20 Songs About Rebellion

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Written By Julia Mehalko

Julia is a music journalist with a passion for retro songs. She holds a degree in journalism from University of Nevada.

There are many songs that have been written about rebellion in various ways, though all of these songs deal with the desire to resist authority or societal norms in some way. In this list of 20 songs about rebellion, we share songwriters’ views on different types of rebellion.

Therefore, you’ll see songs that explore the theme of teenage rebellion against parents and authority figures, as well as great songs about rebellion against government or society!

1. “Rebellion Rises” by Ziggy Marley

First, let’s discuss the Ziggy Marley song “Rebellion Rises”. This song follows Marley as he talks about rebelling against hate, injustice, and more. Basically, anything that fuels hate — whether it be society, the government, or people in power — should be rebelled against. Instead, Marley pushes that we should spread love.

He sings the lyrics, “Call up on all people to reject the principles of hate / And rebel against those doctrines and the violence that they create / They say time changes everything but we change times.”

2. “Rebel Rebel” by David Bowie

“Rebel Rebel” by David Bowie is perhaps one of the best songs about rebellion! Bowie released this song on his 1974 album Diamond Dogs. “Rebel Rebel” has long been praised as a song that calls for rebellion against societal norms, as well as gender and sexual conformity.

For example, the song opens up with the lyrics, “You’ve got your mother in a whirl / ‘Cause she’s not sure if you’re a boy or a girl.” 

3. “Rebel of the Underground” by 2Pac

In 2Pac’s 1991 song “Rebel of the Underground”, 2Pac raps about growing up in the inner city and some of the struggles he faced in his youth. However, he also raps about how he’s different from everyone else — and he’s not one to mess with.

Through these thoughts and ideas, 2Pac also explains that he’s a “Rebel of the Underground”. Therefore, 2Pac explains that he rebels against societal norms and what others expect from him!

4. “He’s a Rebel” by The Crystals

The Crystals released their song “He’s a Rebel” on their 1962 album of the same name. In this song, The Crystals sing about a man they love who everybody says is a rebel. However, they love him regardless of what others think.

They understand that he goes against societal norms, but they don’t care. The girl group sings, “When he holds my hand, I’m so proud / ‘Cause he’s not just one of the crowd / Why is he always the one / To try the things they’ve never done?”

5. “Freedom” by Rage Against the Machine

Rage Against the Machine’s 1992 song “Freedom” is one of the best songs about rebellion against the government. In this rock song, the band tells the story of a Native American activist who was arrested and put in prison for two consecutive life sentences — even though there are allegations of planted evidence and misconduct by the police in this case.

Therefore, this song details the inhumane and hateful way many Native Americans are treated. The band wants to tell this story and spread awareness through their music and words. The singer says, “Solo, I’m a soloist on a solo list / All live, never on a floppy disk / Inka, inka, bottle of ink / Paintings of rebellion drawn up by the thoughts I think.”

6. “Rebel Heart” by Rod Stewart

Rod Stewart released his song “Rebel Heart” on his 1991 album Vagabond Heart. Stewart sings about a girl that he meets and wants to be with in this rock song. However, the girl doesn’t necessarily want to be with him!

She’s not interested in him at all, and Stewart eventually begins to call her a “Rebel Heart”. In this way, Stewart explains that she goes against the norm when it comes to romance and relationships — or, at least, in relationships with him!

7. “He’s a Rebel” by Donna Summer

Donna Summer’s 1983 song “He’s a Rebel”, which appeared on her album She Works Hard For the Money, also discusses rebellion. Summer sings about a man that she’s attracted to who is definitely a rebel. As a result, he doesn’t conform to societal rules, which makes others try to bring him down. However, they don’t succeed.

Summer sings about him, “He’s a rebel and he doesn’t conform / That’s for sure.”

8. “Babylon System” by Bob Marley & The Wailers

“Babylon System” by Bob Marley & The Wailers, released in 1979, talks about oppression, slavery, injustice, capitalism, inequality, and so much more. Marley sings about how people should no longer allow the government and authority figures to control what they do — especially considering we don’t get anything out of it.

He compares this idea, of working and not being able to have a piece of the pie, to slave labor. Therefore, he ends up singing, “’Cause we’ve been trodding on your winepress much too long / Rebel, rebel / And we’ve been taken for granted much too long.”

9. “Soul Rebel” by Bob Marley & The Wailers

We’ve got another Bob Marley & The Wailers song! “Soul Rebel”, which was released on the 1970 album Soul Rebels, also discusses rebellion. This song opens with the lyrics, “I’m a rebel, soul rebel / I’m a capturer, soul adventurer.” This song talks about the beauty of a rebellious spirit — even if people end up gossiping about you.

10. “Burning” by Sam Smith

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VhhNgQbBikU

Sam Smith’s 2017 song “Burning” is a great example of a rebellion song that talks about love and romance. However, this popular song can also be seen as someone struggling to deal with their personal life — and how this can then negatively impact their romance.

Dealing with a breakup, Smith sings, “I’ve been smokin’, oh, more than twenty a day / Blame it on rebellion, don’t blame it on me.”

