Every week we choose a selection of tunes to sing you into the weekend and compile them in a post that we call #bottomrightcorner. Since yesterday, 21 March 2013, was Human Rights Day and music may be the most powerful weapon known to humanity, we thought it appropriate to theme this week’s edition peace, equality and revolution. Here’s a list of songs that have protested against wrong-doings and promoted a harmonised co-existence through the beat of an instrument, the chill of a vocal or the poetry of a word, or all.

‘Killing in the Name of’ – Rage against the Machine

Not only do the lyrics to ‘Killing in the Name of’ cleverly portray the sad nature of institutional racism and police brutality — which is sadly fitting to the recent string of events in South Africa — but its feisty guitar riffs actually make you want to get up and fucking do something about it. As you might know, it has enough force to turn Mary Poppins into a riot girl, so make sure breakable valuables near to you are safe. Or don’t, and show people how angry you are.
‘For What It’s Worth’ – Buffalo Springfield

‘For What It’s Worth’ may have later been associated as a protest song against events such as the Vietnam War, but was in fact written by Stephen Stills in memory of an incident less severe but nonetheless disturbing. In November 1966 some sour residents and business owners called for a pre-school-like curfew for club-goers as early as 10pm on the Sunset Strip in LA, which is home to the loud and legendary Whiskey a Go Go. A protest was organised by fun-loving rock ‘n’ rollers almost in a wink of an eye, resulting in about a 1000 demonstrators — among them Jack Nicholson and Peter Fonda — shouting for the right to party. Three weeks after on 5 December, 1966, Stills was musing about the event and came up with the lyrics,

‘There’s battle lines being drawn
Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong’.

‘Imagine’ – John Lennon

Although often accused of naive dreaming-of-utopia, ‘Imagine’ remains one of the most widespread peace anthems. So before we attempt to shoot off a load of cynicism, it’s worth giving wishful thinking a try — it’s generally more satisfying and, although its guarantee for success isn’t bullet proof, it normally gets you further than a fit of negativity can. After all, there’s a reason why the lyrics

‘You, you may say
I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will live as one’

have outlived their author on coffee cups, posters and sugar wrapping. Let’s stay inspired and maybe one day the naive dream will become a miraculous reality.
‘Oxgam/Baxabene Oxamu’ – Miriam Makeba

Miriam ‘Mama Africa’ Makeba or aka the epitome and role model of human rights activism can’t go unmentioned in South Africa after a day that celebrates equality. She got the world to bow in front of her with a tears-of-compassion-and-admiration inducing power that sprung to the fore every time she stepped into public. As a true citizen of the world holding nine different passports throughout her life, she stood up for South Africa and the world, encouraging a humane togetherness with her incredible never-give-up spirit.
‘Zombie’ – The Cranberries

The fact that this song is often heard in a pub/party/puke environment with drunken self-proclaimed heroes sing-shouting ‘zooombieee’ into a smoked-up room, makes it hard to believe that it actually deals with a sourly sad topic. It was written in 1993 in memory of Jonathan Ball and Tim Parry, who were killed in an IRA bombing in Warrington.
‘W.M.A.’ – Pearl Jam

‘W.M.A.’ stands for ‘White Male American’ and deals with the sad reality of police racism. Eddie Vedder said the following about the creation of the song:

‘I think I’d probably stayed at the rehearsal studio the night before and it had been a couple of days since I had a shower and I’ve got my old shoes on and I don’t look too great, a little grunge on my teeth or whatever. And I’m sitting there with this guy who’s of a darker colour than me, and along come these cops, they run around with their bikes trying to look cool. So here they come, they’re heading straight for us. And they just ignored me and [started] hassling him. Compared to me, this guy looks as respectable as f–k. But they started hassling him, and that just blew me the f–k away. So I started hassling them and one thing led to another… I was just really wound up by it. I had all this f–king energy rushing through me. I was mad. Really f–king angry. I got back to the studio and the guys had been working on this thing and I just went straight in and did the vocals, and that was the song.’
‘Raise your Hand’ – Janis Joplin

‘Raise Your Hand’ may not be specifically about human rights because it could just as well apply to a niggly narky little child wanting an ice cream, but pays tribute to the worth of self nonetheless. Originally performed by Eddie Floyd, it became a part of Janis Joplin’s concert repertoire. And who would be more suitable to sing this serenade of self-confidence than the all-powerful and ever-inspiring songstress of the ’60s? So whatever it is,

‘You’d better get up,
Now do you understand,
And raise you hand!’

If the above has got you into the get-up-and-protest mood you should go and do just that: stand up for humanity in harmony. In case, however, you need further motivation, here are some more songs that we found equally important yet didn’t include because of space issues:

‘One Tin Soldier’ – The Original Caste

‘Politik Kills’ – Manu Chao

‘Streets of London’ – Ralph McTell

‘Blowin’ in the Wind’- Bob Dylan

‘Get Up, Stand Up’ – Bob Marley

‘Talkin ’bout a Revolution’ – Tracy Chapman

‘Revolution’ – The Beatles
Words: Christine Hogg