A black and white photograph of Bob Dylan playing guitar

Protest Songs of the 60s and 70s

The 1960s and 70s were a tumultuous time, dominated by political and social unrest, the Vietnam War, Civil Rights protests, feminist activism, and more. The music industry was rife with young artists lending their voices on behalf of an entire generation. Here is a list of songs from the 60s and 70s where singers and songwriters speak their minds in hopes to influence change.

“Only a Pawn in Their Game” by Bob Dylan
The Times They Are a-Changin’
Released January 1964

“A South politician preaches to the poor white man / ‘You got more than the blacks, don’t complain / You’re better than them, you been born with white skin,’ they explain / And the Negro’s name / Is used, it is plain / For the politician’s gain / As he rises to fame / And the poor white remains / On the caboose of the train / But it ain’t him to blame / He’s only a pawn in their game”

“A Change Is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke
Ain’t That Good News
Released December 1964

“I go to the movie / And I go downtown / Somebody keep telling me / Don’t hang around / It’s been a long / A long time coming / But I know, a change gonna come / Oh, yes it will”

“Respect” by Aretha Franklin
I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You
Released March 1967

“I ain’t gon’ do you wrong while you’re gone / Ain’t gon’ do you wrong ’cause I don’t wanna / All I’m askin’ is for a little respect when you come home”

“Say it Loud (I’m Black and I’m Proud)” by James Brown
Say it Loud (I’m Black and I’m Proud)
Released August 1968

“We’ve been ‘buked and we’ve been scorned / We’ve been treated bad, talked about / As sure as you’re born / But just as sure as it take two eyes to make a pair, huh / Brother, we can’t quit until we get our share / Say it loud (I’m Black and I’m proud)”

“Fortunate Son” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
Willy and the Poor Boys
Released September 1969

“Some folks inherit star-spangled eyes / Hoo, they send you down to war, Lord / And when you ask ’em, ‘How much should we give?’ / Hoo, they only answer, ‘More, more, more, more’ / It ain’t me, it ain’t me / I ain’t no military son, son, Lord”

“What’s Going On?” by Marvin Gaye
What’s Going On?
Released May 1971

“Father, father / We don’t need to escalate / You see, war is not the answer / For only love can conquer hate / You know we’ve got to find a way / To bring some lovin’ here today / Picket lines and picket signs / Don’t punish me with brutality / Talk to me / So you can see / Oh, what’s going on”