So here’s another in our occasional series about the ways that music is used in society. And for protest, it’s purpose is to provide a unified voice. It’s usually music that sounds purposeful, as if it is on it’s own journey or march, and is optimistic as to the outcome (you could argue that military music has a similar mood). Protest songs can summarise and present an argument, or a goal, in a way that is re-useable by the rest of us – because we can sing it too; and that’s usually what the creators want.

EDIT: We've also recently updated this page to include a couple of new songs, as well as this brilliant news piece from CBC News, to honour the life of singer and musician, Sinéad O'Connor. But be warned folks - it does contain controversial actions from the singer herself.

“The people, united, will never be defeated” exists in many variations. The title alone is used as a chant, a rallying cry perhaps, for a massed crowd. It is originally a folk song, with versions ranging from one person with a guitar, to a full orchestra. It’s a Chilean folk song and here’s an example from Santiago bringing the massed voices and the orchestra together:

Composer Frederic Rzewski (pronounced Jevski) wrote a set of 36 variations for piano, and here’s Igor Levit playing the opening – as it says – with determination:

There are hundreds of other versions – so it’s quite a good way of exploring how different instruments, traditions and musicians interpret the same piece.

A bit of a contrast musically is Black by Sevendust – a protest song about being singled out as a black man in modern society, reminding us that activism can be found in all genres of music:

A hundred years earlier, Dame Ethel Smyth wrote ‘March of the Women’:

The lady doth protest too much, methinks, as we’re sure someone said somewhere!

No protest song list would be complete without The Beatles and John Lennon (separately) sharing their views on the world as they see it. Firstly, The Beatles call for a Revolution and secondly, John Lennon asks us (of course) if they can Imagine a different way forwards...

Protest isn’t just about people, of course; here’s a protest song about the environment from Marvin Gaye from 1971 (see below). In fact, most of the songs on that album are protest songs...

PS as a bonus... arguably one of the most famous protest songs from the last century: