Don’t Stop the music – the sounds of social justice movements

The remake of Fleetwood Mac's classic song Don’t Stop is a call to keep fighting against the polluting companies causing climate change. Why? Because music has fuelled movements for decades. Here are the soundtracks to the world’s biggest fights for justice.


Greenpeace is no stranger to using music in its campaigning, with 50 years of working with music’s biggest icons. We can now add an iconic remake of Don’t Stop to the list.

Produced by Grammy-winner Fraser T Smith, the reinvention of the classic Don’t Stop by Fleetwood Mac features music from youth jazz ensemble Tomorrow’s Warriors, vocals from the House Gospel Choir and gut-punching lyrics from lauded grime artist Avelino.

Watch the full film accompanying the song, directed by Samona Olanipekun, exec-produced by Steve McQueen and starring Will Poulter:

Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow

Together we can stand up to the fossil fuel industry.

Join the movement

Music has been inspiring people to keep fighting for their rights for decades. And those fights themselves have inspired some of the world’s best and most enduring music.

Here’s a musicological journey through the world’s biggest movements for justice.

The enduring songs of the civil rights movement

Music had a central role in the US civil rights movement of the 1960s.

Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) himself lauded jazz and blues as “triumphant music”, giving sound to struggle and hope to those who hear it. 


“An artist’s duty is to reflect the times… I choose to reflect the times and the situations in which I find myself. That to me is my duty. And at this crucial time in our lives, when everything is so desperate, when everyday is a matter of survival, I don’t think you can help but be involved. Young people, black and white, know this – that’s why they’re so involved in politics”
Nina Simone Tweet this

Standout tracks from the era include the quietly rousing 1965 Impressions song “People Get Ready” – which MLK named the unofficial anthem of the civil rights movement.

“Calling out around the world / Are you ready for a brand new beat? / Summer’s here and the time is right / For dancing in the street”
Martha and the Vandellas, ‘Dancing in the Street’ Tweet this

Other notable songs include Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come”, the folk music of Odetta (“The Voice of the Civil Rights Movement”) and “Strange Fruit” by Billie Holiday, later covered by Nina Simone. 

Nina Simone talks here about the duty of artists to “reflect the times”, as she did:

Music can be moving, and in the case of much music with strong themes of racist brutality, deeply affecting. But some civil rights movement songs were also uplifting. “Dancing in The Street” gave energy to the movement. Released in 1964, the year of Freedom Summer (a drive to increase Black voter registration in Mississippi), it became a call to action:

Anti-war movement music

From the early ‘70s, many of the same civil rights protest-era musicians were giving voice to the anti-Vietnam War movement. 

Bob Dylan is probably the most iconic of the anti-war musicians. But Marvin Gaye catapulted his label Motown Records into political music-making with “What’s Going On”. 

“Picket lines and protest signs / Don't punish me with brutality ”
Marvin Gaye, ‘What’s Going On’ Tweet this

The call against police brutality is sadly as relevant today as it was back then.

Rock against Racism, London, 1978

It wasn’t just over the pond that music was rising up against racism. 

Grassroots group Rock against Racism organised an all-day event in East London’s Victoria Park in 1978, headlined by Tom Robinson and The Clash. Its aim was to campaign against the threat of the National Front gaining electoral power.

Black Lives Matter – music against police racism and violence

In recent years, Kendrick Lamar’s Alright became the go-to chant at Black Lives Matter protests across the US. The empowering chorus united voices against police racism and violent oppression.

Afrofuturism and Afrobeats

The electronic sounds of Detroit techno has roots in Afrofuturism – the African-American science fiction imagery deployed in music and film.

Hollywood Marvel superhero epic Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is Afrofuturistic, helping to overturn stereotypes, reclaim the past and reimagine the future for Black and African people.

The Black Panther: Wakanda Forever soundtrack features Tems, a Nigerian Afrobeats singer-songwriter, who brought the genre to the global mainstream.

Afrobeats brought electoral issues to the dancefloor in Nigeria ahead of their 2022 elections, following in the political footsteps of artists like Fela Kuti.

Electricity by Pheelz and Davido, highlights Nigeria’s lack of electricity – setting the agenda for politicians to solve the problem and change lives.

Sounds of revolution and political protest

Music can also be a literal call to revolution. 

A song started Portugal’s bloodless Carnation Revolution of 1974. The radio played “Grândola, Vila Morena” by Zeca Afonso – an influential political folk musician and singer who was banned from the radio at the time. People heard the song and emerged from their homes to put carnations in the barrels of the soldiers’ guns.

“My people are still suffering. Hundreds of thousands have been killed. All we want is to live without fear, and for West Papua to become a free and independent country. Please hear my people cry for help.”
Benny Wenda, 'Papua Mederka (Free West Papua)' Tweet this

In pre-independence Zimbabwe, Thomas Mafumo (“The Lion of Zimbabwe”) created a whole new genre called Chimurenga (“liberation” in Shona). His songs called for the violent overthrow of the colonial government, with lyrics like “Mothers, send your sons to war.” In the Mugabe era, most of his songs continued to be political, dealing with poverty and other social issues.

In Hong Kong’s protests, protesters often broke out into one song – “Do You Hear The People Sing” from Les Miserables. They also sang together from the city’s tall buildings at night – uniting by voice when they couldn’t in the street.

And in 2020, top musicians from all over the world created Papua Merdeka (“Free West Papua”). The song features spoken word from the ousted leader Benny Wenda and singing by Maria Wenda, his wife. They live in exile in the UK, fighting for their island’s independence from Indonesia.

Artists including Coldcut, Tony Allen and Dele Sosimi told the story of West Papua to music lovers everywhere – many of whom might not have heard of it otherwise.

Indigenous rap, metal and folk

There are around 7000 distinct languages in the world. Indigenous languages make up around 4000 of the total. As many as a fifth of all languages, many Indigenous, are vulnerable or endangered. But Indigenous Peoples continue to voice their struggles through music sung in their mother tongues.


“Voice of the streets, I do it for my people”
Moko Koza, ‘Made in Nagaland’ Tweet this

Moko Koza from Nagaland in India, sings in three languages – English and two local dialects, Nagamese and Tenyidie. He performs in front of the government and military that his songs criticise. “It makes me feel very tense,” he says. “But I know that I have to do it, they need to hear these messages.”

From Brazil, Kaê Guajajara’s Essa Rua É Minha (This Street Is Mine) fuses Rio-style funk and Indigenous flute, with electrifying results.

Australia’s First Nations have also used music to demand their rights:

And First Nations from Canada to New Zealand are using hip-hop to call out their struggles.

Culture and language are clearly no barrier to sharing great music. Brazilian Indigenous DJ Eric “Marky” Terena played at Glastonbury 2022, as he often does at international climate meetings and protests – in full regalia.

Sounds of nature – and its destruction

Gojira wrote Amazonia to fundraise for the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB).

It follows Coldcut and Hextatic’s 1998 release Timber. The haunting track features chainsaw sounds recorded by Greenpeace looped into immersive electronica.

And to celebrate nature in all its audio glory, in 2020 DJs for Climate Action called for producers worldwide to make music grown from samples recorded by Greenpeace on expeditions across the globe.

And if you wanna hit the floor and dance for the survival of the entire human race – here’s Hannes Bieger and Ursula Rucker’s Poem for the Planet:

Finally, don’t forget to watch and listen to Greenpeace’s latest star-studded collaboration, Don’t Stop: 

Listen to this list

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