In 1992, country superstar Garth Brooks released the controversial hit, We Shall Be Free which caused an uproar on multiple radio stations. According to Brooks, he released We Shall Be Free as a reaction to the riots that took place in Los Angeles that year. The riots began after the controversial acquittal of four LAPD officers who were caught on camera while beating up Rodney King. The song tackled issues on environmental protection, equality in marriage, indigenous rights, and racism.
25 years into the future, we are still experiencing the wrathful consequences of the racial division all over the world, with America having the highest rates of violence related to racial discrimination. But, it doesn’t mean that in those 25 years, our favorite country music artists have kept their mouths shut on the disparities that continue to build painful gaps between us. In truth, Brooks’ brave attempt then wasn’t the first time artists used their craft to speak up and start a revolution against various problems being faced by society today.
The list below serves as proof of the fearless hearts and passion for peace that our beloved country singers have:
6. Delete and Fast Forward by Willie Nelson
Most country music fans would recognize Willie Nelson’s musicality as an instrument for the artist to express his strong support for marijuana reform. He has been open about his use and support of the cannabis herb, to the point where he wrote and released a song about his frustration over the most recent election’s results.
5. The Pill by Loretta Lynn
The song, with lyrics that go ‘There’s gonna be some changes made, right here on nursery hill/ You’ve set this chicken your last time/ ‘Cause now I’ve got the pill, was released at a time when birth control was a forbidden topic to tackle. The Pill was written in 1975 and then banned shortly after. Lynn’s controversial track drew massive attention to reproductive rights and even presented the pill as an alternative for women who are left with very limited choices when planning their future with or without kids.
4. Red Ragtop by Tim McGraw
In a 2004 poll created by Gallup, it was discovered that among country fans, 60% identified themselves as true-blue Republicans. As such, fans were not particularly amused when McGraw publicly affirmed his support for then-president, Barack Obama. They were not supportive of the country singer’s actions that led to the negation of their causes and beliefs. His song, Red Ragtop delicately implies the right to choose in the face of abortion. Many country radio stations worldwide did not take his message positively and banned the song.
3. The Eagle & the Bear by Kris Kristofferson
Kris Kristofferson used his creativity and talent to manifest his strong dedication to public service and activism. The Eagle and the Bear speak of the pressing concern posed by the hostile presence of the military in Nicaragua. This was during the Sandinista Revolution in the 1980’s. The legendary country singer had taken many trips to and from Central America.
2. Deportee by Woody Guthrie
In 1948, 28 migrant workers were killed after they were deported and their plane crashed while en route to Mexico. At that time, Guthrie took notice of how the newspapers didn’t even bother to discover and identify the victims’ names. Instead, they were all simply referred to in the news as “deportees”. He then chose to put his frustrations into the creation of a song that highlighted the struggles and backlash that the victims, or so-called “deportees” had to face on a daily basis.
1. We Shall Be Free by Garth Brooks
When Brooks released this 1992 hit, he was encouraging all the listeners to embody and work for inclusive rights, peace, and unity. The music video for We Shall Be Free depicted a collage of images and footages of angry Confederates, environmental catastrophes, mistreatment of indigenous people, and religious intolerance. On the song’s 25th anniversary, Brooks revamped the 1992 music video and included present-day revolutionists like Colin Powell and Al Gore.
Songs with such powerful and transcending messages like the ones in this list can be likened to a bitter pill that’s hard to swallow. It exists, and although it can be tough, it is something that we have to face head-on so that we can digest the message that it tries to convey. But more importantly, these songs are not just there to ignite the flames of revolution within us. Rather, it should serve as a continuous reminder to all of us that we all have the power to make this world a truly better and peaceful place to live in.