The 1960s and 1970s were turbulent times filled with political unrest, civil rights protests, and of course the Vietnam War.
Music in this era often reflected the turmoil on a global scale, with songs that addressed war and peace issues directly.
Here we will explore some classic 60s & 70s songs about war as well as those that protested it that remain powerful today.
Get ready to be taken back in time to an era of peace marches and protest anthems!
Top 27 Powerful 60’s And 70’s Songs About War & Anti-War Protest Songs
Re-live history! Discover the timeless anthems of the 60’s and 70’s war protest movements.
1. ‘Search and Destroy’ – Iggy Pop & The Stooges
“Search and Destroy” by The Stooges is a revolutionary punk rock anthem that captures the raw rebellious attitude of the era.
It serves as a defiant statement against societal norms, calling for a revolution through its powerful lyrics and hard-rocking guitar riffs.
Musically, the song is an explosive mix of aggression and defiance highlighted by Iggy Pop’s intense vocal delivery.
The song has become an iconic representation of punk rock, with its popularity still growing for decades since its release. Its relevance to the genre makes it a must-have for any playlist made in tribute to punk music.
2. “Gimme Shelter” – The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones’ 1969 classic “Gimme Shelter” is an iconic rock anthem about the turbulent times of the late 1960s—a time of civil unrest and the looming threat of nuclear destruction.
The song was written by lead singer Mick Jagger and guitarist Keith Richards, and its powerful lyrics combined with a hard-hitting instrumental arrangement have made “Gimme Shelter” a timeless classic.
3. “Paint It Black” – The Rolling Stones
“Paint It Black” is a classic rock song recorded by The Rolling Stones. Written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, it was first released as a single in 1966 and featured on the album Aftermath.
The song features driving electric guitar riffs and somber lyrics about heartbreak, making it an enduring hit among rock fans of all generations.
4. “Eve Of Destruction” – Barry McGuire
Released in 1965, Barry McGuire’s “Eve Of Destruction” is a protest song that reflects upon the fear and uncertainty caused by the Cold War.
The lyrics describe a world filled with war, poverty, social unrest, and biological weapons which paints a grim look into our future.
Musically, it is known for its simple structure and guitar-driven sound backed by a distinctive organ drone. It has since become an iconic representation of anti-war sentiment and the troubles of the era.
5. “Vietnam” – Jimmy Cliff
Jimmy Cliff’s song “Vietnam” is an impassioned call for an end to the Vietnam War.
It speaks to the importance of a people standing up for what they believe in, despite powerful forces arrayed against them, and reflects the spirit of resilience that has been seen throughout history.
The song was released in 1970 and went on to become one of Cliff’s most famous works.
6. “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” – The Animals
The Animals’ song “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” was released in 1965, and is considered to be one of the greatest rock anthems of all time.
The group’s lead singer, Eric Burdon, wrote the lyrics with a deep sense of frustration after he had volunteered to tour with the American Army and experienced firsthand the starkly different racial climates.
With its anthemic chorus of “We gotta get outta this place if it’s the last thing we ever do,” “We Gotta Get Out Of This Place” remains a thought-provoking classic for generations to come.
7. “Leaving on a Jet Plane” – John Denver
“Leaving on a Jet Plane” is a song by American singer-songwriter, John Denver. Released in 1969, the single reached number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and sold over 2 million copies across the world.
The heartfelt lyrics depict the bittersweet emotions experienced when separating from someone you love.
This classic folk tune remains beloved for generations and continues to be covered by artists both old and new today.
8. “2 + 2 = ?” – The Bob Seger System
The track was written and performed as an antiwar anthem during the Vietnam War, questioning why people would go to war, rather than find peaceful solutions to conflict.
With its message of using rational thought and understanding to end the war, it has become one of the most iconic songs from the era.
9. “21st Century Schizoid Man” – King Crimson
“21st Century Schizoid Man” by King Crimson is a powerful war protest song from their 1969 album “In the Court of the Crimson King”.
The song features intense, angular guitar riffs and sharp drumming that echo the chaotic atmosphere of war. Robert Fripp’s vocals are also full of despair, signifying the horror of conflict.
Lyrically, the song is an ode to those who have experienced trauma related to war – it speaks of alienation, desolation, and numbness in response to warfare.
It effectively captures both the tragic reality of war and its devastating psychological effects on those caught in its midst.
As such, it has become a timeless anti-war anthem that continues to serve as an expression against violence and destruction caused by conflict today.
10. “Bring ‘Em Home” – Pete Seeger
Pete Seeger’s “Bring ‘Em Home” is a powerful antiwar protest song that has been widely embraced by alternative radio stations across the world.
The seemingly simple lyrics are delivered with urgency and passion, reminding listeners of the cost of war on both those fighting and those caught in its wake.
The message itself is universally understandable, asking for an end to the conflict and that our troops be brought home safely.
The song remains just as relevant today as when it was first released, with Seeger’s hope that we all can find peace through understanding rather than through violence.
11. “Draft Resister” – Steppenwolf
“Draft Resister’/’Monster” is a song recorded by rock band Steppenwolf in 1968, expressing the group’s antiwar sentiment during the Vietnam War.
The lyrics draw on the imagery of wild animals as metaphors for war and its effects, offering an in-depth exploration of the horrors of human conflict.
With its iconic guitar riffs and powerful message, this song has become a classic anthem of peace and justice.
12. “Eve of Destruction” – Barry McGuire
Written and performed by Barry McGuire, “Eve of Destruction” is a 1965 protest song that speaks of war, nuclear destruction, poverty, inequality, civil rights and more.
The lyrics highlight the dangers facing humanity at the time and express McGuire’s despair for the future.
Appearing on the album White Lightning in late 1965, it topped both U.S. and UK music charts and made McGuire an international star overnight.
13. “Find the Cost of Freedom” – Crosby Stills Nash & Young
This song became a unifying anthem for the generation during the Vietnam War and is still a staple of classic rock radio stations today.
The track expresses freedom as something that comes at a cost not only in terms of literal war casualties but also in personal sacrifice inherent in forging one’s own path during turbulent times.
14. “Ohio” – Crosby Stills Nash & Young
“Ohio” by Crosby Stills Nash & Young tells the story of the Kent State massacre in 1970 when members of the National Guard opened fire on students protesting US intervention in Vietnam.
The song’s lyrics and iconic imagery would become a powerful anthem for the anti-war movement and a reminder of the tragedies that go hand-in-hand with war.
15. “Fortunate Son” – Creedence Clearwater Revival
“Fortunate Son” is a classic rock hit from Creedence Clearwater Revival. The song was released in 1969, and it quickly became a revolutionary anthem for the anti-war movement of the 1960s.
With its driving beat and socially conscious lyrics, “Fortunate Son” is considered one of the defining songs of its era.
16. “Give Peace a Chance” – John Lennon
John Lennon’s song “Give Peace a Chance” became an anthem for the antiwar movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s.
The iconic track was released in 1969, just one year after protests against the Vietnam War had peaked across the United States and elsewhere.
With its call for world peace, respect for civil rights, and experimentation with musical styles, the track came to embody a young generation’s rejection of traditional authority
17. “Imagine” – John Lennon
John Lennon’s iconic song “Imagine” is a powerful anthem for peace and anti-war sentiments. The song calls for a world without violence or borders, one where everyone lives in harmony and love.
He sings of hope, urging listeners to imagine the possibilities that would come if we all just embraced peace.
As its timelessly relevant message still rings true today, “Imagine” remains an important testament to Lennon’s legacy as a leader of the anti-war movement.
18. “Handsome Johnny” – Richie Havens
Richie Havens’ iconic anti-war song “Handsome Johnny” became popular in the late 1960s, coinciding with the Vietnam War protests.
The song tells the story of Johnny as he is drafted into the war and forced to fight in Vietnam against his will.
Havens was an activist and he used this song to not only tell a powerful story but also to protest against the brutality of modern wars. It remains an important part of musical history and is regularly performed by acts today.
19. “I Ain’t Marching Anymore” – Phil Ochs
The protest song “I Ain’t Marching Anymore” by Phil Ochs is an iconic folk anthem that has endured throughout the years.
Written in 1965, the song speaks of dissatisfaction at war and revolt against oppressive government policies, and its words still resonate today.
The song caught the attention of civil rights activists and was used as a rallying cry for anti-war demonstrations during the Vietnam War era.
Its lyrics are now seen as an eternal protest against inequality and injustice.
20. “I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-To-Die Rag” – Country Joe and the Fish
“I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-To-Die Rag” by Country Joe and the Fish is an antiwar protest song. The track serves as a commentary on the Vietnam War and the political incompetence surrounding it.
