Conservative Politics & Rock Music

The National Review has published a list of the 50 all time top conservative rock 'n' roll songs. #1 is The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again". Other artist on the list include Beatles, Stones, U2, Rush, Aerosmith, Creed, Metallica, Beach Boys, Dylan and the Kinks.

Here's a link to the list.

I'm not familiar with every song on the list, but I do have a few observations. I find it incredible that only a single non-white artist made the list. A number of the songs have a very cynical bent ("Revolution", "Sympathy For the Devil", "Won't Get Fooled Again", etc.). Is cynicism a purely conservative trait? "Wouldn't It Be Nice" - I always thought it was a spoof of the Ossie & Harriet lifestyle. "I Fought the Law" - the fact that the law won doesn't make this song politically conservative. It's the verbal equivalent of a Born To Lose tattoo. It's giving the system the finger. Also, there are a number of songs that are about abortion, but only one is by a woman. Maybe the slogan should be changed to "Sex, Drugs, Rock 'n' Roll & Birth Control".

Rock music encompasses a vast number of musical styles and it only stands to reason that it would also include a wide spectrum of political beliefs. Rather than actually debating politics per se, I'm interested in responses to particularly songs being on the list and whether you see them a political or apolitical.
How many "non-white" rock & roll groups can you name? Not very many I'd think. This explains why there are not many on the list. It has nothing to do with politics..
Years from now, The New Republic will publish a list of the top 50 all time liberal rap songs. There won't be one from a non-black rapper (OK...maybe one from the Beastie Boys).

Turnabout is fair play.
Rock'nRoll by its very nature and foundation is apolitical. It was funded on rebellion, and giving the system the finger. If you look at the words to old songs from the 50's and 60's when sensorship was in full bloom, there were many references to banned things, Dylan's Tamborine Man for example. I think the concervatives just love to put their tag on anything they can...(Blast away ditto heads) the bottom line is... Rock N'Roll is about rebellion, and finding one's own voice. M2cents
The most conservative pop/rock song I can think of is Graham Parker's "You Can't Be Too Strong".

Or how about XTC's "Respectable Street"?

A Google search produced a number of these lists. Most of these songs, when evaluated as a whole, do not reflect conservative thinking, IMO.
Bowbow, of the 158 performers inducted into the Rock Hall Of Fame slightly more than one third are non-white. Where's James Brown's "It's A Man's Man's World" or "I Don't Want Nobody To Give Me Nothing" as conservative anthems?
At one time I would have found it amazing that The National Review would publish a list like this one but rock music became corporatised a long time ago.

Still, these are the types that thought Elvis was a danger to the nation in 1956. These are also the folks that called the Beatles and others "long haired communist hippie drug anarchists" or something like that.

The National Review can go to hell!
You stole that one from me. My sentiments exactly.
It seems very racist to me to even try applying racial criteria to music.
"Only single non-white artist"???
Is there "supposed to be" a certain propotion of artists with different skin colour?
I'm wondering, why is there not a single Mongolian or Peruvian artist on that list as well?
Same goes for The Hall of Fame, Oscars and everything else.
Nauseating (reverse racism that is).
I'll wait for The Nation's all-time Top 50 listing of liberal country anthems...wonder if Toby Keith or Tom T. Hall will be included...
its obvious the national revue don't 'get it'......they are obviously 'short people' who 'got no reason to live'.
I vote for The Butthole Surfers' "My Beach, My Waves". I don't think you can get more right-winged than that.
James Brown might be in the R&R Hall of Fame, but his nickname is "The Godfather of Soul".

Talk about politics...... James Brown is one of the greatest music artists ever; but was the primary motivation to put him in the R&R Hall of Fame because he was great at rock music; or was it primarily for public relations and political purposes??

We can all name a white soul singer now ... Taylor Hicks.
He also sings R&R songs...

Not many non-latino latin singers either.
Now that I've been defined as a racist, thank you Maril555 (and please, stay nauseated), let me also try to qualify as a sexist for pointing out the paucity of women on the list. I'm writing an angry letter to the Affirmative Action Office at the National Review.
Boa, it's funny you mention "You Can't Be Too Strong". It was the first thought I had, too.

Also, Billy Joel's "Angry Young Man".
These are also the folks that called the Beatles and others "long haired communist hippie drug anarchists" or something like that.

Actually, it was "long-haired commie pinko fags". I speak from experience being an ex-lhcpf.

