Politics and music go hand in hand. And there have been, and continue to be, several prominent groups that have consistently made a good living delivering its respective ideologies to the masses.
Here's a look at some of the more notable bands (just bands, not specific solo artists) who have no problem unleashing their political voice.
As we'll see, the punk genre is ripe for politically-charged musical aggression. After all, isn't that the point? Anti-Flag has not enjoyed true mainstream success, but its left-wing message involving human rights and knocking big government - to name a few issues - has made for quite the loyal and impressive following since the release of its 1996 debut Die for the Government.
While these pop-punk pioneers claim they don't necessarily politicized their music, the band has been outspoken against at least two republican presidents. First, George W. Bush back in the day and most recently, and perhaps indirectly, Donald Trump and right-wing politics on 2019's Age of Unreason. Which features a mix of the 2018 hit "The Kids Are Alt-Right."
These Celtic rockers for New York City were a semi-popular pub band during the 1990s, and opened the door for others of the ilk - like Dropkicks Murphys and Flogging Molly - to shine. Led by frontman Larry Kerwin, Black 47 consistently infused politics into its music, and was quite good live. Whether tales of the IRA or opposing war and socializing its lyrics, Black 47 was more than willing share a message and a pint - or two - with its fans.
True pioneers of the hardcore punk movement in the United States, Black Flag was both politically and socially conscious. Perhaps even more so when Henry Rollins joined the band in 1981. Like other punk groups, Black Flag challenged the establishment and conformity, while also addressing awareness to the severity of poverty and the shunning of the lower-class in America.
Socialism was at the forefront of The Clash's music. It's left-wing approach played well with the likes of anti-Nazi and other liberation groups and movements. Come on, the band had an album called Sandinista!. At the forefront of The Clash's cause was Joe Strummer, a bed-wetting socialist who understood that music gave him an outlet for his beliefs in a way that would rankle the establishment - as a true punk should.
While John Fogerty and CCR liked to sing about lazy, country Southern living, the group was also quite political in its tone. It tackled issues of racism, poverty and oppression. And, like many acts of the 1960s and '70s, took an anti-Vietnam War stance. Perhaps none more prominent on classic-rock and pop-culture favorite "Fortunate Son."
As a foursome, it put out "Ohio," one of the great protest songs of all time. An attack on then-President Richard Nixon and the national guard-shootings of students at Kent State University. Plus, 1970s' Déjà Vu featured the hit "Teach Your Children," a song about the effects of war on children. On their own, particularly, Neil Young, the four have always used music to get their political message heard. After all, they were stars of the 1960s.
Widely considered the most influential of the hardcore punk bands in the United States. Led by frontman Jello Biafra, the Kennedys made a living with their anti-establishment and government stance. Political preference didn't matter, really. As time went on, the band, Biafra specifically, fought censorship with the brunt of its energy aimed at Tipper Gore's Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC).
These Boston Celtic punk rockers are all about the people. Supporting and celebrating labor unions ("The Worker's Song") and championing for veterans ("Heroes from Our Past"). While the band has had its issues with republican politicians, particularly former Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, it's members have confirmed themselves a mix of democrats and independents.
In truth, Green Day was rather late to the political party. In terms of musical involvement. Even as the band's popularity grew, it always had to defend its credibility to those labeling it as pop-punk posers. However, the group started showing its maturity on albums such as Nimrod (1997) and Warning (2000). Then 2004's conceptual gem American Idiot brought the politics the band often spoke of off stage, on it. The album is a champion for the lower- and middle-class, while also taking shots at big business and big government.
One of the more celebrated bands of the San Francisco music scene of the 1960s. Its acid/psychedelic rock sound was in step with the usual socially conscious issues of the '60s (anti-government, anti-war and peace and love). Perhaps the Airplane's most politicized song was 1969's "Volunteers" - a shot at the United States government and the Vietnam War.
Frontman Dave Mustaine has always been a little bit surly. Perhaps because he's still not over that whole Metallica thing. Of course, Mustaine is an intelligent guy who is very opinionated (he reportedly championed the Barack Obama birther conspiracy). Especially when it comes to politics. "Peace Sells" offers a dark view of the world back in the mid-1980s, while commercial smash "Symphony of Destruction" touches on anarchy within the midst of election season (sound familiar?).
It took some time for the Australian alternative rockers to enjoy mainstream success, but they did eventually breakthrough with 1987's Diesel and Dust. Littered with its support of left-wing causes, environment awareness and support of Australia's indigenous people ("Beds Are Burning"), the album allowed Midnight Oil to become relevant on the international music scene.
