Entertainment Music Antiwar protest songs of the '60s and '70s Popular songs about an unpopular war Share PINTEREST Email Print Music Folk Music Top Picks Top Artists Rock Music Pop Music Alternative Music Classical Music Country Music Rap & Hip Hop Rhythm & Blues World Music Punk Music Heavy Metal Jazz Latin Music Oldies Learn More By Dave White Dave White is a longtime radio DJ and music journalist who covered classic rock for more than four decades. our editorial process Dave White Updated April 12, 2018 The Vietnam war was a dominant musical theme in the '60s and '70s. Antiwar songs were much in evidence at the Woodstock festival in 1969 and were an integral part of virtually every antiwar protest march and rally. Many of these songs were banned from mainstream radio stations but found the perfect audience on the so-called "underground" or "alternative" FM stations that played the albums that became what we know today as classic rock. Here are some of the best examples of the many antiwar protest songs of the era. '2 + 2 = ?': The Bob Seger System Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images All I know is that I'm young and your rules they are oldIf I've got to kill to liveThen there's something left untoldI'm no statesman I'm no generalI'm no kid I'll never beIt's the rules not the soldierThat I find the real enemy Allmusic calls Bob Seger's "2+2=?" "a ferocious antiwar song." Released as a single in 1968, then included on The Bob Seger System's "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man" in 1969, "2+2=?" speaks unflinchingly from the perspective of someone whose high school buddy went to Vietnam and is now "buried in the mud" in "foreign jungle land." '21st Century Schizoid Man': King Crimson Courtesy Island Records Blood rack barbed wirePoliticians' funeral pyreInnocents raped with napalm fireTwenty first century schizoid man The lead track on King Crimson's 1969 debut album, "In the Court of the Crimson King" made a powerful antiwar statement using a series of disconnected phrases which, taken together, formed an image of the Vietnam war: a conflict started and perpetuated by politicians, in which many innocent civilians died. 'Bring 'Em Home': Pete Seeger Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images If you love your Uncle SamBring 'em home, bring 'em homeSupport our boys in VietnamBring 'em home, bring 'em homeIt'll make our generals sad, I knowBring 'em home, bring 'em homeThey want to tangle with the foeBring 'em home, bring 'em home Pete Seeger is one of those artists who crossed genre lines with his strong antiwar sentiments and was welcomed with open arms on the "alternative" stations that would play songs mainstream radio wouldn't touch. "Bring 'Em Home" is just one example of many antiwar protest songs written and/or recorded by Seeger. 'Draft Resister'/'Monster': Steppenwolf Courtesy MCA Don't forget the draft resisters and their silent, lonely pleaWhen they march them off to prison, they will go for you and me Shame, disgrace and all dishonor, wrongly placed upon their headsWill not rob them of the courage which betrays the innocent Steppenwolf didn't shy away from tough subjects like drugs ("The Pusher") or street violence ("Gang War Blues") and they took on two of the most controversial antiwar sentiments. "Draft Resister" was on their 1969 "Monster" album, whose title song took a few more swings at those they blamed for the war: We don't know how to mind our own business'cause the whole world's got to be just like usNow we are fighting a war over thereNo matter who's the winner, we can't pay the cost'Cause there's a monster on the looseit's got our heads into the nooseAnd it just sits there, watching 'Eve of Destruction': Barry McGuire CA/Redferns You're old enough to kill but not for votin'You don't believe in war, but what's that gun you're totin'And even the Jordan river has bodies floatin'But you tell me over and over and over again my friendAh, you don't believe we're on the eve of destruction Had it not been for the hastily written (by P.F. Sloan) and hastily recorded (in one take) "Eve of Destruction," Barry McGuire's musical legacy may well have consisted solely of having once been one of the anonymous voices in the ensemble folk group The New Christy Minstrels. It turned out that the time (late 1965) was right for the lyrically and vocally powerful warning about war's destructive results. 'Find the Cost of Freedom'/'Ohio': Crosby Stills Nash & Young Jack Robinson/Hulton Archive/Getty Images Find the cost of freedomBuried in the groundMother Earth will swallow youLay your body down "Ohio" was the A-side, "Find the Cost of Freedom" the B-side of a Crosby Stills Nash & Young single in 1970. Stephen Stills originally wrote the haunting "Find the Cost of Freedom" for the movie "Easy Rider," but it didn't make it onto the soundtrack. Neil Young wrote "Ohio" after student protesters were shot and killed by National Guard troops at an antiwar rally at Kent State University. Tin soldiers and Nixon comingWe're finally on our ownThis summer I hear the drummingFour dead in Ohio 'Fortunate Son': Creedence Clearwater Revival Creedence Clearwater Revival Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images Some folks are born made to wave the flagThey're red, white and blueAnd when the band plays "Hail To The Chief"They point the cannon at you CCR's 1969 recording of John Fogerty's "Fortunate Son" was released as the war in Vietnam was dominating every TV and radio newscast and the thoughts of virtually every draft-eligible American male. The title refers to those few young men whose families were sufficiently politically connected so as to avoid either combat duty or the draft altogether. The lyric is delivered from the perspective of the large majority: those who were not "fortunate sons" and who had gone (or would be going soon) to war. 