10 Best Rock Songs Written About Historical Events

History doesn't have to be boring if you learn about it by listening to the ten best rock songs written about historical events.  Rock isn't all fast cars and faster women, there are many great songs that commemorate an historic death or recall a world changing event.

  1. Sunday Bloody Sunday  by U2.  This haunting song remembers the 1972 massacre of civil rights protesters in Derry, Ireland, when British Army troops fired on unarmed marchers, ultimately killing 14 men.
  2. Biko by  Peter Gabriel.  Antiapartheid activist Steven Biko's life and death are commemorated in this song.  Biko died while in police custody in South Africa.
  3. All for you Sophia by Franz Ferdinand .  The murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand ( for whom the band is named) by a Serbian rebel leader lead to World War I. "All for You Sophia" takes a lighter look at this historical event.
  4. Run to the Hills by Iron maiden. This song recalls the European settlement of North America.  The verses alternate with the viewpoints of the Cree natives and the European settlers.
  5. Pride ( In the Name of Love) by U2. This song memorializes Dr.  Martin Luther King, Jr., and his martyrdom.  However, the lyrics "early morning, April four, shot rings out in the Memphis sky" are historically incorrect.  Dr. King was killed in the evening.
  6. American Pie by Don McLean. McLean states this classic song is about the death of Buddy Holly in a tragic plane crash, which was "the day the music died." The rest of the cryptic lyrics have left fans guessing their interpretation for decades.
  7. Empty Garden by Elton John.  The bittersweet lyrics of Empty Garden honor John Lennon after his untimely shooting death by Mark David Chapman.
  8. Wind of Change  by Scorpions. What better way to celebrate the collapse of European communism than with this German rock ballad?  Scorpions were the first Western European hard rock band to play in the Soviet Union and they recognized the results of the 1989 revolutions with this song.
  9. Spanish Bombs by The Clash. The Spanish Civil War is the topic of this song.  When the (red) fascists battled the (black) anarchists in Andalucia, Spain who could have predicted such a great song would result 40 years later?
  10. Ohio by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. This song was released in 1970, only ten days after the grim events at Kent State University in Ohio.  National Guard troops fired into a crowd and killed 4 peaceful war protesters.  Two of the students killed were not even part of the protest, they just happened to be walking that way between classes.
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