Wake Up (Rage Against the Machine song)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
"Wake Up"
Song by Rage Against the Machine
from the album Rage Against the Machine
ReleasedNovember 3, 1992
GenreNu metal
Songwriter(s)Tim Commerford, Zack de la Rocha, Tom Morello, Brad Wilk
Producer(s)Garth 'GGGarth' Richardson, Rage Against the Machine

"Wake Up" is a song by American rap metal band Rage Against the Machine. It is the seventh track from their self-titled debut album. While never released as a single, it remains a staple of their live shows and is usually played as the last song before the encore. It appeared in the feature film The Matrix, which increased the song's exposure.


The lyrics discuss racism within the American government and the counter-intelligence programs of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); a spoken portion of the song is taken from an actual FBI memo in which its director J. Edgar Hoover suggests targets for the suppression of the black nationalist movement.[1] The song also makes references to prominent African-American figures targeted by the government such as Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., and goes as far as saying that the government arranged their assassinations.

The closing lines to the song are:

How long, not long
because what you reap is what you sow!

These lyrics refer to a speech made by Martin Luther King Jr., which paraphrases part of a well-known Bible verse, "whatever a man sows, this he will also reap" (Galatians 6:7). The speech was delivered at the end of the Selma to Montgomery March on the steps of the State Capitol Building in Montgomery, Alabama. The final lines in that speech read "How Long? Not long, because 'you shall reap what you sow'."

"Wake Up" is one of many songs by Rage Against the Machine that is played in drop D tuning on the guitar and bass.

Political speeches[edit]

In live performances, the band's frontman Zack de la Rocha frequently makes statements about political and social issues during a quiet section towards the end of the song before screaming "WAKE UP!" eight times. On the record, this part of the song features de la Rocha reciting a memo written by J Edgar Hoover. At the 2007 Coachella Festival, de la Rocha made a speech during the song, citing a statement by Noam Chomsky regarding the Nuremberg Trials,[2] as follows:

A good friend of ours said that if the same laws were applied to U.S. presidents as were applied to the Nazis after World War II […] every single one of them, every last rich white one of them from Truman on, would have been hung to death and shot—and this current administration is no exception. They should be hung, and tried, and shot. As any war criminal should be. But the challenges that we face, they go way beyond administrations, way beyond elections, way beyond every four years of pulling levers, way beyond that. Because this whole rotten system has become so vicious and cruel that in order to sustain itself, it needs to destroy entire countries and profit from their reconstruction in order to survive—and that's not a system that changes every four years, it's a system that we have to break down, generation after generation after generation after generation after generation…Wake up.[3][4]

The event led to a media furor.[5] A clip of Zack's speech found its way to the Fox News Channel program Hannity & Colmes. An on-screen headline read, "Rock group 'Rage Against the Machine' says Bush admin should be shot." Ann Coulter (a guest on the show) quipped, "They're losers, their fans are losers, and there's a lot of violence coming from the left wing." Then Alan Colmes reminded Coulter when she said about former President Bill Clinton that "The only issue is whether to impeach or assassinate."[6]

On July 28 at their performance at the Rock the Bells festival in New York City, they made another speech during "Wake Up" just as they had done at Coachella. During this, de la Rocha made another statement, defending the band against Fox News, who allegedly misquoted his speech at Coachella:

A couple of months ago, those fascist motherfuckers at the Fox News Network attempted to pin this band into a corner by suggesting that we said that the president should be assassinated. Nah, what we said was that he should be brought to trial as a war criminal and hung and shot. THAT'S what we said. And we don't back away from the position because the real assassinator is Bush and Cheney and the whole administration for the lives they have destroyed here and in Iraq. They're the ones. And what they refused to air which was far more provocative in my mind and in the minds of my bandmates is this: this system has become so brutal and vicious and cruel that it needs to start wars and profit from the destruction around the world in order to survive as a world power. THAT's what we said. And we refuse not to stand up, we refuse to back down from that position not only for the poor kids who are being left out in the desert to die, but for the Iraqi youth, the Iraqi people, their families and their friends, and their youth who are standing up and resisting the U.S. occupation every day. And if we truly want to end this fucking miserable war, we have to stand up with the same force that the Iraqi youth are standing up with every day, and bring these motherfuckers to their knees. Wake up…[7]

At the Voodoo Music Festival, during the performance of "Wake Up," de la Rocha gave a rousing speech about his experience in the 9th Ward of post-Katrina New Orleans. De la Rocha stated that the United States is fighting two wars: one in Iraq and one "against the people of New Orleans," before breaking into screams of "Wake Up!" at the end of the song.

At the Big Day Out in Australia 2008, de la Rocha gave a speech discouraging globalism, saying it makes the rich richer and the poor poorer. He applauded the crowd for voting out former Australian Prime Minister John Howard, then broke into screams of "Wake Up".

At the band's June 8, 2010 gig at the O2 in Dublin, Ireland, de la Rocha gave a speech discussing the current economic system and how multinational companies are blaming the middle/working class for the problems that the multinational companies themselves caused. De la Rocha was quoted as saying:

You know I've been getting really frustrated turning on the news recently and listening to all this talk. All this talk about Ireland and all this talk about Portugal and all this talk about Spain and all this talk about Greece. And all they seem to be saying is "Oh the people in Ireland and Spain and Greece and Portugal oh they had it too easy". And the very companies that run these stations like CNN profited so greatly from the housing bubble and crisis that they created. The very people that created the economic recession are the first to blame to us for the reason that it came about. And I'm sick of them saying this over and over again knowing full well that the reason we have pensions that the reason we have vacations and the reason we have 8 hour work days is precisely because of the kind of actions that our brothers and sisters are taking in Greece right now. People taking to the streets against the wealthy class who have been robbing us all for years. And in the face of all this propaganda I wanna say, we have here to unite here in Europe, we have to unite here in Europe across ethnic lines across religious differences across racial lines and its now the lines are clear. It's us against the wealthy plain and simple. It's time to wake up. WAKE UP.

In other media[edit]


  1. ^ FBI Memo text at the Wayback Machine (archived November 3, 2007) (reprinted; archived link)
  2. ^ Noam Chomsky interviewed by Tom Morello, The Noam Chomsky Website. Accessed January 1, 2009.
  3. ^ Zack de la Rocha's speech at Coachella 07 (Videotape). May 1, 2007.
  4. ^ Lemons, Stephens (May 3, 2007). "DEFENDING ZACK DE LA ROCHA: RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE VS. KTAR'S DARRELL ANKARLO". Retrieved December 23, 2015.
  5. ^ "Rage Against Bush". Spin. May 4, 2007. Retrieved 2007-05-15.
  6. ^ FOX News. "Rage Against Bush". FOX News. Retrieved 4 March 2016.
  7. ^ Zack de la Rocha Speech, Rock the Bells NYC on YouTube

External links[edit]