One of the biggest things the human race tends to take for granted is freedom. Since the dawn of time itself, there has been a constant fight among mankind in the name of freedom as it always comes under threat by people who have no regard for it. From the very beginning of mankind’s existence, not only have there been documented tales told about what happened but some really good songs as well.
Way too often, freedom is taken for granted, especially when people seem to get too comfortable for their own good. Along the way, history is forgotten, then twisted in order to justify a new wave of beliefs. Like it or not, the general population has a bad habit of letting down their guard. Upon doing so, they make it easy for deceivers to swoop in like serpents and manipulate the masses.
The unfortunate truth about freedom is it’s something that should never be taken for granted at any time. Today, members of society are fighting for some of those freedoms to be restored that were subtly taken away, piece by piece. We now live in an age where the very thing Reagon warned about is happening right now and even in our own backyard.
Some of the best songs ever written come from extreme events. This musical art form has been a practice that’s been defining mankind since the very beginning. Songs about freedom are easy territory for insightful songwriters such as Eric Clapton and Bob Dylan. There are ten that come to mind that makes the grade as classic rock songs about freedom.
Top 10 Classic Rocks Songs About Freedom
# 10 – Pride (In the Name of Love) (performed by U2)
When it comes to insightful songwriters, U2 holds the mantle as among the best. Interestingly enough, as dedicated as they are to Christianity, the one genre of music they will purposely not perform is contemporary Christian rock. Instead, the preference is to reach out to a broader audience with a style of music that has rightfully earned the band from Ireland its place as an all-time favorite.
U2’s musical career has been observing the American people and its brand of politics for a long time. Bono, who is very political by nature, not only sang about Ireland’s troubles but America’s as well. Just from U2 alone, there are easily ten songs a fan can use that could fit into any classic rock category that has something to do about freedom.
In 1984 from The Unforgettable Fire, “Pride (In the Name of Love”)” was a powerful single that started off with the sound of battling gunfire. Although this song could easily pass as a war tune, it also sends a solid message about how vital it is to fight for freedom.
“Pride” was written about Martin Luther King Jr. Although the song received mixed critical reviews, it became incredibly popular worldwide. To this day, it remains one of U2’s most popular songs of all time. It was also included in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.
Originally, Bono wrote the song about Ronald Reagan’s pride in the American military but it was Let The Trumpet Sound: A Life of Martin Luther King, Jr. by Stephen B. Oates that changed its direction. Also inspired by Malcolm X’s biography, Bono looked further into civil rights campaigns. On every occasion, the fight for freedom met with violence when a non-violent solution was rejected. When Bono sings “Early morning, April 4” about King’s shooting, he didn’t realize the error before the first recording.
Historians knowing a thing or two about Martin Luther King Jr. knew he fought to his death in the name of freedom. In his day, it was more about freedom for all and not for a specific race or color. As a Christian, he followed God’s interpretation of what freedom meant and not some political or social agenda with ulterior motives. This is what U2 saw in him as a keen observer of American culture.
On the US Billboard Hot 100, “Pride” became a number thirty-three hit. On the US Billboard Mainstream Rock chart and Irish Singles Chart, it peaked as high as number two. Globally, it was a number-one hit in New Zealand, and a number-three hit on the UK Singles Chart. It was at least a top ten hit among the nations of Australia, Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, and Poland. It was also certified gold by Italy’s Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana and silver by the U.K.’s British Phonographic Industry.
# 9 – Fight for Your Right (performed by Beastie Boys)
Granted, “Fight for Your Right,” as performed by the Beastie Boys, was a song about partying. However, this also applies to anything and everything to do with freedom. From the album Licensed to III in 1986, this became the group’s most popular song. On the US Billboard Hot 100, it became a number seven hit. Globally, “Fight for Your Right” became at least a top twenty hit in Belgium, Canada, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and the U.K. It also became certified silver with the British Phonographic Industry. It also earned its place as one of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.
It did so much more than shape rock and roll. “Fight for Your Right” became a major statement against any threat that wanted to take a stab at freedom. To this day, “Fight for Your Right” remains a rallying song against dictatorships, legalisms, and oppression laid out by authority figures who use “safety” as an excuse to take away people’s freedoms.
#8 – Stand and Deliver (performed by Eric Clapton and Van Morrison)
Eric Clapton, along with Van Morrison, recorded and released 2020’s “Stand and Deliver” as a single where its proceeds went to Morrison’s Lockdown Financial Hardship Fund. Both of these artists made it no secret what they thought about what they felt was a trampling of people’s rights, liberties, and freedoms by a world that apparently went mad before their eyes.