And I agree, the National Review just does not "get it".
I agree that the National Review just "doesn't get it." "Won't Get Fooled Again" is the anthem of the most anarchistic rock and roll group that ever lived! It is NOT a conservative anthem. Pete punctuated many a performance by his auto destruction routine and attitude. WGFA may be cynical about the "revolution" but you can bet there is no love for the current establishment. WGFA is not about a celebration of conservatism or the establishment. It is an angry and frustrated statement about the despair you suffer if you try to overthrow it. Pete expressed it much better in "My Generation". "Why don't you all fade away!" and of course "Hope I die before I get old" which you could probably substitute a less poetic "Hope I die before I get conservative." The Who and the vast majority of their work is all about "sticking it to the man."
I agree, Jimburger, but I also think reading the National Review article, and specifically the comments about "Won't Get Fooled Again" might be in order, simply because it's hard for me to believe anyone who knows anything about that song would consider it a pro-conservative, pro-establishment song.

As you say, it was entirely anti-establishment.
Bob Dylan is conservative? It was republicans who pushed/forced desegregation, and the black vote in the south, which was one of his issues, but BD conservative??? As much as I love Bobby, I've never seen it, unless someone is gonna combine Christianity and Conservatism, which is short sighted, and inaccurate.

U2, conservative, I've got almost everything they've done, and I don't see/hear conservatism. They are strong in the 'peace' at any cost movement which is hardly conservative. They were vocal advocates for Desmond Tutu, and the bomb maker Nelson Mandela. Neither of them are conservative!!!

BTW my favotrite Rock and Roll hall of Fame memeber is Mahalia Jackson. Oh the irony!
Please let me state my point of view that I am conservative but came in through the back door as I would say I was once a radical socialist. The reason most of these songs are selected is that most of the people selecting them are white males that listened to this type of music. That is just my opinion. I think the majority of conservative musicians would be country, and heavy metal myself. I bet the people that picked the songs do not listen to either.

To quote the article in NA on "Won't Get Fooled Again":

"The conservative movement is full of disillusioned revolutionaries; this could be their theme song, an oath that swears off naive idealism once and for all."


"the best number by a big band, and a classic for conservatives."

Pete has said in an interview documented in the video "30 years of Maximum R&B" that the Who in their prime "were ugly, ignorant, violent, assholes." Their message was closer to destruction and anarchy than traditional conservative values. But, the National Review may have been right. WGFA could serve as an anthem for frustrated NEO-Conservatives who want to destroy the world to save it.
quite recently john fogerty had 'fortunate son' pulled from an ad...even though it could have paid over 1m in royalties to him personally. john kay recently did the same with 'born to be wild' in a paris hilton tv show.......small victories, but victories just the same.
why aren't the friggin hollies in the hall of fame?????????
Cynicism is a long held component of most progressive thinking, generally it goes along with a strong dose of idealism. While most of these songs definitely contain a strong dose of cynicsm, where is the idealism here. I always thought rock n' roll was supposed to be fun, no fun here!
05-25-06: Jimburger
To quote the article in NA on "Won't Get Fooled Again":

"The conservative movement is full of disillusioned revolutionaries; this could be their theme song, an oath that swears off naive idealism once and for all."
Conservatives seem to be the masters of spin. To use WGFA as a conservative anthem would certainly be spin at it's most masterful. Frankly, I doubt many attendees of conservative rallies would listen to and comprehend the words beyond the chorus.
You are right, onhwy61, conservatives and rock makes as little sense as white kids from the suburbs playing folk music. or an British guy singing the blues.
Tvad there you go again with your wilfull ignorance.
05-25-06: Nrchy
Tvad there you go again with your wilfull ignorance.

BTW, my comment about not listening and comprehending song lyrics is equally applicable to attendees of liberal political rallies.

This irony about not listening to lyrics always resurfaces at Christmas when rock radio stations (and now moldy oldy stations) play Emerson, Lake and Palmer's "I Believe In Father Christmas", which is a lovely hummable tune, but is actually an indictment of how shallow and nihilistic the Christmas holiday has become. I wonder if radio stations would continue to play the song if more people understood its meaning?

OK, you don't know how often I've thought of posting this exact thread, but I've valued the apolitical tone of Audiogon too much to risk it. Let's face it, different genres of music do attract different types. Country and Christian are mostly conservative. Classical, jazz, folk, and electronica are mostly liberal. But rock? I would certainly hope that rock is the one genre that has no political stigma. Case in point: I saw Santana live last summer. During a break, he made a point to promote world peace by highlighting the weaknesses of the current U.S. administration. Half the crowd stood up and cheered wildly, and half remained seated. Let's not spoil the beauty of good rock songs by attempting to tag them with a political ideology.
Tvad, I take exception to your characterization of Christmas
as having become "shallow and nihilistic." It is people who are shallow and nihilistic, and that is as old as time. Some of us turn to God for release from these conditions and find it.

