Musicians have expressed their rebellion against society’s norms through hairstyles, makeup, clothing, tattoos, piercings, and outrageous behavior. But beyond all these superficial trappings, they’ve expressed rebellion through enduring song lyrics. These lyrics span subjects ranging from rebelling against politics to rebelling against your parents for asking you to do something as ridiculous as cleaning your room. These songs and their lyrics are rallying anthems that get our adrenaline flowing, our fists pumping, release our frustrations, and give us the guts to fight back. Here are a few of those songs:
“We’re Not Gonna Take It” by Twisted Sister
This rollicking 1984 hit, with its call-to arms chorus and lyrics like, “We’ll fight the powers that be/Just don’t pick our destiny/’Cause you don’t know us, you don’t belong,” crossed genre lines to become a universal battle cry. Penned by singer Dee Snider, he said the lyrics were inspired by the glam rock band Slade, the Sex Pistols, and the Christmas carol, “O Come All Ye Faithful.” Strange ingredients that formed a potent, rebellious brew.
“Anarchy in the U.K.” by the Sex Pistols
Throw a dart at just about any Sex Pistols’ song, and you’ll hit one with lyrics about rebellion. But this fierce song was one of the most blatant—the title says it all. And lyrics like, “I am an antichrist/I am an anarchist/Don’t know what I want/But I know how to get it/I wanna destroy the passerby” hammer the point home. When singer Johnny Rotten was writing the song, he first came up with the lyrics, “I am an antichrist.” Unable to think of anything that rhymed with “antichrist,” he devised the now-infamous sneering pronunciation of “an-ar-KHIST.”
“Revolution” by the Beatles
This was the first Beatles song containing bluntly political lyrics, including, “You say you want a revolution/Well you know/We all want to change the world.” John Lennon’s lyrics were inspired by his relationship with politically oriented Yoko Ono, and 1968’s social turmoil. Paul McCartney was concerned the political lyrics would clash with the Beatles’ style, but those lyrics went on to profoundly influence many generations.
“(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party!)” by the Beastie Boys
One of the Beastie Boys’ best known songs, its lyrics are packed with teenage rebellion: “Your pops caught you smoking and he said, “No way!”/That hypocrite smokes two packs a day…/You gotta fight for your right to party!” Although its lyrics became the motto of millions, the song was meant to parody party and attitude songs. Upset that audiences misinterpreted the satire of the lyrics, the band hasn’t played the song live since 1987.
“My Generation” by The Who
This classic song’s angry lyrics may sum up teenage rebellion better than any other: “Why don’t you all fade away/And don’t try to dig what we all say.” The lyrics expressed youths’ frustration that older people “didn’t get it.” Pete Townsend supposedly wrote the song in a fury on a train after the Queen Mother had his 1935 Packard hearse towed because she was offended by the sight of it.
These songs and their lyrics—among many others—express our feelings of rebellion when we can’t quite put them into words. And they’re just plain great to listen to, as well!