The phrase behind “Stand and Deliver” was actually a construct to give what is demanded, which was used by robbers against their victims. For Eric Clapton and Van Morrison, they saw the world leaders exercise the same tactics against the global population, nation for nation. When it was required to take vaccinations so he could perform in concert, Eric Clapton agreed to it. However, it resulted in severe reactions that later had him test positive for COVID-19 in 2022 anyway.
Despite this, the fight to defend people’s freedoms continues. He is among a growing population who believe the entire world is being manipulated by authority figures who are going out of their way to strip freedom away from every man, woman, and child. Since the pandemic, several nations still remain more oppressed than ever. This includes America, Canada, and the U.K as new and existing issues add even more burdens on the people that have been threatening their freedoms even further. In some cases, it has boiled down to threatening their own lives as well.
Eric Clapton’s writing and recording of freedom-related songs is nothing new and it still continues. 2021’s controversial “This Has Gotta Stop” was a single that caused quite the uproar as it took direct aim at the COVID-19 lockdowns, as well as all the political and social fiascos that have taken place since then. He, along with Van Morrison, is also fighting for the freedom to keep live music going as certain authority figures have been trying to put an end to that with a series of reasons that are no longer believed by an increasingly fed-up population.
In a world where “cancel culture” has become a thing now, songs like “Stand and Deliver” have become an anthem among freedom fighters who refuse to back down in a fight they believe needs to be fought. Whether you’re in agreement about the song’s message or not, the bottom line is it is about freedom. If there was a song that serves as the best reminder of Ronald Reagan’s infamous quote about the subject, this would be it. Although the newest song on the block here, it’s already destined to be a rock classic.
#7 – Human (performed by The Killers)
Released in 2008, “Human” was a song that asked if people really are human or if they’re merely dancers. The reason behind the question was due to the direction the American people were headed which served to become the biggest threat yet against freedom. It was so subtle that hardly anybody noticed. To this day, it seems only half the American population has noticed their nation is in deep trouble of becoming the very thing its founding fathers fought so hard to prevent.
The fight for freedom isn’t just evident among the American people. This is a global issue. Even in 2008, The Killers observed a generation of dancers who seem to be too afraid to take a step out of line. Instead of behaving like human beings, they’re behaving like puppets on a string instead.
On the US Billboard Hot 100, “Human” became a number thirty-two hit. On the US Billboard Dance Club Songs chart, it peaked at number one. It was also a number-one hit in Israel and Norway. Around the world, it was at least a top ten hit among a multitude of nations. In entertainment value and as a reality check, “Human” quickly became a cult classic, especially among a fan base who seem to be in agreement that the dance between freedom and slavery is still as much an issue today as it ever was.
#6 – We’re Not Gonna Take It (performed by Twisted Sister)
In 1984, Twisted Sister released the hard-hitting cult classic, “We’re Not Gonna Take It.” It was a song from the album, Stay Hungry, which actually became their highest-selling single. Certified gold by the Recording Industry of America, “We’re Not Gonna Take It” laid the hammer down that oppression of any kind was no longer tolerated.
On the US Billboard Hot 100, it became a number twenty-one hit. On the US Billboard Mainstream Rock chart, it peaked at number seven. It was also a top ten hit among the nations of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and Sweden. Evidently, fans around the world agreed with Dee Snider that they’re not about to take the legalisms laid out by figures that were abusing their authority.
In 2012, Paul Ryan used “We’re Not Gonna Take It” during Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign until Dee Snider asked him to stop. At the time, Sinder intended to vote for Barrack Obama. However, in 2015 Snider gave Donald Trump permission for him to use it as an official fight song during his 2016 presidential campaign. However, Snider didn’t entirely agree with Trump’s stances so he did make the request to stop having the song played any further.
On several occasions, this song has been used as a fight song in favor of freedom around the world. The aggressiveness behind Snider’s lyrics still draws in some criticism but the whole point behind the song was to stand up for your human right to remain free from dictatorships who have no business telling you what can or cannot do.
#5 – I’m Free (Heaven Helps the Man) (performed by Kenny Loggins)
The music video featuring “I’m Free (Heaven Helps the Man)” showed Kenny Loggins breaking out of prison. As a song about freedom, he pointed out “Heaven helps the man who fights his fears.” Released in 1984, it was the second song coming from the soundtrack, Footloose. Remember, the movie that starred Kevin Bacon was about fighting for the freedom to play rock and roll music in a small town that was set in their ways. Those ways came about after the tragic accident of the town minister’s son but failed to realize doing so meant oppressing a population who didn’t deserve it.
