Song Stories

“White Riot”

The Clash | 1977

When riots occurred in the Notting Hill section of West London in 1976, Clash members Joe Strummer and Paul Simonon joined in, hurling rocks at police. The riot, sparked by racial divide and the attempted arrest of a pickpocket, inspired this punk tune about white complacency in the face of oppressive government. While some criticized the band for lyrics they thought advocated violence ("I wanna riot"), Strummer told Rolling Stone the band wasn't violent -- even if their music was. "We're against racism and fascism," he said. "I'd like to think that we're subtle."

Song Stories Main

Song Stories

“Wake Up Everybody”

John Legend and the Roots | 2010

A Number One record by Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes in 1976 (a McFadden- and Whitehead-penned classic sung by Teddy Pendergrass) inspired the title and lead single from Wake Up!, John Legend's tribute album to message music. The more familiar strains of "Wake Up Everybody" also fit his agenda. "It basically sums up, in a very concise way, all the things we were thinking about when we were putting this record together in that it's about justice, doing the right thing and coming together to make the world a better place," he said. Vocalists Common and Melanie Fiona assist Legend on this mission to connect.

More Song Stories entries »