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“The movement is not waiting for superstars to grace it with their presence,” Morello said. “It’s not waiting for a Diane Warren-penned anthem featuring Rihanna and Drake.”

Occupy Wall Street’s nature as a sometimes unfocused expression of dissatisfaction plays into the diversity, too, said Amy Wlodarski, a music professor at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa.

“There’s no centralized musical figure because there isn’t a coherent value that is going to be communally expressed in song,” she said.

Yet from the earliest days of America, music has been a cornerstone of protests and conflicts and movements. Music provided a voice for the disenfranchised and stirred people to fight injustice. The Revolutionary War produced “The Liberty Song.” “Follow the Drinking Gourd,” with its escape directions for fleeing slaves, was the anthem of the underground railroad, while “Battle Hymn of the Republic” gave support to Union soldiers during the Civil War. Women fighting for the right to vote in the early 1900s had “Suffrage Song.” There was even a protest song about lynching, the jazz-infused “Strange Fruit.”

The labor and peace movements created some of the more enduring music, with such artists as Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger and Bob Dylan. “We Shall Overcome” was born during a strike in 1945. Based on an early 20th century gospel song, it became the theme of the civil rights movement in the 1960s. Meanwhile, anti-war sentiments flared in such songs as “All Along the Watchtower,” “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “Give Peace a Chance” and “What’s Going On?”

Socially conscious music never went away. Such artists as Bruce Springsteen, OutKast and Bonnie Raitt continue to take on injustice. Others also give voice to social issues from the economy to anti-war to the environment to abuse. “We Are the World” galvanized anti-hunger efforts. Rappers such as Public Enemy and N.W.A. offered messages from the streets. Steve Earle puts a string of progressive causes to music and Neil Young recorded a disc of opposition to the Iraq War.

The more current protest music is not noticed as much as the music of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s because music is increasingly a more individualized experience. People rarely gather at each other’s homes and pump up the volume on their stereos for a shared listen of a hot album. Instead, friends might burn a CD for a buddy or share a download of a tune.

But if Occupy Wall Street needs a song to call its own, Texas songwriter James McMurtry’s seething “We Can’t Make it Here,” written in 2004, is a virtual blueprint for the movement. It tumbles with images about damage done to the country through corporate greed and political neglect. McMurtry knew he had something the first time he played a version of the song, then unreleased, during a visit to an Austin radio station.

“I had some really nasty emails on my website before I had even gotten home,” he said.

Hopeful that things might change, McMurtry stopped performing what is probably his best-known song when Barack Obama was elected. He has since started playing it again. McMurtry said he’s going to make “We Can’t Make it Here” available for free on his website in a gesture of solidarity, and is encouraging fans to make their own videos to accompany it.

“I’d be glad to let them use that song,” he said. “Whatever helps.”

Morello, who has done what amounts to a tour of Occupy demonstration sites, considers it his job as a musician to “keep steel in the backbone and wind in the sails of people who are standing up for economic justice.”

“I’ve been down there a couple of times,” said MTV’s Connolly. “There’s always music. It’s sort of a thread that runs through it.”