1. Woody Guthrie, “The Land Is Your Land”
Written in 1940, Guthrie’s classic ode to the country he loved is arguably the definitive American political song.
2. The Honeydrippers, “Impeach the President”
A favorite of hip-hop producers and DJs, “Impeach the President” has been sampled for years. It’s also a fun, funky indictment of President Richard Nixon from a particularly absurd time in American politics.
3. Syl Johnson, “Concrete Reservation”
One of soul’s unsung heroes, Syl Johnson’s classic gives a sad, beautiful look into the plight of inner-city black life in the ’70s.
4. Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers, “We The People”
Brown’s funky, energetic political anthem helped set the stage for urban music in DC for decades to come, launching the new musical form of Go-Go that’s become a mainstay of the city’s music scene.
5. Junkyard Band, “The Word”
One of JYB’s earliest hits and easily one of the most recognizable Go-Go tracks ever made, “The Word” gave voice to black youth living in the nation’s capital in the ’80s.
6. Bad Brains, “The Youth Are Getting Restless”
Bad Brains was one of the most influential punk bands to come out of DC’s hardcore scene in the ’80s, and this classic melds the energy of punk and soul of reggae that became their signature sound.
7. The Dead Kennedys, “California Uber Alles”
The Dead Kennedys were one of the leaders of the political punk movement in the ’80s, and this driving, lampooning of California Gov. Jerry Brown became an anthem for angry youth across the country.
8. Public Enemy, “By the Time I Get To Arizona”
Arguably the greatest hip-hop protest track ever written, “By the Time I Get To Arizona” was a rallying cry for young America against Arizona Gov. Evan Mecham’s refusal to recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day.