Therefore, this modern song discusses how many rebel when they are hurt and aren’t necessarily thinking straight. This song could also be seen as alluding to teenage rebellion, when many teenagers go out of their way to smoke because their parents won’t let them!

11. “She’s a Rebel” by Green Day

Green Day released their song “She’s a Rebel” on their 2004 album American Idiot. In this song, the band sings about a girl who is a complete rebel. She fights for what she believes in and doesn’t care what people think.

The band sings about her, saying, “She’s a rebel, she’s a saint / She’s the salt of the Earth, and she’s dangerous / She’s a rebel, vigilante / Missin’ link on the brink of destruction.”

12. “Here Come the People In Grey” by The Kinks

“Here Come the People In Grey” by The Kinks, first released in 1971, details injustice which then leads to rebellion against the government and society. The song opens with the narrator talking about how the “people in grey” have taken away his home and belongings.

Obviously, this has upset him. So, he then says that he and his partner are going to run away and live in tents to try to escape these people (who work for the government).

However, eventually, the narrator begins to talk about rebellion. The band sings, “I’m gonna pass me a brand new resolution / I’m gonna fight me a one-man revolution, some way / Gonna beat those people in grey / But here come the people in grey / To take me away.”

13. “Rebel Without a Clue” by Bonnie Tyler

Bonnie Tyler released her song “Rebel Without a Clue” on her 1986 album Secret Dreams and Forbidden Fire. In this song, Tyler sings about a romantic relationship that has left her feeling like a “Rebel Without a Clue” when they’re apart.

So, she tells her partner to be with her — and not leave her. She doesn’t know who she is without this other person by her side. She’s always a rebel, but without her partner, she can’t be who she really is.

She sings the lyrics, “Rebel without a clue / I don’t know what to say and I don’t know what to do.”

14. “Wild Rebel Rose” by Martina McBride

Martina McBride’s 2009 song “Wild Rebel Rose” opens with the lyrics, “Wild Rebel Rose / The kids used to tease you / Wild Rebel Rose / Every time they’d see you in those black turtle necks in mid-July / Wearing too much makeup ’round your eyes.”

McBride goes on to narrate a story of a young girl, “Wild Rebel Rose”, who was seen as a rebel and outcast by other kids growing up. The narrator lived across the street from her and seemed to know her better, however. For example, the narrator knew that this young girl had issues with her father.

The song continues to explain how this girl ended up shooting her father, likely in self-defense — and the narrator covered it up for her.

15. “Teenage Rebellion” by The Gaslight Anthem

“Teenage Rebellion” by The Gaslight Anthem sees the band’s singer talk about romance and rebellion he faced when he was seventeen. While this song doesn’t explicitly discuss rebellion against parents, it does hint that the person he likes is going through their own rebellious phase.

As a result of all of this, the singer details how this person is going to break his heart. He knows this — and would just like it to happen sooner, rather than later.

16. “Night of Rebellion” by INXS

INXS released their song “Night of Rebellion” on their 1982 album Underneath the Colours. In this classic rock song, many interpretations and meanings can be found. However, the singer does mention rebellion when singing to someone who seems to think that they themselves are “sacred”.

The band sings, “Not talking only want action / Once you give in you are through / This is the night of rebellion.”

17. “Red Tide” by Rush

“Red Tide” by Rush, released in 1989, is another great classic rock song that discusses rebellion! Rush sings about a variety of different problems that average human beings face daily now in this modern world. However, for the most part, this song has to do with global warming, pollution in the air, and taking care of nature better.

The singer expresses his worry that we are too far gone to now do anything about nature dying. He sings, “Too late for debate, too bad to ignore / Quiet rebellion leads to open war.”

18. “Rebel Heart” by First Aid Kit

First Aid Kid’s 2018 song “Rebel Heart” opens with the lyrics, “You told me once I have a rebel heart / I don’t know if that’s true / But I believe you saw something in me / That lives inside you too.”

As the song progresses, we learn that the singer doesn’t understand why she continues to run away — from love, life, and possibly everything. Is it because she’s a rebel and has a “Rebel Heart”, even though she feels that she doesn’t truly know herself? She struggles with this question.

19. “Rebels” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

“Rebels” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers appeared on the 1985 album Southern Accents. Petty narrates a story of an alcoholic man who continues to cause his spouse to leave him because of his actions. Through this story, the man narrates his life history and how he’s a rebel.

Petty sings, “Yeah with one foot in the grave / And one foot on the pedal / I was born a rebel, born a rebel.”

Therefore, this man says that his whole entire family line was full of rebels. This is just who he is — and who his entire family was, for good and for bad.

20. “You’ve Got to Stand For Somethin’” by John Mellencamp

Finally, the last song on this list of rebellion songs is John Mellencamp’s 1985 song “You’ve Got to Stand For Somethin’”. Mellencamp sings about many bands, people, and things he has seen throughout his life. Through this, he mentions rebellion.

He sings, “I saw Marlon Brando / On a motorcycle / He was actin’ out rebellion.”

As the song progresses, Mellencamp explains that all people have to stand for something. If they don’t, he says that these people will easily fall. In a way, he’s asking people to rebel against society and truly stand for what they believe in — rather than stand for something halfheartedly!