27 Best Songs About Rebellion

How can you list songs about rebellion without listing every rock song ever? Rock music is all about rebellion, as was the jazz it came from and the spirituals and work songs that gave birth to jazz. But we’ll try. Here are the best songs about rebellion, and whether you’re fighting against social norms or just your mom and dad, there’s a song here for you.

1. “Rebel Rebel” by David Bowie

Song Year: 1974

Universally hailed as the greatest glam rock song of all time, David Bowie’s “Rebel Rebel” took the rebellious themes and ideas from the 1960s and updated them, adding androgyny, makeup, and attitude.

It was also Bowie’s farewell to the glam movement he had helped create. Bowie, like Prince after him, was constantly reinventing himself, and “Rebel Rebel” saw Ziggy Stardust ride into the sunset. And that guitar riff? That’s Bowie playing it himself.

2. “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party)”

Song Year: 1986

Rebellion makes countries out of disgruntled colonies and destroys Death Stars, but it’s also a mainstay of our teenage years. The Beastie Boys immortalized teenage rebellion in (“You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party).”

Also, they were kind of making fun of that whole party-all-the-time attitude, but fans never seemed to notice. It landed in the top 20 on charts worldwide, reaching number seven in the US.

3, “F*ck tha Police” by N.W.A.

Song Year: 1988

There’s not much in the world that’s more rebellious than standing up to cops, especially in the wake of racial profiling and disparities in arrest rates across racial lines. N.W.A. dropped “F*ck the Police” in protest of police brutality.

These days, the song borders on quaintness, but in the late-80s, suburban parents were freaked out by it.

4. “Sunday Bloody Sunday” by U2

Song Year: 1983

For almost thirty years, the Troubles brought civil war to Northern Ireland, resulting in violence and bloodshed from the 1960s to the last years of the 20th century. “Sunday Bloody Sunday” is a protest song against the sort of sectarian violence that caused the Bogside Massacre in January of 1972, where British soldiers killed 14 unarmed civilians.

The song remains one of U2’s biggest hits and is a staple of the band’s live shows. Frontman Bono spent years explaining that the song did not extoll violence but rather castigated those who perpetuate it.

5. “War” by Edwin Starr

Song Year: 1970

The US war in Vietnam engendered many protest songs, each calling for a rebellion against the country’s participation in the destructive conflict. Originally recorded by the Temptations, “War” was considered too risky for the group, as label execs feared it would alienate some of the group’s fans.

So Edwin Starr recorded the much more familiar version we all know today. The song’s powerful message questions the point of destruction.

6. “Another Brick in the Wall (Part II)” by Pink Floyd

Song Year: 1979

From Pink Floyd’s legendary album and film The Wall, “Another Brick in the Wall (Part II) was the middle section of a three-part composition. Songwriter Roer Waters wrote it to rebel against the British education system of his time.

He believed that teachers were more concerned with keeping students quiet and acquiescent. Teaching them anything of import was only a peripheral concern. Having a children’s chorus of English students sing on the track was a nice, rebellious touch.

7. “Get Up, Stand Up” by Bob Marley and the Wailers

Song Year: 1973

Co-written by Peter Tosh, Bob Marley’s seminal “Get Up, Stand Up” was inspired by a visit Marley made to Haiti, where he was dumbstruck by the poverty and hardship the people there endured.

This song contends that rebelling against the status quo is the only thing you can do when you’re down and out. Marley sings that God isn’t going to come down to right all the wrongs, so it’s up to the wronged to make changes.

8. “Killing in the Name” by Rage Against the Machine

Song Year: 1992

Another song protesting police brutality, “Killing in the Name” links members of the Los Angeles Police Department with white supremacy. And that’s just in the first verse.

Inspired by the 1991 police beating of Rodney King, “Killing in the Name” ends with singer Zack de la Rocha shouting that he will not do what he’s told, especially if the instructions come from any agent of a law enforcement system he sees as inherently flawed.

9. “My Generation” by The Who

Song Year: 1965

Guitarist and songwriter Pete Townshend said that “My Generation” was about drawing a line between the generation that fought WWII and the subsequent Baby Boomers. He felt the older Brits had helped save the world but refused to acknowledge or help his generation.

But the sentiment was anything but new. Everyone’s grandparents denigrate the musical tastes, clothing trends, and social mores of the youth of their day, and those youth rebel against it.

10. “Rebel Yell” by Billy Idol

Song Year: 1983

Inspired by Billy Idol taking a drink of Rebel Yell whiskey, “Rebel Yell” became a signature song for the star. Since a rebel yell was associated with the Confederacy in the American Civil War, Idol decided to change what a rebel yell was in the context of his song.

It became the cry of a woman who wanted him over and over during a one-night stand. What’s the song rebelling against? Who knows for sure? But a list of songs about rebellion would be incomplete without this 1980s classic.

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