100 Greatest Songs of the 90’s #24 Rage Against The Machine – Killing In The Name Of

Released : 1993

It may surprise people to know that the art of whataboutery – or the practice of attempting to defuse or deflect the essence of a point by introducing another unrelated one – predates the current style of discourse so prevalent on social media. Rage Against The Machine weren’t the first band with a radical profile to sign to a major label – The Sex Pistols and The Clash are both front running candidates for that dubious accolade – but their 1991 deal with Epic/Sony pissed off all the right people.

They certainly had the creds. Dreadlocked singer Zack de la Rocha was the son of a pioneer Chicano artist and grandson of a Mexican revolutionary, whilst guitarist Tom Morello’s father was part of the Mau Mau uprising in Kenya. Throwing in your lot with the world’s biggest entertainment company seemed like the opposite of a band engineering the downfall of capitalism would do, sure. But whilst it was an admittedly low bar, their self titled debut was the most politically engaged album ever to come to from the home of Wham, The Miami Sound Machine and Michael Jackson.

Such is the ridiculous counterweight to Killing In The Name Of – a polemical groove of a song which took inspiration from the LAPD’s beating of Rodney King – that the campaign in 2009 to make it a Christmas number one was claimed to be a conspiracy, with Sony benefiting. It seemed you can please some of the insurrectionists all of the time, or…you know they rest.

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