From Reggae, Rap to Blues, most music genres were developed as protest music. Starting from slave trade period to the American revolutionary era, protest music was used as campaigns against the oppressive system in every society. In this broad category is Lucky Dube responding to racial divide in South Africa.
The first American protest songs were crafted for a purpose: to draw people together around a central mission. Grounded in simple verses and refrains, the tunes were often lifted from hymns or remade from songs people already knew, with lyrics frequently written as easy-to-learn call and response. These songs were less about beauty and finesse than about utility and purpose.
The tradition goes back to the country’s founding. “Free America” was one of the nascent US’s first protest songs, a Revolutionary War call to action song by minuteman Joseph Warren. “Yankee Doodle,” now popular as a children’s song, was actually written by British soldiers mocking their American counterparts during the Revolutionary War.
Even when most artists deny their music being a protest song, protesters often use them as medium of motivation. The Nobel Prize Winner for Literature, Bob Dylan, whose name is almost synonymous with 1960s activist music, lists Guthrie as a main influence. But despite his reputation, Dylan denies being a writer of protest songs. Instead, he insists his tunes, like “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “Times They Are a Changin,’” were co-opted by civil rights and Vietnam War protesters and then imbued with meaning to make them the marquee songs of the movements. While they were sung at countless rallies and marches and swayed along to at concerts, Dylan edged away from the suggestion that he was a movement leader.
Throughout Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, music lurked in the background as a bubbling protest: Artists like Adele, Neil Young, and Queen barred Trump from playing their songs at his campaign rallies; dozens of singers spoke out against him at their concerts and on social media.