SUBVERSIVE: What is the most subversive rock song of all time?

FC writes:

(I am posting this answer a second time, as advised by Muiris Mac Cartaine, because I originally posted it as a response to his answer.)

I am glad to see that "American Woman" by the Guess Who has been suggested by Ken Dierfler. The song, written and performed by proud Canadians, is about the poisonous nature of the U.S. “I don't need your war machines / I don't need your ghetto scenes”.

I will nominate “Fortunate Son” by Credence Clearwater Revival and “Imagine” by John Lennon.

“Fortunate Son” declares that “it ain't me” who was born to raise the flag and to fight in wars. (To hear this song, stripped of all its powerful meaning, used in advertisements is downright painful.)

“Imagine” posits a better world, one without private property and without religion.

I will also suggest "Killing in the Name Of" by Rage Against the Machine. “Some of those that work forces / Are the same that burn crosses”. This notes the infestation of law enforcement agencies by white supremacists.


MMC writes:

Rock ’n’ Roll had a subversive impact on society in the 50s and Rock called for revolution in the late 60s but rock has been the mainstream for most of it’s life. Other genres do subversive well.

There’s one old folk song that was revisited in 2017 by Lady Gaga. Woody Guthrie wrote This Land is Your Land in critical response to Irving Berlin’s God Bless America before WW2. These two songs were sung in a medley by Lady Gaga at the 2017 Superbowl, the irony of singing this song, which was being sung as an anthem at anti Trump rallys (and written while Woody Guthrie was paying rent to Trump’s father) by a avowed anti Trump LGBT activist who promotes inclusivity was missed by most. This Land Is Our Land: how Lady Gaga sang an anti-Trump protest song at the Super Bowl without anybody noticing

. Onlookers tweeted praise for the pop star for not getting political but how subversive was that?

This land is your land, and this land is my land
From the California to the New York Island,
From the Redwood Forest, to the Gulf stream waters, This land was made for you and me.

The performance went down without controversy but this song’s subversive message still resonates 80 years after it was written.

A much earlier performance, Billie Holiday singing Strange Fruit - It took a very brave singer to deliver a protest song in 1939 and Billie Holiday continued to sing this for the last 20 years of her very short life. It sounds sweet but it’s one of the first real protest songs and she is singing about the lynching of black Americans. Billie had to leave her record label to be able to release this on the independent label Commodore Records.

Southern trees bear a strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black bodies swingin' in the Southern breeze
Strange fruit hangin' from the poplar trees

Pastoral scene of the gallant South
The bulgin' eyes and the twisted mouth
Scent of magnolias sweet and fresh
Then the sudden smell of burnin' flesh

Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck
For the rain to gather
For the wind to suck
For the sun to rot
For the tree to drop
Here is a strange and bitter crop

Strange Fruit was written by a civil rights activist from the Bronx, Abel Meeropol but it’s remembered for Billie Holiday who delivered it’s message, possibly Nina Simone has come near but nobody has surpassed Billie Holiday’s version. Strange Fruit: the first great protest songCharles Mingus - OriginalFables of Faubus - written as a direct protest against Arkansas governor Orval E. Faubus

who in 1957 sent out the National Guard to prevent the integration of Little Rock Central High School.

Oh, Lord, don't let 'em shoot us!
Oh, Lord, don't let 'em stab us!
Oh, Lord, no more swastikas!
Oh, Lord, no more Ku Klux Klan!

Name me someone who's ridiculous, Dannie.
Governor Faubus!
Why is he so sick and ridiculous?
He won't permit integrated schools.

This was released in 1959 as an instrumental Fables of Faubus on the Columbia Label but the lyrics were revealed on the slightly later Original Fables of Faubus released on the independent Candid label. It is highly unlikely Columbia would have released the vocal version.

Nina Simone - Mississipi Goddam - About the murder of WW2 veteran Medgar Evers and the killing of 4 black children by the bombing 16 St Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama

Subversive Rock;

The Fugs - CIA Man - Satirical counter culture anti-war band praise the nice CIA people - A large FBI dossier on the band resulted.

The Kinks - Lola -

MC5 - Kick Out the Jams -

Lou Reed - Walk on the Wild Side - A Gospel chorus, a gentle song treating transvestites with dignity.

Patti Smith - Gloria - opens with a declaration of freedom “Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine”

The Runaways - Cherry Bomb - a song from five female teenagers about female rebellion and freedom and not conforming to society’s norms for girls in 1976.

The Sex Pistols - God Save the Queen -

“No Future and England’s Dreaming”

Paranoid Visions - Strange Girl - About the hypocrisy shown to unmarried mothers and teenage pregnancy in Ireland until recently Ann Lovett - Wikipedia

PJ Harvey - Sheela Na Gig - PJ Harvey writes on male demands and female self-loathing using the imagery of the grotesque female Sheela Na Gig figures with over extended vulvas found carved on some European Churches esp. in Ireland, Britain, France & Spain.

Pulp - Common People - wry commentary from Jarvis Cocker on the British social class system.

The Gossip - Standing in the Way of Control - Beth Ditto’s response to the Federal Marriage Amendment which attempted to outlaw same-sex marriage in the United States

Bruce Springsteen, The Velvet Underground, the Rolling Stones, John Lennon, Jefferson Airplane, MC5, NWA, the Dead Kennedy’s, Rage Against the Machine, Rock can be subversive but it’s built on the subversive foundation of the Blues, Jazz and Folk.

Woody Guthrie - This Land is your Land with the three new verses found

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York Island
From the Redwood Forest, to the Gulf stream waters
This land was made for you and me

And I went walking that ribbon of highway
And saw above me that endless skyway
I saw below me the golden valley
This land was made for you and me

I roamed and rambled and followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
And all around me, a voice was sounding
This land was made for you and me

There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me
A sign was painted said: Private Property
But on the back side it didn't say nothing
This land was made for you and me

When the sun come shining, then I was strolling
In wheat fields waving and dust clouds rolling
The voice was chanting as the fog was lifting
This land was made for you and me

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York Island
From the Redwood Forest, to the Gulf stream waters
This land was made for you and me

Written in the subversive spirit of Woody Guthrie, talkin’ about a folk song when asked about a rock song.

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