'Give Peace a Chance'/'Imagine': John Lennon Cummings Archives/Redferns Everybody's talkin' 'boutBagism, shagism, dragism, madism, ragism, tagismThis-ism, that-ism, ism ism ismAll we are saying is give peace a chanceAll we are saying is give peace a chance John Lennon took a "soft sell" approach, avoiding the graphic images of war or scathing attacks on politicians that were common in Vietnam-era protest songs. "Give Peace a Chance" was Lennon's first solo single, released in 1969. Two years later, "Imagine" was the title song on his second solo album. From then until now, both songs have endured as widely recognized antiwar anthems. Imagine there's no countriesIt isn't hard to doNothing to kill or die forNo religion, tooImagine all the peopleLiving life in peace 'Handsome Johnny': Richie Havens Don Paulsen/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images Hey, look yonder, tell me what you seeMarching to the fields of VietnamIt looks like Handsome Johnny with an M15Marching to the Vietnam war, hey marching to the Vietnam war Richie Havens electrified the crowd at Woodstock in 1969 with his soulful rendition of "Handsome Johnny" after it first appeared on his third album, "Mixed Bag," in 1967. The song was the brainchild of Louis Gossett Jr. (before he became an Oscar-winning actor), who co-wrote it with Havens. 'I Ain't Marching Anymore': Phil Ochs Courtesy Elektra It's always the old to lead us to the warIt's always the young to fallNow look at all we've won with the saber and the gunTell me is it worth it all Phil Ochs literally made a career out of writing and singing protest songs. "I Ain't Marching Anymore" is one of his best known (along with "Draft Dodger Rag," "War Is Over," and "There But for Fortune" to name just a few.) In all, Ochs recorded eight albums of what he called "topical" songs between 1964 and 1975, before committing suicide at age 35 in 1976. "I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-To-Die Rag": Country Joe and the Fish Harvey L. Silver/Corbis via Getty Images Come on mothers throughout the landPack your boys off to VietnamCome on fathers, and don't hesitateTo send your sons off before it's too lateAnd you can be the first ones on your blockTo have your boy come home in a box Joe McDonald's solo performance of his biting satire at Woodstock wasn't planned. He was on stage filling time while acts who were scheduled to perform tried to make it through the massive traffic jams to get there. When "I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-To-Die Rag" (written in 1965 and released in 1967) was featured in the "Woodstock" film and its soundtrack in 1970, it became a fixture in the antiwar protest songbook and one of the songs for which Country Joe and the Fish were best known. 'Masters of War': Bob Dylan Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images You that never done nothin'But build to destroyYou play with my worldLike it's your little toyYou put a gun in my handAnd you hide from my eyesAnd you turn and run fartherWhen the fast bullets fly Bob Dylan took dead aim at what President Dwight Eisenhower had dubbed the "military-industrial complex" consisting of the military, Congress, and weapons manufacturers. "Masters of War" appeared on the "Freewheelin' Bob Dylan" album in 1963, and as America's involvement in Vietnam over the next few years grew, so did the popularity of the song with antiwar protesters. 'Universal Soldier': Donovan CA/Redferns He's the universal soldierAnd he really is to blameHis orders come from far away no moreThey come from here and there and you and meAnd brothers can't you seeThis is not the way we put the end to war Written and recorded by Buffy Sainte-Marie for her 1964 debut album, "Universal Soldier" became a hit after Donovan's version was released as a single the following year. It became one of the best-known entries in his catalog of what he called (in a 2006 interview) "the songs of social change, civil rights, peace, brotherhood, and a great nuclear cloud hanging over the late '50s and the early '60s." 'War': Edwin Starr Waring Abbott/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images Life is much to short and preciousTo spend fighting wars these daysWar can't give lifeIt can only take it away War, what is it good for?Absolutely nothing! Already a successful R&B artist with songs such as "Agent Double-O-Soul" and "Oh How Happy," Edwin Starr crossed genres in a big way with "War." The song, an instant hit when it was released in 1970, is still one of the best-known war protest songs of the era. Bruce Springsteen's 1986 cover had nearly as much chart success as the original.