As a song, “I’m Free” peaked at number twenty-two on the US Billboard Hot 100 and at number thirty-one on the Canadian Hot 100. Just like “Footloose,” “I”m Free” became one of Loggins’ signature songs.
What makes “I’m Free” a personal favorite was how it and love go hand in hand. Whether it’s the love of freedom or the freedom to love, the bottom line is every human being was designed to live out their life, however, they see fit. By design, mankind was gifted with free will. What we do with it is up to us and that’s how it should be. We have the right to be free. No authority figure of any kind has the right to dictate otherwise. However, in order to make freedom work it’s about putting love first.
#4 – Chimes of Freedom (performed by Bob Dylan)
In 1964, master songwriter Bob Dylan wrote and performed “Chimes of Freedom.” Another Side of Bob Dylan was an album that featured one of the greatest lyricists of all time sharing his thoughts and feelings. This song was about taking shelter from a lightning storm underneath a doorway after sunset. His solidarity with the downtrodden and oppressed came about not long after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963. Since his iconic recording of “Chimes of Freedom,” it has been recorded by an impressive list of artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Jefferson Starship, and The Byrds.
Shortly after the release of Dylan’s previous album, The Times They Are a-Changin’, “Chimes of Freedom” was written, along with “Mr. Tambourine Man,” while he was on the road. One story has it Bob Dylan typed out the song the day after he visited Bernice Johnson and Cordell Reagon. Also known as the Freedom Singers they often sang on behalf of civil rights. There is, however, a story that the song was handwritten by Bob Dylan before going on tour.
In February 1964, Bob Dylan performed “Chimes of Freedom” for the first time before an audience. He wouldn’t do it again until 1987 when it was revisited for concerts with the Grateful Dead and with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.
Bob Dylan has often used music as a means to share his political and social views in the name of freedom. What actually made “Chimes of Freedom” stand out was the fact it was not a protest song. Instead, it was a reflective approach to something of profound importance.
In 1988, an inspired Bruce Springsteen performed “Chimes of Freedom” during his Tunnel of Love Express tour. It was then released as the title track for his Chimes of Freedom EP. His live cover version became a number sixteen hit on the US Billboard Mainstream Rock chart.
# 3 – America (performed by Neil Diamond)
“America” by Neil Diamond was written and released in 1980 for The Jazz Singer soundtrack. It became a number eight hit on the US Billboard Hot 100 and a number one hit on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. Even in Canada, the song was popular enough to become a number fifteen hit on its Adult Contemporary chart and a number forty-five hit on its Top Singles Chart.
Although technically the song was about the history of immigration to the United States, don’t forget why so many people came to the nation, to begin with. America was founded as a free nation and was fought by the founding fathers to make sure it stayed that way. The Declaration of Independence and the Charter of Rights were designed to ensure the United States of America would remain a free nation. Even then, President George Washington shared the exact same view as President Ronald Reagan about how fragile freedom really is. Just like Reagan, Washington knew all it took was one miseducated generation to take away this fundamental need for a human being.
“America” simply isn’t a song. It’s a statement. The impact it had was enough to become Michael Dukakis’s presidential campaign song in 1988. It was also used to promote the 1996 Olympics. When the Statue of Liberty in New York City was rededicated on December 31, 1999, “America” was performed at Denver, Colorado’s Pepsi Center.
After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Diamond modified “America” near the end of the song to “Stand up for America.” Again, it served as a message that freedom can never be taken for granted. In order to keep it we need to be vigilant about it. That means doing whatever it takes to make sure it doesn’t become a thing of the past.
# 2 – Freedom – Richie Havens
We had to include this famous song by Richie Havens because of the circumstances in which the song was written. In one of the most famous concerts in the history of the United States, Richie Havens took the stage at Woodstock in 1969 in front of an audience of thousands of you men and women who were there to celebrate and protest for the cause of Freedom. The entire song was made up to buy more time because the next act was not ready to perform. Richie Havens made up the song “Freedom,” in the spur of the moment inspired by the cause he was playing in front of. There is no song about “Freedom,” that can be as genuine “in the moment,” as this one.
# 1 – Freedom – Paul McCartney
In the shadows of 9/11when democracy and freedom had taken their biggest attack since World War II, Paul McCartney took the stage at the 9/11 memorial concerts at Madison Square Graden and performed this original song in defiance of terrorism. Like Richie Havens’s song “Freedom,” the lyrics are simple but as powerful as they can get. It was a moment in time that so many of us here in New York and of course around the world will never forget. Paul McCartney and all the wonderful performers and heroes and families of the fallen of 9/11 stood in the Garden that night and gave the finger to those despicable terrorists who tried to take our freedom away.
Top 10 Classic Rock Songs About Freedom article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022
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