Music for Social Change: Rage Against The Machine


This might sound like something an over excited secondary school kid will shout at their teacher when they ask them to spit out their chewing gum, but it is in fact the lyrics of 2009 Christmas number one, Killing In The Name Of by Rage Against The Machine.

Rage Against The Machine are an american rock band that formed in 1991 and since then have tried to change the world with their music though various protests and campaigns. They are famously anti-war, anti-most politics and anti-consumerism and have reflected this in their lyrics written by lead singer/rapper Zack de la Rocha who also believes that anger can be used to change what you want to change and what should be changed, “Anger is a Gift” is a famous lyric whispered in the song Freedom. They have taken part in many protests around the world and have even used them as the basis for their videos, sometimes setting them up so they can use them in their music video. A great example of this is shown in the video for Sleep Now in the Fire which actually managed to force  the New York Stock Exchange to close for trading at 3:00.

This effectively shows what music can do when people really out their minds to it. They have caused many other disturbances that have meant that they have had to be pulled from TV shows or cut broadcasts short. On the morning of December 17th 2009 they played a slightly censored version of Killing in the Name on BBC Radio 5 live to support the Christmas number one campaign but managed to repeat “FUCK YOU I WONT DO WHAT YOU TELL ME” four times before it was pulled from the air.

Another way they have tried to force change is by using provocative images as album covers. The self-titled debut album  featured Malcolm Browne’s Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of Thích Quảng Đức, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, burning himself to death in Saigon in 1963 in protest of the murder of Buddhists by the US-backed Prime Minister Ngô Đình Diệm’s regime.

What they show really well is that you can sing and dance all you like about a subject you feel strongly about but unless you actually do something it will never change, this is relevant to us and these projects we are doing because we can make pictures and films about these issues we want to change but unless we actually do something about it nothing will ever change. Don’t just film a protest take part in it, don’t take pictures of charity work, do it. That being said the documenting of these events is very important and one we, as media producers must take as a serious responsibility.


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