It was released in 1967 and stands as one of the quintessential songs of that era due to its vivid imagery, damning lyrics, and singalong chorus.
21. “Masters of War” – Bob Dylan
Released in 1963 as part of Bob Dylan’s second album, “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan”, the song “Masters of War” was a strong condemnation of those responsible for the Vietnam War.
The song is one of Dylan’s most iconic songs and continues to be an anthem for those calling for peace.
With its powerful lyrics and protest nature, the song is an unforgettable reminder of the cost of war and has been covered by many famous musicians over the years.
22. “Universal Soldier” – Donovan / Buffy Sainte-Marie
Donovan’s “Universal Soldier” is a classic protest anthem written in the early 1960s. It speaks to the plight of all people – regardless of nation, creed, or gender – who are forced into taking part in the horrific carnage of war.
The song has been covered by artists such as Buffy Sainte-Marie and Glen Campbell and continues to stand as an anti-war call to arms even today.
23. “War” – Edwin Starr
Edwin Starr’s “War” is widely recognized as one of the most influential war protest songs in history. The song powerfully conveys the senselessness of war and serves as a reminder that violence only begets more violence.
With its powerful message and emotive delivery, the song remains relevant today, more than 50 years after it was released.
24. “For What It’s Worth” – Buffalo Springfield
Buffalo Springfield was a rock and roll band from the 60s formed by Stephen Stills, Richie Furay and Jim Messina.
One of their classic hits was “For What It’s Worth”. The song gained massive traction after it served as an anthem for youth protesting against the Vietnam War.
To this day, it remains one of the most recognizable songs of its era.
25. Blowin’ in the Wind – Bob Dylan
Written and recorded by singer-songwriter Bob Dylan in 1962, “Blowin’ in the Wind” is an American folk classic that carries a timeless message of peace and understanding.
The song has had many covers since its release, and it is still celebrated among music fans for its simple yet powerful lyrics about war, human rights, racism, and freedom.
26. The War Drags On – Donovan
This folk-rock tune tackles the struggles of soldiers fighting in the war, and how it drags on even after their death with no end visible in sight.
The lyrics capture the despair of war and showcase Donovan’s take on the Vietnam War and World War I.
27. “Monster”- Steppenwolf
Steppenwolf’s 1968 classic hit “Monster” tells the story of a motorcyclist in search of freedom and adventure.
Featured in the film Easy Rider, the song’s powerful lyrics gave audiences an insight into biker culture of the 1960s.
The hard-rocking track fused blues and electric rock to create a memorable sound backed by a biting harmonica solo.
Here are some questions and answers for 60’s and 70’s songs about war and war protest songs:
What was a popular protest song from the 1960’s or 1970’s?
“Blowin’ in the Wind” by Bob Dylan was a popular protest song from the 1960’s or 1970’s. It addressed themes of war and social justice and became an anthem for the civil rights movement.
Which song was often heard during protests in 1960s?
The song “We Shall Overcome” was often heard at civil rights marches, anti-war protests and other iconic moments during the 1960s.
Adapted from traditional gospel songs, it quickly grew to become a powerful anthem for civil rights leaders, including Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and remains an integral part of protest movements today.
What is the greatest protest song of all time?
Answer: Many consider the protest anthem “We Shall Overcome” to be the greatest protest song of all time.
Written in 1945 by American folk singer Pete Seeger, it has since become an international symbol of freedom and the struggle for civil rights, equality, and justice.
What are 5 popular songs in the 1960s?
The top 5 most popular songs from the 1960s are
- “Hey Jude” by The Beatles,
- “Satisfaction” by The Rolling Stones,
- “Light My Fire” by The Doors,
- “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” by Otis Redding,
- “A Hard Day’s Night” by The Beatles.
What song best represents the 1960s?
One of the most iconic songs of the 1960s is “Hey Jude” by The Beatles.
It encapsulates many of the ideals and feelings from this time period with its inspirational lyrics empowering listeners to carry on in troubled times and its groundbreaking musical style.
It is a timeless piece of music that will forever go down as one of the most representative tunes from the ’60s.
In conclusion, the 1960s and 1970s were a period of immense change and social upheaval.
Music played an instrumental role in galvanizing public opinion and giving expression to the emotions of thousands of people opposed to war and eager for peace.
Songs such as Edwin Starr’s “War” and Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” remain powerful reminders that music can effect positive change in the world.
We all can learn from the past in order to create a better future.