The top 50 conservative rock songs

Is "conservative rock" an oxymoron? The folks at the conservative journal National Review don’t think so, and neither do I, though I’m mystified by their list of the top 50 conservative rock songs. (NR hasn’t yet made the list available on its website, though it promises to do so tomorrow, complete with iTunes links. Meanwhile, you can read the reprinted list here and the rationale behind it in this New York Times article.)

It’s not that I think rock has to be rebellious against the status quo (and therefore liberal) by definition. It’d be pretty easy to make a list of 50 conservative rock songs just by drawing from the Rush and Kinks catalogues. Still, many of these songs are a stretch. It takes some real wishful thinking/deliberate misreading to read songs by Creedence, the Pretenders, or the Clash as right-leaning. (Criticizing the left from even further left doesn’t make you conservative.) It also takes a tin ear for context and irony. (See a detailed critique of the list here.)

Many of the songs on this list  (and in the rock canon) are neither strictly liberal nor strictly conservative but politically ambiguous or ambivalent — think of the Who’s ”Won’t Get Fooled Again” (No. 1 on the NR list), the Beatles’ ”Revolution,” the Rolling Stones’ ”Street Fighting Man,” Ten Years After’s ”I’d Love to Change the World” — and they’re all the richer for not being politically doctrinaire.

By the way, where’s Ted Nugent on this list? Where’s Charlie Daniels?

And where is the most conservative popular genre of our time, gangsta rap? Here are songs that glorify self-reliance, entrepreneurship, gun rights, and very old-fashioned patriarchal gender roles. Hook the kids on ”All About the Benjamins” or Get Rich or Die Tryin’ today, and they’ll be espousing the economic theories of Milton Friedman tomorrow.


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  • liberalGirl

    Are they kidding? If it were April Fool’s I think it were a joke, but then again most conservatives don’t have much of a sense of humour either. It seems like they are either misinterpreting (sometimes probably on purpose) or taking out of context most of these songs. I’m sure many of these artists would probably be offended to be on this list. If conservatives want people to stop thinking that they are stupid and out of touch, they should stop making lists like this.

  • Sophie

    I have to agree. A lot of those are painfully out of context. “Keep Your Hands to Yourself” and “I Can’t Drive 55″ ? That’s just ridiculous. And any song about divorce or abortion is clearly conservative? Even Wake Up Little Susie,” by The Everly Brothers.The song is about someone who had sex with his high school girlfriend but got busted by the parents; not political at all. Same for almost every song on that list.

  • Kate

    Some fit but a lot are a stretch aren’t they? I’m not quite sure what Bono or John Mellencamp would think about being on this list! Mellencamp seems like more of a populist than anything else; being proud of coming from a small town does not necessarily make you conservative!

  • Charlotte

    Ditto. The list sparks of either disingenuousness or just plain stupidity. Either way, to paraphrase #1 on the list “won’t get fooled – ever.”

  • Charlotte

    Besides, The Pretenders were railing against what has become lately the Wal-marting of America, which is what conservatives want to achieve. That so is so liberal is is beyond the right’s understanding

  • forepac

    The National Review posted the whole list: and it’s even more out of touch than Gary made it sound.

  • Theo

    Rock ‘n’ roll is about everything conservatism is against. This is just some desperate tool at the NJ adding his own interpretation to songs that have nothing to do with them. You’re not cool, you never will be, STFU.

  • Frowny McBeard

    What’s funnier is that a couple weeks ago one of their talking heads was talking about Neil Young’s new album and how it wasn’t as good as “Rockin’ in the Free World,” which “captured the feeling of freedom on the march in ’89 and really ROCKED!”
    Obviously he missed the part that went:
    We got a thousand points of light
    For the homeless man
    We got a kinder, gentler,
    Machine gun hand
    which was a direct attack at the then President Bush.
    It’s easy to paint any rock song as Conservative when you pick two lines out of the middle.

  • MB

    In 2003 I attended a Springsteen & the E Street Band concert in Detroit and saw first hand the lame attempts of conservatives to bogart rock songs as their own.
    In the row in front of me was a group of early 50s Springsteen fans. Throughout the show, they sang along with songs like Badlands, Born to Run, and scores of other Springsteen songs about working class men and women getting screwed over by the rich. This is the same Bruce Springsteen who asked Ronald Reagan to not use “Born in the U.S.A.” on his campaign in 1984. (Talk about misunderstanding the meaning of a song!)
    Twice in the Springsteen show, the Boss advocate his liberal politics: First he shouted that we should impeach the president, later he asked everyone to read Al Franken’s book, “Lying Liars.” Both times the middle agers in front of me yelled for the Boss to “just sing your songs, keep politics out of it.”
    Yes, this was on “The Rising” tour, and yes their idiotic criticism of “keep politics out of it” was aimed at the man who wrote “My Hometown.”
    Conservatives should stick to modern country, after all, they’re the ones who can relate to a song that proudly proclaims the inability to know “the difference between Iraq and Iran.”

  • Jaime

    Quoting from Samuel Coleridge makes you conservative? What the hell?

  • Don

    A little off topic, but…
    Did anyone else think that the use of CCR’s “Fortunate Son” in that patriotic Wrangler jeans ad awhile back was just plain wrong or hilariously ironic?

  • Jon Swift

    There are actually a lot of conservative rock songs. I’ve made a list of 50 more:

  • Dixie Liberal

    Those guys at the National Review don’t understand the South very well, because their reading of the song “Sweet Home Alabama” is anachronistic. In 1976, two years after “Sweet Home Alabama” came out, the good people of Alabama voted for Jimmy Carter. Actually, every Southern state went for Carter.

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  • Kurt Smith

    You worship Brangelina and follow their every move and WE’RE stupid and out of touch?

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