jam is seen in his hit single as expressing his anger towards the war in Iraq and how he believes it will lead to a world genocide.  Both of the artists are seen portraying their expression of freedom and liberty throughout the world, which was and still is a modern theme in the live of all Americans.


Protest Through Media Then and Now

In the first song “What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye, Gaye protests the war and violence regarding the Vietnam War. This song was released around 1970. Gaye uses the inspiration for this song from his brother who served in the military and fought in the war. His co-writer also added his own experiences of witnessing police brutality against war protesters on the west coast. The second song, “Words I Never Said” by Lupe Fiasco is a song protesting the ongoing war on terror as well as much of the ignorance that Fiasco feels exists in society today as a result of media and government dishonesty. Both songs express protest through their respective lyrics. However, Gaye’s “What’s Going On” has a more peaceful and soothing sound to it, a reasonable protest. Whereas Fiasco’s “Words I Never Said” has a strong direct message for the public.



Protest Songs

“Where have all the flowers gone?” (1960-1970) by pete seeger. The song is about wives to soldiers, who love to pick flowers. But then, their husbands are to go to war, and the wives receive horrible news that their husbands have been killed. So, in the end, the flowers that the wives pick end up on the husband’s graves. The wives have picked so many flowers, that there are barely any more flowers left for anybody else. “What I’ve Done” (2000-2010) by linkin park. The song is about people who litters and pollutes and does so many other bad things to the earth. But one day, they wake up and realized what they had been doing was terrible and wrong. So they asked themselves, “What Have I’ve Done?” and that is where the song title comes from. “Where have all the flowers gone?”, and “What I’ve Done”, are both about horrible things that happen to people. But, “Where have all the flowers gone”, is about people who are just trying to protect their country, instead of being rewarded, gets death, and the other song is about people who actually do bad things to harm someone/ something but no one gets hurt.
“Where have all the flowers gone?” changed society, because when people heard it, they realized that war is not necessary, that problems can be solved without death, and that way, less people would die like the soldiers in the song, and their families would not be miserable. “What I’ve Done” protests against pollution and other ways of damaging the earth.


Different times, different causes


In the first song, “People Got to Be Free” by The Rascals tries to convince listeners that everyone should be free. Through out the entire song, the Rascals explains it very simple and natural for everyone to see. Everyone is the same and everyone should be free. The group refers to civil rights movement in the 1960s in their last verse when they mention the “Train of Freedom” that is coming and has been long over due. The second song, “Living with War” by Neil Young refers to the need for peace and the protest against war. Although Neil Young does not explicitly mention which war he is singing about, he is referring to the Iraq War. “I take a holy vow, to never kill again.” He tries to convince listeners to there is no need to fight. In the song he says he lives with war everyday and killing will only mean more people dying on both sides.

Since the 1960s, many protest songs have been geared towards event that happen in their current time. In Neil Young’s song, he sings about the war taking place in 2006, the Iraq War. In The Rascals’ song, they were singing about the need to be free and the civil rights movement in the 1960s. Both songs are fairly general songs as they can be applied to the protest against war and the call for peace and freedom. Neither of the songs explicitly reveal details of a specific event that has happened.


“Don’t matter what color, all that matters we gathered together”


The first video is a song originally written by Bob Dylan in the 60’s. It is a song questioning the way things are. For example, the line ‘Yes, how many years can some people exist before they’re allowed to be free ?’ is a question based on civil rights for blacks.The second video is Mosh by Eminem and it was released in 2004. Eminem in this song was trying to encourage people to go out and vote. He wanted to encourage people to try to change and challenge the politicians ( Example: Bush ) that were taking advantage of them. Mosh had more anger being shown than Blowing in the Wind. Mosh is more aggressive.