Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Culture
  2. Music & Theatre
25 March 2010updated 11 Sep 2021 7:23am

Top 20 Political Songs

Read the story behind the songs, listen to all 20

By Ian K Smith and Jennifer Thompson

Political songs

Click here to explore our updated 2014 list, with contributions from the New Statesman’s top critics. 

The 20 songs below were voted for by New Statesman readers and members of the Political Studies Association.

Listen to the songs here.

The list, published in this week’s magazine, features spoken word, punk nihilism and folk protest. To listen to the songs, together with a commentary by Jonathan Derbyshire and Professor John Street from the Political Studies Association, go to newstatesman.com/podcasts.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A weekly dig into the New Statesman’s archive of over 100 years of stellar and influential journalism, sent each Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy

Meanwhile, we take you through the top 20 political songs, looking at the ideas that gave rise to them and the reasons for their success. Please feel free to comment on our inclusions, and to point to anything or any songs that we might have missed.

1. Woody Guthrie – “This Land is your Land”
2. The Special AKA – “Free Nelson Mandela”
3. Bob Dylan – “The Times they are a-Changin'”
4. Billie Holiday – “Strange Fruit”
5. Claude de Lisle – “La Marseillaise
6. U2 – “Sunday Bloody Sunday”
7. Eugène Pottier – “The Internationale”
8. Robert Wyatt/Elvis Costello – “Shipbuilding”
9. Sex Pistols – “God Save the Queen”
10. William Blake – “Jerusalem”
11. The Who – “Won’t Get Fooled Again”
12. Rage Against the Machine – “Killing in the Name”
13. Tracy Chapman – “Talkin’ ’bout a Revolution”
14. Nina Simone – “Mississippi Goddam”
15. Marvin Gaye – “What’s Going On?”
16. Gil Scott-Heron – “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”
17. Bob Marley – “Redemption Song”
18. John Lennon – “Imagine”
19. Pete Seeger – “Where Have All the Flowers Gone”
20. Tom Robinson – “Glad to be Gay

Content from our partners
Stella Creasy: “Government’s job is to crowdsource, not crowd-control”
With capacity comes opportunity
On the road to efficiency