I’ve decided to expand upon my “Songs for the Road” category and make it similar to the “Wanderful Words” category. So regularly, I will be highlighting songs that have stood out on my travels and world music songs that I am passionate about. I’m starting off with “Killing in the Name” by Rage Against the Machine.
There are songs that you expect to hear around the world, namely the few that are on constant repeat on Top 40 radio stations. But every once in awhile, I am surprised to hear a song in a certain location. I’ve heard “Killing in the Name” at bars in Thailand, Bolivia and the US. The reaction to the song is always the same– the entire bar of people from around the world throws up an arm and begins to headbang in solidarity. While Rage Against the Machine isn’t obscure, there is something unique about the hypnotic effect that song has on people that differentiates it from everyone joining together to sing and dance to Lady Gaga’s latest hit.
I remember when Rage Against the Machine was in their heyday, but I never listened to any of their songs then. After having this experience on three different continents, I decided to look up the lyrics and meaning of the song. Most likely it has to do with members of the police also being members of the KKK. It’s doubtful that that’s a subject that most backpackers can relate to. But there has to be something more to it’s RTW popularity other than it being a damn catchy song.
The lyrics of the song are few and they are all repeated. Two lines stand out: “And now you do what they told ya, now you’re under control” which is eventually followed by the crescendoing repetition of, “Fuck you I won’t do what you tell me!”
Two lines many can interpret to relate to a personal situation, as long as you get to the part where you’ve made the decision to do your own thing. Many people I’ve met abroad who are traveling for a decent amount of time have a story of someone who didn’t want them to make the trip. Someone who thought they were visiting dangerous places or avoiding something at home, etc. So for relentless travelers who find themselves justifying their ways to others, I’m sure those words of defiance spark very recent emotions.