10 Greatest Anti-war Songs In Rock

War! What is it good for?

Black Sabbath
Warner Bros.

Music as a means of protest had its heyday in the 1960s. The American folk scene in particular had a predilection for denouncing foreign policy, showing support for civil rights and preaching anti-war sentiment.

This was a time when acoustic guitars and clever wordplay were the go-to tools for getting a message across. But with all the contention that came with the Vietnam War, a litany of artists from across the musical spectrum lent their voices to the objections.

Vietnam might have been what sparked the anti-war song, but sadly Vietnam was not the last war. Rock music has always been about giving the middle finger to authority. When the authorities are committing atrocities, sending young men and women to die, there isn't many better targets for bands to channel their anti-establishment rage at.

Folk musicians might have been the earliest pioneers of this form of protest, but there's nothing like adding a few electric guitars into the mix to help get your point across.

For a genre that at times has been synonymous with celebrating the more hedonistic and less noble aspects of society, it's also given us some inspiring anti-war songs over the years.

10. War - Bruce Springsteen (1985)

No one can deliver a message quite like 'The Boss'. Originally this track was written by The Temptations and made famous by Edwin Starr. The later version is the most well known rendition and was an infectiously hard-hitting funk number with Starr giving one of the most soulful vocal deliveries of his life.

But, when Springsteen covered it he gave it that American-heartland rock edge. There was no word mincing with this track, there was no need for metaphor, no clever analogies. It simply denounced war utterly with the hook, "War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothin'!"

Springsteen's live version was released as a single in 1985, going on to be a staple of his sets during the '80s. But Springsteen didn't overdo it, retiring the track for over a decade until the powers that be invaded Iraq in 2003.

Springsteen has never been one to bite his tongue and brought the song back with a vengeance, playing impassioned versions for several shows in protest against the American governments overseas involvement in the Middle East.


Before engrossing myself in the written word, I spent several years in the TV and film industry. During this time I became proficient at picking things up, moving things and putting things down again.