Honorable Mention: Know Your Rights by The Clash
Not really a song about the American Concept of Freedom of Speech, more of a worldview of universal human rights with their tongue firmly planted in their cheeks.
There's a lot of vague songs out there singing about the concept of Freedom of Speech, but most of those songs run the gamut from patriotic cliches to superficial amateurism. Every great once in a while, though, an artist tries to articulate what Freedom of Speech means to them and hits the hammer square on the head. These are the Top 10 songs EXPLAINING Free Speech.
10. Banned in the U.S.A by the 2 Live Crew
In 1989, the 2 Live Crew came to national attention with the inappropiately catchy Me So Horny. With popularity came the glare of the FCC and soon the 2 Live Crew found themselves in the cross hairs of Florida Governor Bob Martinez. After being tried for obscenity and losing (and then winning on appeal), the 2 Live Crew released this single as a response to those trying to infringe on their Freedom of Speech.
Editor's Note: On the same album, they also released a track called F--- Martinez, which is a bit, uh, less articulate.
9. Illusion of Freedom by Sorrow
Not that you can understand the lyrics, but they're actually quite profound. For a Death Metal band, you usually don't get pointed political insight.
8. Century by Bathory
The late lead singer of Bathory, Quorthon, crams a lot of concepts into 4 minutes of time. By 1995's album Octagon, Bathory's jagged edges had actually softened a bit.
7. Open Letter by Jay Z
Let Jay Z and the Swizz Beats explain it to you.
Y'all gonna learn today
6 Freedom of Speech by Immortal Technique
The Pinocchio Analogy is spot on. Who controls the mechanisms of speech often controls the message. Immortal Technique is still an independent artist today.
5 Eye of the Beholder by Metallica
A serious dissertation of what's considered Freedom for you may not be the same interpretation of Freedom for me. Metallica understood the consequences of limited independence. Two years after the release of ...And Justice for All, Metallica would find its way into the public consciousness by way of the court case Metallica v Napster Inc.
Metallica v Napster Inc? That's a whole 'nother article onto itself.
4. Startin' Up a Posse by Anthrax
A not-so-serious examination of Free Speech, Anthrax had more "fun" with the topic. Lots and lots and lots (and lots) of swearing and tomfoolery.
3. America is My Home by James Brown
America may have it's problems, but...
You got to chance to make it and you got a freedom of speech
James Brown had the right attitude, and the right musical bed.
2. Freedom of Speech by Ice T
Technically it's Ice T and.... Jello Biafra?
After the song Cop Killer was banned, Body Count still sold their self-titled debut without the song. What Ice T did was drop a scathing commentary on Freedom of Speech in Cop Killer's place. The song isn't quite as catchy as Cop Killer, though.
1. Freedom of Speech by Above the Law (Pump up the Volume Soundtrack)
If I was sitting on a pile of money, I would love to re-imagine the 1990 movie Pump up the Volume. I would make it edgier and take away the love story. But what would stay in the Fred Version of PUTV is the single Freedom of Speech by Above the Law. The single captured the essence of what the movie was trying to say while the rappers stayed true to their Atlanta roots. The song stands on its own merits musically and lyrically. James Brown got a songwriting credit on the tune since ATL sampled the song Funky Drummer.....
According to the website WhoSampled, Funky Drummer by James Brown is the fourth most sampled song in musical history.
If you enjoy rap music, you should check out this quote:
"From 5:31 to 5:53 is the equivalent of witnessing the Big Bang happening!!!" - Keith Barrett
Editors Note II: Sometimes Free Speech is uncomfortable.
That's what we were aiming for on this list.