What could be more "shallow and nihilistic" than rock music?
I really don't get some of the comments above that move from the premise that rock and roll has strong anti-establishment roots to the assertion that someone with a political viewpoint defined as conservative in today's political vernacular can't legitimately understand certain songs in a way that resonates with their beliefs.

Rock and Roll is the province of one American political party or ideology? Please, this is ludicrous. Conservative political ideology is the synonymous with the establishment or "the man"? Also ludicrously simplistic: American society is diverse, with the establishment comprised of people with all sorts of political leanings. (Indeed, the New York Times is far more part of the establishment than the comparatively obscure National Review.)

If a self-described conservative wants to find meaning in a song, more power to him. If a liberal is so inclined, likewise. It just seems way over the top to me that some with a certain political leaning are trying to exclusively claim an entire genre of music.
Have to be careful here.As someone who ca't afford 1/10 of what most systems folks have I once complained about the high cost of LP collecting on Ebay just in past two years (since so many newbies joined and LP's have gone up from two or three times and some times multiples thereof)I got attacked for being against the captitalist system,Adam Smith and the whole American way of life.Golly!!!What a surprise there would be so many conservatives in a hobby where we discuss if a meter of cable is worth $2K or not.I am sure tere some "limosine Lberals" but again this "hobby" is so stupidly overpriced (I sold hi-end for 6 years) I should be suprised.So those people who are out there and think my freiund who lives on $12K due to disablity is a "loafer" and to think every one who now sucks cigars was't sucking joints ( or like the Prez. glugging th Chivas that helped wash down the blow he was snorting) were all not listening to Pat Boone but to the WHO and Jefferson Airplane so WHO could be suprised?If this country had only supported jazz musicians better in the 60's so many wouldn't have left for Europe and amybe we'd have had more recordings.But top think that now the "kids" listening to Charlie Parker would now be in thier 70's if not 80's is scarry as maybe this post id given it reminds one of how time flies by/Quuestion is will RAPPERS be given the mention poets like Dylan in 40 years.Can't imagine given the messsage (or lack thereof other than to make money) of contained what that will mean and how fucked will will really be then.40% of "kids" up to 25 can't find Iraq on a world map.But I doubt it's the klds who parenmts own $300,000 systems but who knows maybe they'll all be dmb and even the technocrats that get sent to college will end up like Devo "DE-evolving".
The funny thing about this is I rarely hear the lyrics when I listen to music. When I hear The Police's Synchronicity II I think of the Hagler/Duran fight.
Ah, politics and audio, what a swell thread. Where's Mrtennis when we need him most?
I don't know why the Hollies are not in the Hall. They should be. Politically I would describe "Bus Stop" as a working class oriented song. People taking the bus to work, very proletariat.

"You Can't Be Too Strong" - not at all clear why it's political let alone conservative leaning. To me it's not clear that it's pro or anti abortion. Very good song by a strong artist, but not sure if he's Hall worthy. But then there's what I call the "Blondie Rule". If Blondie is in the Hall, then a whole pack of other artist should also be inducted.

My original comment about race is entirely appropriate. Rock was originally call "race music" because it was created by and catered to colored (non-white) people. I believe the the Rock Hall of Fame roster is a fair reflection of the contribution of non-whites to the history and development of the music. There's also no reason to presuppose that non-whites as a group have a distinct political leaning. They could just as well be conservative as they could be non-conservative. Hence I am suspect of any list of rock's greatest that doesn't reflect some of rock's diversity. When someone writes "how many non-white rock groups can you name?" I interpret it as a comment by someone who is ignorant of rock's history and blind to its current manifestation. But then again, may be the problem is how one defines rock music. I take the approach that it encompasses everything from Chuck Berry, the Four Seasons, Motown, the British Invasion, psychedelia, disco, New Wave, Punk, Grunge, Rap, Electronica etc. I'm a big tent sort of guy when it comes to rock. Others may have much narrower definitions and like their musically categories well segregated. How else could someone seriously question whether James Brown belongs in the Rock Hall of Fame?
What? No Neil Young? I'm another former lhcpf (though the US Army took care of the lh for a couple of years, since then nature has taken care of the rest...) Now, how many versions of 'God Bless the USA' are there?
Race (social construct or not) and rock-n'-roll no longer need to be in the same discussion (IMO). Yes, many forms of music can be traced directly back to black culture (be that South Eastern US or Africa) as well as many other non-white cultures. Asside from knowing and enjoing the historical significance of the roots of the music why does this matter? Every category and genra you think has been established has been "eclecticized" and otherwise expounded upon.

Rock-n'-Roll Hall of Fame is the measuring stick by which teh deaf (no offense to tthe hearing impaired - really) judge rock music. Can you say minnor attraction in a boring city?

I have been surprised at the great difficulty in pigeon-holing people on the criteria of politics, musical taste, race, IQ, and SES. I know an ultra-conservative who absolutely loves Neil Young and is incredibly intelligent (two qualities I would not normally associate with ultra-conservatives). I know a earthy/hippy farmer woman who has a Bush sticker on her little chicken truck.

Rock is neither conservative nor liberal, it is both conservative and liberal, it is apolitical... it's freakin' rock. Music (rock or otherwise) is an expression of its creator that would not acheive "pop" status without something catchy or otherwise mass-apealing. Most people don't catch nor care to catch the message of any given song. They want something they can hum too. Otherwise WEEN would be more popular.

The National Review, Rush (the junky, not the band), and Fox "News" are all just forums for ultra-conservative masturbation. Surprisingly some of these guys have decent taste in music. I guess you can't judge a book by it's political affiliation.
Totally agree with Onhwy61 about the myopically parochial definitions of what constitutes "rock" music, and the cause: ignorance (and/or revision) of history -- if not downright narcissism, or yes, racism. (Don't anybody get their pants in a twist! In this society we are all, every last one of us -- black, white, whatever -- racists to varying degrees, meaning we prejudge and assign qualities and catagories to people based on our perceptions and preconceptions about race; it's our unavoidable inheritance, and only a question of our honesty and consciousness whether we acknowledge it.) Just an accurate reflection I'm sure of the racial/political/socioeconomic makeup of an audiophile website...

As for the topic at hand (and let me stipulate to being, if not always doctrinaire "liberal" or particularly supportive of the Democratic party, at least in no way Republican-leaning myself), I agree with those pointing out the actual or likely social/political stances of many of the artists listed. This apparent dichotomy is indicative of a perfectly understandable desire to personally "possess" the art one values, and any artist eventually comes to understand (unless they check out prematurely in disgust like Kurt Cobian) that once you put it out there in the world, your work *will* be taken as something other than what you intended by people with whom you violently disagree. Multiply that factor by the confounding, often contradictory definitions -- depending on who is doing the defining -- of what is "liberal" and what is "conservative", and you quickly see that almost anything can go.

One example will illustrate this perfectly, "My City Was Gone" by Chrissie Hynde and The Pretenders. I have little doubt that Ms. Hynde probably abhors Rush Limbaugh and all that he stands for, but he evidently loves her music. There is really no contradiction in that -- music is universally appealing, and a good beat plus a memorable bassline knows no political boundaries. As for the lyric, the list presents the song as a complaint against big government:

Virtually every conservative knows the bass line, which supplies the theme music for Limbaugh's radio show. But the lyrics also display a Jane Jacobs sensibility against central planning and a conservative's dissatisfaction with rapid change: "I went back to Ohio / But my pretty countryside / Had been paved down the middle / By a government that had no pride."
I admit to having no idea who Jane Jacobs is -- nor do I suspect that I'd want to -- but my interpretation, which I quite naturally see as being much more reasonable and true to the artist's intent, is that Hynde is probably anti-development and pro-environment, and rails against a government she describes as having "no pride" because it failed, maybe due to corruption among other things, to protect the natural world as she knew it when she was younger from capitalistic exploitation and destruction. Am I right?

I don't know for sure, but I do know this shows that oft-repeated, overly-literal nostrums such as "conservatives are the ones against change and for preserving tradition" are highly conditional statements at best, empty or even misleading sloganeering at worst. But I also smell a whiff of cynical dishonesty on the part of the authors: I think they know damn well that it's generally not conservatives -- as that philosophy is projected by the modern Republican party and for whom the listmakers presumably carry water -- who decry paving over and developing countryside in this nation (the "exurbs" of costly, widely separated "McMansions" exploding around the previously rural areas outside my own city -- an instance of "rapid change" if ever there was one -- are dominantly populated by white dittoheads with SUVs in every driveway). But even that fact is not devoid of irony or interpretation: Any farms that were lost were probably owned by self-described conservatives, yet who probably accepted big government subsidies to grow their crops and sought government protections to help sell them in artificially regulated markets, while the Interstate roadway system that helped beget the whole situation is a classic case of big government that has been well-supported by administrations of both parties.

What does all this really have to do with rock and roll? Probably not much. At base, rock is about S-E-X. If they're true to their proclaimed philosophies -- or even just seeking publicity -- then conservatives should (and sometimes do) have a problem with rock because it's immoral or ammoral, while liberals should (and sometimes do) have a problem with it because it's sexist or exploitive. Which only goes to show that, since we all seem to like the music anyway, we are driven by deeper urges than ostensibly political/social ones.
the best rock is always in defense of the everyman who gets put upon by everyone from cruel lovers to the government. it sickens me think that chrissie hynde hasn't pulled that tune(we can only hope she doesn't control the publishing). as for 'father christmas'....much like 'happy xmas-war is over', and lots of great christmas rock from the seventies, its cynical and hopeful all at the same time. the good stuff usually is.
Well said, Zaikesman! While I would consider myslef more conservative than liberal, the bottom line is that music appeals to everyone. In addition, most groups on the list probably donate their time, money and efforts to Democratic causes and are outspoken critics of the current Administration.

May I also offer an observation: That, with the exception of the Nixon presidency, Democrats controlled all branches of government in the US from 1960-1980. "The Man" as it were, were Democrats back when most of these songs were written and performed.
There's a good reason why religion and politics are taboo at dinner parties.

Please pass the asparagus...
This is pretty much all bullshit. Rock and roll first was used by the black community as a phrase for what many of us white folk have come to know as the horizontal bop. So, I say the best rock is that which appeals to our basic human drive for sex. Last time I checked, communist, facist, martian, etc. where all looking for sex. Therefore, the attempt to claim rock and roll for ANY political agenda is very much disenginuous, IMO.

For the record, I'm somewhat fiscally conservative, social moderate, and almost as sexually active as I was 30 years ago. :)
For the record, I'm somewhat fiscally conservative, social moderate, and almost as sexually active as I was 30 years ago
Yes, but are you a middle-aged, white male, with a pot belly and a Cracker Barrel club card? Because if not, you ain't no true audiophile.
Hmmm...I recently broke personal taboo and ate what turned out to be a really great breakfast at a Lexington, KY Cracker Barrel just minutes from the Thiel factory (where Republican memorabilia is hung on the reception area walls and Rush Limbaugh holds forth from radios on the factory floor). Yes, I saw my share of middle-aged, pot-bellied white males eating in there that morning (at a child-free -- although admittedly child-like -- 41 years old, and still about 15 lbs. shy of the 200 threshold, I don't place myself in that catagory *quite* yet), but from what insignia I could see on their shirts or hats most were either horsemen or Toyota plant employees, and none struck me as too likely to listen to their country music through Thiel's speakers...
I have a "Run Hillary Run" bumper sticker on my Envoy, but it is on the FRONT bumper :)
41? Child-free? 15lbs shy of the 200 threshold? What, are we twins? Now I suppose you're gonna tell me you like tailgating to Stryper, and long walks on the beach with your Mexican Hairless?
You almost have me pegged, Boa2. :) Given a choice I will by-pass Cracker Barrel for any place that has real farm fresh breakfast food. I used to listen to Rush but stopped after the entertainment value of it wained. He did help me to realize I'm not nearly as conservative as I once thought.

Back OT, I do wince from time to time over the lyrics of some songs and the political ramblings of some artists. However, if I enjoy the music they still get played at my house.
For the record, I'm somewhat fiscally conservative, social moderate, and almost as sexually active as I was 30 years ago
Still ain't gettin' any, eh?
In 1971, a very conservative high school buddy of mine who joined the YAF and read Pravda for laughs like I read National Lampoon, expressed loathing for The Who & rock music in general, but grudging admiration for the cover art of Who's Next (depicting the band zipping up after pissing on a cement monolith). At age 15 my conservative schoolmate often remarked that in truly free society rid of government intrusion, any citizen would be allowed to drop trow in a public place and urinate as he pleased. As this conversation between us boys typically occurred under pressure of a full blatter after caging liquor from his dad's wetbar, I confess that despite my liberal bias I tended to agree with his priciples. So today I must conclude that in 1971 I was a closet conversative.

Yeah, thanks National Review, now I get it: the Walrus was Richard Nixon. No doubt the underlying convervatism of The Who is also proved by the use of "Happy Jack" in the soundtrack of the Hummer commercial-- perhaps even more so by Pete Townshend's recent brush with the law over kiddie porn.

Envoy:MPG (city) 16
MPG (highway) 22
MPG (combined) 18

Tvad; the dinner party comment is what all the folks who go irrational and throw labels at us want. It leaves the self-rightous forums to themselves.
It leaves the self-rightous forums to themselves.
Unclejeff (Threads | Answers)
Ironically, if you look carefully, 80%-90% of the threads on Audiogon fall under the umbrella of "self-righteous"...whether the topic is politics, religion, or a clever little clock.

Kinda funny, really.