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9 World-Changing Protest Songs and the Artists, Like Prince, Who Sang Them (Video)

Some were great, some inspired great things, but all are ingrained in our souls

With the release of his song “Baltimore,” Prince has joined a long line of musicians who stepped up and lent their voices to protest, or called attention to tragic events and social injustice.

Prince’s song “addresses the unrest in Baltimore and the socio-political issues around the country in the wake of a slew of killings of young black men,” according to a spokesman. On Sunday, Prince headlined  a “Rally 4 Peace” concert in honor of Freddie Gray, who died while in police custody.

We’ve compiled a list of nine songs that have made an impact on the world from artists including Bob Marley, Neil Young, Bob Dylan and Lady Gaga.

We know you won’t agree with the list; we’re counting on that, in fact. Tell us which songs moved you, and the world. Here are some well-known artists and the songs they felt needed to be sung:

Lady Gaga, “Born This Way”
An unapologetic supporter of all LGBT-related causes, Lady Gaga dressed as her male alter ego Jo Calderone for a period of time, even performing in drag at the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards. “Born This Way,” the title track of her second full-length album in 2011, spent six weeks atop the Billboard charts and was the first top single to mention transgendered people.

Rage Against the Machine, “Killing in the Name”
The rap-rock band Rage Against the Machine exploded onto the scene in 1992 with their debut single “Killing in the Name.” Anger infuses the musical tirade against racism and police brutality. It was as simple as the song’s defiant final line — “Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me” — for crowds to get behind it.

Bob Dylan, “Hurricane”
It was a long time after “Blowin’ in the Wind” that Bob Dylan sang out in 1975 for Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, a pro boxer imprisoned for a murder he said he didn’t commit. Dylan’s song became a hit, and kick-started public awareness. A decade later Carter, who died last year, was freed on a writ of habeas corpus after serving 20 years. His story was also dramatized in the 1999 film “The Hurricane,” starring Denzel Washington.

Steven Stills, “For What It’s Worth”
The song’s haunting intro and its take on paranoia is inextricably linked to the Vietnam War era, but Steven Stills actually wrote “For What It’s Worth” in 1966 to support Sunset Strip hippies fighting cops over a curfew. It broke out as a hit for Buffalo Springfield and launched the careers of Stills and Neil Young.

Neil Young, “Ohio”
After four unarmed students were shot and killed by Ohio National Guardsmen in the 1970 Kent State massacre, Neil Young saw a photo of 14-year-old Mary Ann Vecchio kneeling over the dead body of Jeffrey Miller. His statement was “Ohio,” and defined “the cost of freedom.” Bandmates David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash got the song out in days and it became an anti-war anthem.

Bob Marley, “Redemption Song”
The singer, who rose to fame singing about injustice in his home country Jamaica, had recently been diagnosed with cancer when he wrote this gentle and reflective anthem. It borrowed the lines “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery/None but ourselves can free our minds” from activist Marcus Garvey. Also noteworthy is Marley’s 1974 song “Them Belly Full (But We Are Hungry)” which delivered the message that “a hungry mob is an angry mob.”

Barry McGuire, “Eve of Destruction”
The United States had just become involved in the Vietnam War and the Cuban Missile Crisis had brought Americans to the brink of nuclear war when Barry McGuire covered the P.F. Sloan’s “Eve of Destruction.” It became a No. 1 hit and a rallying cry for proponents of the 26th Amendment to the Constitution, which changed the voting age from 21 to 18.

Edwin Starr, “War”
In terms of sales, this was one of the most popular protest song of them all in the last three decades.Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong wrote it for Motown in 1969 for the Temptations. Fans wanted a single from the album, but the label decided it would alienate conservative fans of the group, so Whitfield recorded it with Edwin Star and it went to No. 1. It did again in 1986, when Bruce Springsteen and the E Street band covered it.

Mahalia Jackson, “We Shall Overcome”
This song became the soundtrack of the American civil rights movement None sung it better or with more feeling than Mahalia Jackson, who worked closely with Dr. Martin Luther King and sang at his funeral. Notice the power Jackson infuses the song with, even when she steps away from the mic.

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