We’ve curated a list of 20 songs that aren’t just musical marvels but powerful expressions of the freedom of speech. As we delve into the deeper narratives behind these songs, you will discover how artists have used their craft to challenge norms, express discontent, and ignite dialogue.
From punk rock to soulful blues, these songs span diverse genres, yet they all converge on one point: the unyielding spirit of speaking one’s mind, and the power it wields in shaping societies.
- 1. “Fight the Power” by Public Enemy
- 2. “People Got To Be Free” by The Rascals
- 3. “Freedom of Speech” by Above The Law
- 4. “Don’t Tread On Me” by Metallica
- 5. “Illusion of Freedom” by Sorrow
- 6. “Freedom Is Love” by Trey Anastasio
- 7. “Free Your Mind” by En Vogue
- 8. “Freedom” by Rage Against The Machine
- 9. “Freedom Overspill” by Steve Winwood
- 10. “Freedom of Speech” by John Mellencamp
- 11. “Freedom of Speech” by Immortal Technique
- 12. “Free” by Chicago
- 13. “Putin will Teach You How to Love” by Pussy Riot
- 14. “Startin’ Up a Posse” by Anthrax
- 15. “From the Heart” by The Slants
- 16. “Free Bird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd
- 17. “Peaceful Dream” by Mavis Staples
- 18. “Freedom of Speech” by Ice T
- 19. “I Decide” by The Julie Ruin
- Final Thoughts
1. “Fight the Power” by Public Enemy
“Fight the Power” is without doubt Public Enemy’s most renowned song. The meaning and message of Black Pride are truly encapsulated in this song.This song’s confrontational and combative character was intended to both strengthen the Black community and stir up controversy, both of which helped to sell a large number of albums.
2. “People Got To Be Free” by The Rascals
“People Got To Be Free” by The Rascals was first released in 1968, a time when the world was ripe with controversy. With lyrics like “All the world over, so easy to see. People everywhere just wanna be free,” The Rascals were all about spreading understanding and unity, especially after losing heroes like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy in 1968.
3. “Freedom of Speech” by Above The Law
“Freedom of Speech” is a song performed by the rap group, Above the Law. The song makes it clear that people should be free without any strings attached. It hit such a nerve that it even got a spot in the 1990 movie, ‘Pump Up the Volume’ and made its way onto the soundtrack.
4. “Don’t Tread On Me” by Metallica
“Don’t Tread On Me” by Metallica, is a song all about defending one’s civil liberties at home. The song’s aim was to emphasize what America used to stand for as a country, and the hope that it will one day return to said ideologies. “Don’t Tread On Me” takes a page from America’s history, linking back to the Gadsden Flag, which often had a rattlesnake on it as a sign of defiance.
5. “Illusion of Freedom” by Sorrow
This song from their ’92 album ‘Hatred and Disgust’ is a wake-up call about how sometimes, what we think is freedom, is just an illusion.
With in-your-face lyrics like “Fools! Stop waving your flags and clean the s**t off your glasses! Freedom of speech, a government lie to calm and quiet the masses”, Sorrow isn’t shy about pushing you to question what’s happening around you.
6. “Freedom Is Love” by Trey Anastasio
And now, for something completely different. Trey Anastasio’s “Freedom of Love” is a soft and sweet tune about love and heartbreak.
Anastasio sings ‘Everyone knows freedom is love,’ to show just how much he misses that special someone. His heartache is clear in his music as he tells us that love is the ultimate freedom.
7. “Free Your Mind” by En Vogue
The all-girl R&B group En Vogue hits us with “Free Your Mind”. Written in the aftermath of the 1992 Rodney King riots in LA, it’s a powerful message about the brutality of racial injustice.
Despite a video showing King, a black man, being brutally attacked by four white cops, three officers were acquitted while the other’s charges remained undecided. This unjust verdict triggered widespread violence and tension, which En Vogue addressed in their song.
8. “Freedom” by Rage Against The Machine
“Freedom” by Rage Against The Machine, off their self-titled 1992 album, gives us a reality check. The song paints a grim picture of how the government, big businesses, and media manipulate us into believing we’re free while they control the narrative. The true realities remain hidden, leaving us trapped in this illusion of freedom.
9. “Freedom Overspill” by Steve Winwood
Steve Winwood gave us the catchy “Freedom Overspill” back in 1986, and it’s a classic that still resonates today. It made its way to the top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and it’s all about expressing yourself, maybe even a bit too much. As Winwood croons “Force of habit, you may say”, he seems to be questioning whether oversharing is really the best way to go about things.
10. “Freedom of Speech” by John Mellencamp
In John Mellencamp’s 2014 album, ‘Plain Spoken’, he offers us a hearty dose of patriotism with “Freedom of Speech”. This upbeat tune is all about the perks of our freedoms. Mellencamp reminds us to cherish our freedom of expression and our ability to hold differing opinions. It’s a daily celebration, according to him!
11. “Freedom of Speech” by Immortal Technique
Coming at us with raw power is “Freedom of Speech” by rapper Immortal Technique. Off his album ‘Revolutionary Vol.2’, the song takes a deep dive into global issues often swept under the rug by those in power. It’s not just about the world, though. Tech also uses this track to stake his claim in the music industry, declaring his independence and determination to make music on his own terms.
12. “Free” by Chicago
“Free” is a song by the rock group, Chicago. Released in 1971, this tune quickly climbed the charts, landing at number 20 on the Billboard Hot 100. The band, typically praised for their instrumental prowess, delivers a catchy lyricism in this one. With a message about longing to escape pain and negativity, this song resonates even today.
13. “Putin will Teach You How to Love” by Pussy Riot
Straight from the razor-sharp wit of Pussy Riot comes “Putin Will Teach You How to Love”. This edgy track serves a heavy dose of satire about global affairs, with a music video showcasing the group’s notorious performance at the Sochi Olympics. This defiant act, which led to an attack by the Cossacks, was a show of solidarity with Russian political prisoners.
14. “Startin’ Up a Posse” by Anthrax
Anthrax hits hard with the fiercely explicit “Startin’ Up a Posse”. This blistering track is a broadside against those trying to stifle their creativity. They express their resolve to gather a group to stand up for their rights and the freedom of expression. It’s an angry track, but one that showcases the harsh reality: despite being taught we’re free, we often aren’t.
15. “From the Heart” by The Slants
The Slants’ “From the Heart” is one of those heartfelt songs with a lot of meaning. This moving song was birthed from the band’s legal tussle with the US Trademark Office, making it a powerful anthem for their fight for rights. Band frontman, Simon Tam, described it as their open letter to the trademark office, highlighting their journey as a civil rights case.
16. “Free Bird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd
This profound song tells the tale of a man explaining to a woman why he can’t settle down. The opening lines were inspired by a real-life argument between band member Allen Collins and his girlfriend. The song took on an even deeper meaning for fans following the tragic plane crash that took the life of band member Ronnie Van Zant.
17. “Peaceful Dream” by Mavis Staples
From Mavis Staples’ album ‘If All I Was Was Black’, comes the serene track “Peaceful Dream”. This soulful song transports you into a calm dream, one that Staples wishes to share with the world. The dream gives her hope for brighter days ahead, a feeling she holds onto and cherishes.
18. “Freedom of Speech” by Ice T
Rapper Ice T made waves with “Freedom of Speech” in 1989. It was a time of concern about the influence of music lyrics on youth, with Tipper Gore’s Parental Music Resource Center leading the charge against certain types of music. Ice-T, along with other artists and civil liberties advocates, fought back, calling their efforts censorship. This song is Ice T’s fierce response.
19. “I Decide” by The Julie Ruin
Rock band The Julie Ruin gifts us with “I Decide” in 2016. This empowering anthem off their second album has resonated with fans. It’s about making your own choices and carving your own path in life.
In conclusion, tunes revolving around freedom of speech come in all forms. Some are powerful calls to action against censorship and injustice. Others focus on the power of personal freedom, encouraging listeners to live life on their own terms. But they all share one thing: the power of music to inspire and bring about change.