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Protest Songs 1955-2005

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Protest Songs of the 1980s


Punk continued on into the '80s, with hair bands and heavy metal becoming famous. Protest songs became more familiarized, and were used to speak out against nuclear war the the U.S. involvement in Nicaragua, but also for everyday things. The Dead Kennedys continued to be a leader in the movement for free speech, eventually breaking up because they went to court for an issue dealing with material distributed in one of their albums. Bad Religion was another major band; but they started during the late 80s and released many of their more important albums in the 1990s.

Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA" was a major protest song, along with Nena's "Ninety-Nine Red Balloons." Originally done in German, the song was protesting the Cold War, and was based on actual events, in which a flock of geese triggered alarms and was shot down from the sky over the Berlin wall. Don Henley's "All She Wants to Do is Dance," surprisingly, was also a protest song.

Excerpt from "MTV Get Off the Air" by the Dead Kennedys

My job is to help destroy

What's left of your imagination

By feeding you endless doses

Of sugar-coated mindless garbage

So don't create

Be sedate

Be a vegetable at home

And thwack on that dial

If we have our way even you will believe

This is the future of rock and roll

How far will you go

How low will you stoop

To tranquilize our minds with your sugar-coated swill

You've turned rock and roll rebellion

Into Pat Boone sedation

Making sure nothing's left to the imagination

99 Red Balloons

99 Decision Street.

99 ministers meet.

To worry, worry, super-scurry.

Call the troops out in a hurry.

This is what we've waited for.

This is it boys, this is war.

The president is on the line

As 99 red balloons go by.

99 Knights of the air

Ride super-high-tech jet fighters

Everyone's a superhero.

Everyone's a Captain Kirk.

With orders to identify.

To clarify and classify.

Scramble in the summer sky.

As 99 red balloons go by.

99 dreams I have had.

In every one a red balloon.

It's all over and I'm standing pretty.

In this dust that was a city.

If I could find a souvenier.

Just to prove the world was here.

And here is a red balloon

I think of you and let it go.

* * *

Bruce Springsteen's Born in the USA

Born down in a dead man's town

The first kick I took was when I hit the ground

You end up like a dog that's been beat too much

Till you spend half your life just covering up

Got in a little hometown jam

So they put a rifle in my hand

Sent me off to a foreign land

To go and kill the yellow man

Come back home to the refinery

Hiring man says "Son if it was up to me"

Went down to see my V.A. man

He said "Son, don't you understand"

I had a brother at Khe Sahn fighting off the Viet Cong

They're still there, he's all gone

He had a woman he loved in Saigon

I got a picture of him in her arms now

Down in the shadow of the penitentiary

Out by the gas fires of the refinery

I'm ten years burning down the road

Nowhere to run ain't got nowhere to go


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Jessi Rawlings :: Michelle Nickolaisen :: Jessica Harrison
Carrie Castor :: Alicia Bradley

Jordan/5th Hour Language Arts

9 Mar. 2005