27 Best Songs About Rebellion

11. “What’s Going On?” by Marvin Gaye

Song Year: 1971

As the 1960s drew to an end, protest songs were still big, and social upheaval was rampant. Cue Marvin Gaye, who released “What’s Going On?” It was his response to the world around him, allegedly asking himself how, with the world in its crazy state, he could keep singing love songs.

The song is about love and understanding but with its repeated chorus, it questions what it’s all about and where we are going as a society. It doesn’t explicitly call for change, but that’s what it’s after.

12. “Fight the Power” by Public Enemy

Song Year: 1989

“Fight the Power” is not a song rebelling against police, but rather about the abuse of power. Written for Spike Lee’s seminal 1989 film Do the Right Thing, “Fight the Power” echoes the racial tensions at the forefront of the film.

Power imbalance causes police brutality and institutionalized racism, the song says, and the call or rebellion against it is right there in the title.

13. “God Save the Queen” by the Sex Pistols

“God Save the Queen” by the Sex Pistols

Song Year: 1977

The Sex Pistols, right at the beginning, equate Queen Elizabeth II with fascism, and British authorities were unhappy with this development. The song was a call for change in how the people of England were treated by their government, and UK radio stations quickly censored it.

Naturally, it became an arguably bigger hit than if they’d ignored it.

14. “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’” by Judas Priest

Song Year: 1982

Judas Priest’s signature song, “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’” embodies the spirit of independence and rebellion that the band lived by and that governed the mindset of heavy metal.

The genre itself was a rebellion of sorts against pop music’s veneration of singers. Heavy metal guitarists began making sounds and creating chord progressions that set them apart as accomplished musicians. Singing a song about rebellion in a musical form that was, in itself, a rebellion? That’s pretty metal.

15. “Fortunate Son” by Creedence Clearwater Revival

Song Year: 1969

Sure, the Vietnam War was at its height when “Fortunate Son” came out, but it wasn’t an outcry against that conflagration. Rather, it pointed out the disparities between classes in America. That those disparities often made it so that the scions of society didn’t have to go to war while regular Joes got sent to the jungle was just part of the message.

Rebelling against these class distinctions was part of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s message in the song— that if things don’t change, how can anything get better?

16. “Imagine” by John Lennon

Song Year: 1971

One of the most-covered songs in the world, “Imagine” is often interpreted as encouraging people not to believe in God. That’s not the case at all. It is an extremely rebellious song that asks the listener to turn his back on societal norms and expectations.

Why? Because the way we’ve been doing things isn’t working all that well. If we all rebelled against the status quo, maybe we could make that world we’ve so far only imagined.

17. “Bad Reputation” by Joan Jett & the Blackhearts

Song Year: 1980

Joan Jett has always been pretty hardcore. Who better to tell the world that she doesn’t care what you think about her?

In polite society, reputation is all-important, but Jett sings that she doesn’t care about hers in this song, a Generation X anthem if there ever were one.

18. “Rehumanize Yourself” by The Police

Song Year: 1981

Rebelling against the things that rob us of our humanity is somewhat esoteric, but that’s what “Rehumanize Yourself” is about. There are references to police officers who become different people when they don their uniforms, and there’s the factory worker who can’t see the result of his labor.

As technology advances, we get increasingly isolated and less empathetic. The Police were singing about rebelling against this tendency and making a concerted effort to reclaim one’s humanity.

19. “Nelson Mandela” by Special A.K.A.

Song Year: 1984

The saga of Nelson Mandela, a political prisoner of apartheid policies in South Africa for decades, is familiar worldwide.

This bouncy, horn-driven ska song demands the release of the man, and though “Nelson Mandela” was banned in South Africa, citizens there still heard it and drew hope from it. The song was a global hit.

20. “Little Red Wagon” by Miranda Lambert

Song Year: 2015

Not every rebellion song is aimed at governmental entities or regimes. Sometimes, rebellion comes in the form of ending a bad relationship. That’s the case for “Little Red Wagon,” in which Miranda Lambert decries her significant other for the way he mistreats her.

He tries to remake her in the image he wants her to project, but she’s not having it. If you didn’t know that Lambert isn’t the kind of woman you should try to make do anything she doesn’t want to, “Little Red Wagon” alone should give you all the information you need.

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