Say what one will about any controversy surrounding N.W.A. and its lyrics, but the influential gangsta rap act was brutally honest. Basically, Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, Eazy-E and the rest of the outfit knew no other way to express their thoughts on systemic racism, police brutality, poverty and oppression. Perhaps that's why the group's legacy continues to get stronger.
One of the great live bands of all time, Pearl Jam has never shied away from using the stage as a pulpit. Particularly lead singer Eddie Vedder. There has always been a punk element to the band, thus it's roundabout anti-establishment tone. The group has gone after Ticketmaster, George W. Bush ("Bu$hleaguer," "World Wide Suicide") and addressed issues such as suicide and gun violence ("Jeremy"). Pearl Jam has always wanted to give fans a voice, and not be afraid to use it for what they believe.
Like many bands during the 1960s, politics and awareness of the changing social climate were popular topics within the realm of popular music. When it came to this famed trio, Peter, Paul and Mary were not overtly critical of government or certain policies, but as folk music stars, offered a more harmonic and calming approach to the overall cause and movement.
Like many rap acts, racial and social injustice issues were a prominent part of PE's musical arsenal. However, the band's mainstream presence was much bigger than most of its other contemporaries, so its word was stronger. "Fight the Power," written for Spike Lee's classic Do The Right Thing, highlighted racial tensions in America while "911 is a Joke" brought awareness to the lack of urgency in medical response to predominantly black neighborhoods. Those are just two examples of the passionate message Chuck D, Flavor Flav and Co. sought to convey.
Donald Trump is probably not a fan of this cult-favorite female Russian punk band. While its stage presence is built around conceptual and performance art, it's musical message is not in line with the Russian government. Specially, the group's disdain for president Vladimir Putin. Plus, it will throw in some feminist flare and girl-power stamina - just for fun.
Rage has been able to amass a huge following because of its unique rap/metal, alternative sound. Thanks in large part to the genius guitar playing of Tom Morello. The band's lyrics have also constructively challenged authority, addressing issues such as police brutality ("Killing in the Name") and systemic racism. The bands leftist views attack the U.S. government and regularly question foreign policy ("Bulls on Parade"), all while turning their live shows into a frenzy of passion.
One of the more underrated punk (pop-tinged, too) outfits. This Chicago-based band have always mixed politics into their music. "Ready to Fall" tackles environment issues and the band endorsed Barack Obama during his first presidential run in 2008. And, in a throwback to the early days of hardcore U.S. punk, various members of the band live a straight edge lifestyle.
The infamous English punks had just one studio album. However, it might be the most politically-charged punk record of all time. The album, like the band itself, was a breeding ground for controversy. "God Save the Queen" was a campy attack at Queen Elizabeth II and "Anarchy in the U.K." looks at civil war in the United Kingdom. It still remains one of the most celebrated and important albums in the history of punk.
Arguably one of the great alt-punk outfits to come out of the 1990s, regardless of gender. Carrie Brownstein, Corin Tucker, and formerly Janet Weiss, have influenced many with a more mature take in the "riot grrrl" round. However, the band wasn't afraid to shatter female stereotypes, champion feminism - without being too over-the-top - and take a serious approach to same-sex relationships and shunning conformity.
OK, we mentioned we weren't going to showcase solo artists, but Bruce did some of his most political work with the E Street band backing him. Specifically on Born in the U.S.A (remember the title track is a protest song). It's also important to note that E Streeters like Nils Lofgren and Stevie Van Zandt have infused politics into their own music away from the band.
While the band has been criticized for being all over the metal map, it's still quite popular within a genre in which acts have struggled to enjoy sustained commercial success over the years. However one wants to describe the group, it can be agreed that System of a Down usually has something worth listening to - especially when it comes to politics. It's sung about the drug wars ("Prison Song"), bureaucracy ("Cigaro") and even Armenian genocide ("Holy Mountains").
Political history and awareness has always been part of U2's stellar catalog. From the early protest days of War ("Sunday Bloody Sunday" and "New Year's Day") and right up until the latest version of Songs of Experience (2017). Bono and Co. having no problem voicing their take on the political climate of the moment and solidarity, but their off-stage activism also makes U2 perhaps the most socially conscious band on the planet.
Jeff Mezydlo has written about sports and entertainment online and for print for more than 25 years. He grew up in the far south suburbs of Chicago, 20 minutes from the Mascot Hall of Fame in Whiting, Ind. He’s also the proud father of 11-year-old Matthew, aka “Bobby Bruin,” mascot of St. Robert Bellarmine School in Chicago. You can follow Jeff at @jeffm401.