Bob Dylan – The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan
With the release of this album Bob Dylan cemented himself as one of the leading figures of the 1960s counterculture. Riding the wave of the American folk revival movement Dylan wrote protest songs that sound tracked the turbulent era of the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War. Although Dylan made a departure from this style on his subsequent albums, ‘Freewheelin’ still remains as a brilliant body of work that brilliantly captured the zeitgeist of it’s time.
Key Track: ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’
Gil Scott Heron – Small Talk at 125th and Lenox
This album was described as “a volcanic upheaval of intellectualism and social critique” by Allmusic editor John Bush. Recorded with a live audience in New York on the corner of 125TH street and Lenox Avenue, it features the first recording of Scott Heron’s most prominent and powerful work ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’. This is political music at its most raw and paved the way for many political hip hop artists such as Public Enemy, giving Scott Heron his moniker ‘The Godfather of Hip Hop’.
Key Track: ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’
Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On
Marvin Gaye’s first fully self-produced album is told from the point of view of a Vietnam War veteran returning to America, and seeing only hatred, suffering, and injustice in the country he has just fought for. Gaye’s introspective lyrics discuss themes of drug abuse, poverty, and war. He has also been credited with criticizing global warming before it had fully come to mainstream attention. Such was the power of this album that it received the highest ratings of the year from several leading American publications, including Time, Rolling Stone (who named it “Album of the Year”), The New York Times, and Billboard, who rewarded Gaye with the Billboard Trendsetter Award of 1971.
Key Track: ‘What’s Going On’
Pink Floyd – Animals
Although this may not be the Floyd’s most well known album it is probably their most politically charged. With the rise of Punk as a reaction against the over-indulgence of progressive rock happening after the success of the group’s previous two albums The Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here, Pink Floyd took on a more aggressive and confrontational sound. Although they kept the long extended prog. jams, the songs were more politica
lly charged as the left-leaning Roger Waters questioned and scrutinised the British political system, most explicitly Mary Whitehouse and her fear mongering social conservatism.
Key Track: ‘Pigs (Three Different Ones)’
Sex Pistols – Never Mind the Bollocks
When the Sex Pistols came around everybody was fed up. This was a generation that was promised opportunity, social mobility and a brighter future. The real sense of disillusionment came from the fact that the Labour party, who were in power at the time, were supposed to empower the working class and the failure on their part to do so led to a general feeling of hopelessness. This album perfectly captures the anger towards the establishment that so many felt whilst also remaining witty and satirical.
Key Track: ‘Anarchy in the UK’
Dead Kennedys – Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables
Dead Kennedys were one of the most influential bands in the history of American punk rock, combining dark humor, explicit political rants, and intense erratic music that have spawned legions of imitators. This album features the band at the peak of their powers featuring feel good hits such as ‘Fuck the Poor’ and pleasant travelling songs such as the acutely ironic “Holiday in Cambodia”.
Key Track: ‘California Uber Alles’
Public Enemy – Fear of A Black Planet
By this album Public Enemy had already establish themselves as a prominent force in the beginning of what became known as the golden era of Hip Hop. Fear of a Black Planet contains themes concerning organization and empowerment within the African-American community, while presenting criticism of social issues affecting African Americans at the time of the album’s conception. Its criticism of institutional racism and White supremacy were inspired by Dr. Frances Cress Welsing’s views on color. According to Acclaimed Music, it is the 126th most ranked record on critics’ lists of the all-time greatest albums and it epitomized the resurgence in black consciousness among African-American youths at the turn of the 1990s, amid a turbulent social and political zeitgeist during the Bush administration and South African apartheid.
Key Track: ‘Fight The Power’
M.I.A – Arular
At the turn of the century Britain was going under an identity crisis, one which many would say has only worsened. Britain was finally coming to terms with the fact that it was now a multicultural society and this is perfectly reflected through M.I.A’s debut album. Arular takes its title from the political code name employed by M.I.A.’s father, Arul Pragasam, during his involvement with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, popularly known as the Tamil Tigers; she contends that her father’s “revolutionary ideals” are the album’s thematic base. Before the album’s release, M.I.A. said that audiences found it hard to dance to political songs. This made her keen to produce music that sounded like pop but addressed important issues.
Key Track: ‘Galang’