Authority is a rather complicated concept. Strictly speaking, it refers to legitimate power. However, there is a lot of music that use authority as a synonym for power. This is a very cynical way of looking at things. Still, chances are good that even the most idealistic of individuals would agree that there is a kernel of truth to this. After all, authority is reliant on people’s belief, which tends to weaken when authority is ineffectual. As such, one could say that authority has a very close relationship with power because power is the actual ability to implement the decisions that those with authority have the right to make. In any case, authority is one of those things that have been preoccupying people since the start of the human experience, so it makes sense that there would be a lot of very memorable songs on the topic.
10. “Killing in the Name” – Rage Against the Machine
“Killing in the Name” is one of Rage Against the Machine’s most famous songs. Even if people know nothing about said band, chances are good that they can guess that said band is anti-authoritarian in their politics. Specifically, Rage Against the Machine is anti-authoritarian from a leftist perspective, so much so that their politics have been described as being revolutionary in nature. Unsurprisingly, “Killing in the Name” is a criticism of authority, having been inspired by the Rodney King case.
9. “I Fought the Law” – The Clash
“I Fought the Law” is older than what interested individuals might expect. After all, it was written by Sonny Curtis in 1958, which was more than six decades ago. Since then, a lot of acts have covered the song, with a particularly notable example being the Clash. In any case, “I Fought the Law” is an interesting reminder of how powerful the state is in modern times. There were countless pre-modern societies that didn’t have prisons at all because such institutions made no sense for them.
8. “Soul Power” – James Brown
Lyrically, “Soul Power” isn’t the most impressive song ever penned. As a result, it is a testament to the power of music as well as James Brown’s ability as a musician that it has managed to connect with so many people with so many causes. The whole thing is particularly remarkable because “Soul Power” isn’t even about power.
7. “Fight the Power” – Public Enemy
“Fight the Power” is Public Enemy’s single best-known song. Moreover, it is often considered to be one of the greatest songs of all time, which speaks volumes about its popularity as well as its cultural impact. Regardless, “Fight the Power” is very much a product of its times, though the themes that it touches upon still resonate in the present.
6. “Fortunate Son” – Creedence Clearwater Revival
There are very good reasons why “Fortunate Son” is associated with the Vietnam War. However, it is important to note that it isn’t specifically about said conflict so much as the unfairness of class as a concept. After all, “Fortunate Son” makes it very clear that the point-of-view isn’t a child of the elite, meaning that they aren’t exempt from the consequences of the choices made by the elite. In any case, the song has proven to be very popular, so much so that it sometimes sees use in very strange contexts. For instance, “Fortunate Son” might be very political in nature. Even so, it isn’t one of those songs that can be slapped onto just any kind of politics.
5. “The Times, They Are a-Changin'” – Bob Dylan
“The Times, They Are a-Changin'” was always meant to give voice to the social movements of its times. In that, Bob Dylan succeeded spectacularly, seeing as how it is still seen as the protest song by a lot of people out there. Moreover, while the song was very much a product of its times, it is also versatile enough that it can remain relevant for decade after decade.
4. “People Have the Power” – Patti Smith
Anti-establishment is a core element of the punk movement. As a result, it makes sense that punk luminaries would have much to say about power. Granted, Patti Smith released “People Have the Power” in 1988, meaning that she was a very different person in those times than when she was one of the pioneers of punk rock as a whole. Regardless, the song has a very straightforward title, which encapsulates a good chunk of the political thinking of recent centuries.
3. “Another Brick in the Wall, Part Two” – Pink Floyd
Education has a transformative effect on people. Naturally, that means that it comes a lot in discussions of authority as well as discussions of power. Having said that, “Another Brick in the Wall, Part Two” is much more specific than just a generic commentary on the education system. This is because it is a protest directed against the abusive practices found in more rigid forms of schooling. Something that was very much influenced by Pink Floyd bassist Roger Waters’s personal experience with such institutions.
2. “We Are the Champions” – Queen
“We Are the Champions” is an iconic song from Queen. Something that still sees a lot of play at sporting events, which makes sense when one considers the lyrics. “We Are the Champions” is a very positive, very uplifting sort of song. Still, there can be no doubt about its power to inspire.
1. “(Something Inside) So Strong” – Labi Siffre
The original version of “(Something Inside) So Strong” was written as well as recorded by Labi Siffre. It was inspired by a couple of things. One would be Siffre watching a documentary about Apartheid in South Africa, which had footage of white soldiers shooting at black civilians. Another would be Siffre’s own experiences as a gay individual. It has been decades since “(Something Inside) So Strong” was released for the first time. However, it remains very much relevant in modern times.