A look at protest songs--Dylan's ''George Jackson,'' Lennon's ''John Sinclair'' and Rage's ''Voice of the Voiceless'' all called for prisoners' release

By Nicholas Fonseca
Updated February 25, 2000 at 05:00 AM EST

If Sean ”Puffy” Combs were to wind up in the slammer, perhaps girlfriend Jennifer Lopez could belt out a song for his release. Bob Dylan‘s 1975 anthem about convicted murderer Rubin Carter — featured in the Denzel Washington-topped film The Hurricane — helped efforts to win the ex-boxer a retrial. Here’s how some other protest ditties fared.

BOB DYLAN‘s ”George Jackson” (1970)
Prisoner: Jackson, a Black Panther leader
Sample Lyric: ”Authorities, they hated him/Because he was just too real”
Aftermath: Jackson died during an abortive prison escape the following year.

JOHN LENNON‘s ”John Sinclair” (1971)
Prisoner: Sinclair, a counterculture radical jailed for possessing two joints
Sample Lyric: ”Let him free, lift the lid/Bring him to his wife and kids”
Aftermath: Sinclair was released three days after Lennon debuted the song.

RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE‘s ”Voice of the Voiceless” (1999)
Prisoner: Mumia Abu-Jamal, a journalist convicted of killing a Philadelphia cop
Sample Lyric: ”So long as the rope/Is tight around Mumia’s neck/Let there be no rich white life”
Aftermath: Abu-Jamal is now in his 18th year on death row.