10 Inspirational Songs That Continue to Change the World
Music is timeless. Songs are inspirational. It doesn’t matter what era the song or work comes from. The important thing is the skill of the artist.
Nina Simone once said,
“An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times. I think that is true of painters, sculptors, poets, musicians. As far as I’m concerned, it’s their choice, but I CHOOSE to reflect the times and situations in which I find myself. That, to me, is my duty“
And Nina Simone certainly did that better than almost anyone. But her music transcends her own era. In fact, some of her songs seem relevant now more than ever.
This is certainly one of the darkest times in human history. However, music is the light we can all look to take us out of the darkness. So, here are ten songs that can change the world.
1. Can You Get To That – Funkadelic
George Clinton said The Staple Singers were one of his greatest influences along with Ray Charles. The transformative underlying message is this song has deep roots in gospel music. As the lyrics go,
I read an old quotation in a book just yesterday
Said “Gonna reap just what you sow,
The debts you make you have to pay
These lyrics come from the New Testament of the Bible. Whether you’re religious or not, this message is highly powerful when combined with the stunning musical ability from the members of Funkadelic.
2. Everyday People – Sly and the Family Stone
This song is so beautiful. I see it as Sly Stone begging people to love and accept each other no matter their skin color or walk of life. As the lyrics go,
There is a blue one who can’t accept the green one
For living with a fat one trying to be a skinny one
And different strokes for different folks
And so on and so on and scooby dooby doo Oh sha sha we got to live together
3. Why Must Your Love Well Be So Dry – Nina Simone
This song is an anthem to the likes of Derrick Chauvin and all cases of police brutality, white nationalists, Trump, the greedy Wallstreet brokers, the corporate Democrats, and pretty much all people standing in the way of the human race moving forward for their own profit or from their hatred.
Nina Simone sings,
Feeling my whole world turn to dust
Hungry for somebody’s tender touch
Sweet sweet baby you can quench my heart
Just like water can quench my thirst
If this song doesn’t move you, I don’t know how you can be moved. Nina Simone is such an incredible singer and performer, and the musicians she played with on this album are outstanding.
4. You’re All I Need to Get by – Marvin Gaye
Whenever people talk Marvin’s about music with respect to social change, they always list the obvious songs like What’s Going on, Mercy, Mercy Me, and Inner City Blues. While I think these songs are brilliant and some of my favorite tunes, I also find Marvin’s earlier hits just as poignant.
When he talks about love it’s inspiring. It makes you believe in a brighter future for humankind and helps you to see past all of the everyday shit we see on Twitter about corruption, greed, and brutality. Life is certainly remarkable, and I love his music so much because, without it, I might have forgotten.
Marvin Gaye is without a doubt one of the greatest musicians of all time. And I’m not just shallowly saying this. He took the incredible influence of his hero Nat King Cole, and crafted songs with messages of love, hope, and change. I love it when he sings at the beginning,
Like sweet morning dew
I took one look at you
And it was plain to see
You were my destiny
These lyrics are so beautiful and inspiring.
5. People Get Ready – The Impressions
If you’ve heard Bob Marley’s, One love, it comes from this song. Bob Marley was into Motown before he became a reggae legend, and had a cover-like band of the Temptations before he formed the wailers.
But I absolutely f****** love Curtis Mayfield. He’s got one of the most incredible voices that ever went inside a recording studio and graced us with his singing. How can it get any better than this these lyrics:
People get ready, there’s a train a-comin’
You don’t need no baggage, you just get on board
All you need is faith to hear the diesels hummin’
Don’t need no ticket, you just thank the Lord
I can get to that. That message is what we need more of. It’s clear by the way the world is now that we need to stop caring so much about how much money people have and start appreciating them for just being human.
6. Sittin’ on the Dock Of The Bay – Otis Redding
Otis is one of the most powerful singers ever. The lyrics of this song really stick out to me. I love when he sings,
Looks like nothin’s gonna change
Everything seems to stay the same
I can’t do what ten people tell me to do
So I guess I’ll remain the same
I look at the message of the lyrics as a frustration that Redding is expressing in his singing. He’s fed up with hatred and racial tension. He just wants it to be over, but he sees no progress. People told Redding to stop being black, but how could one do such a thing? So instead, he says “I’m going to be who I was born as, and I won’t be ashamed of my skin color.” Very poignant.
7. Something About You – The Four Tops
Written by the amazing song-writing trio, Holland–Dozier–Holland, that also composed the memorable Heat Wave By Martha and the Vandellas.
Motown music is so powerful. And the collaboration of Holland–Dozier–Holland and the Four Tops is some of the greatest is some of the best of the best. I love every song on Four Tops Second Album. Especially the first four which also include I Can’t Help Myself, Love Feels Like Fire, Is There Anything I Can Do. My favorite part of the song goes,
Sweet sweet thing, I’m satisfied
Sweet sweet thing, you set my soul on fire
I need you, yeah you
Everything in this song is astounding: the singing, the lyrics, just listen to the whole thing. If music created can be this beautiful, it offers us a glimpse into humanity’s future. While we’re facing a dark time right now, it’s songs like this that will carry the human race forward
8. Respect Yourself – The Staple Singers
The Staple Singers were one of the most talented ensemble of musicians of all time. I’m talking of any kind of genre. Don’t take my word for it though, take a listen and see for yourself. Mavis is in my top find personal favorite singers of all time, and Pops is in the top ten list of my favorite guitar players of all time. And of course, how can you forget Cleotha, Pervis, and Yvonne. They’re all incredible. I love these lyrics,
Respect yourself, respect yourself, respect yourself, respect yourself
If you don’t respect yourself
Ain’t nobody gonna give a good cahoot, na na na na
That’s right Trump and all you police officers killing, and destroying. You don’t respect yourself, and we sure as hell don’t respect you. We owe you nothing.
9. Uptight – Stevie Wonder
This list can’t be written without a Stevie Wonder song. He’s without a doubt one of the greatest musicians in all of history. Recorded in 1965 when he only fifteen, it’s unbelievable how talented he was. He recorded some of the world’s greatest hits still as a child. After a long career in performing and recording this track he played on the album, Up-Tight remains to be on of the best he ever did. I love the part,
Baby, everything is all right, uptight, out of sight
Baby, everything is all right, uptight, out of sight
No matter how hard seem, Baby, everything is all right.
10. A Change is Gonna Come – Sam Cooke
Cooke was astonished when he heard Bob Dylan’s, Blowing in the Wind. He was surprised that a white signer could craft a song with so much soul, depth, and spirit. It inspired him to write, A Change Is Gonna Come. You can hear the haunting message in Cooke’s voice. It shakes me up so much. To this day, I’ve heard few songs that impacted me in a similar ways. He’s able to tell a tragic story, yet at the same time offer a message of hope. It’s incredibly stirring, and I love when he sings,
It’s been too hard living, but I’m afraid to die
‘Cause I don’t know what’s up there, beyond the sky
It’s been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will
Some people say an artist has the ability to predict the future. I think Cooke did so here. No matter how long it takes, A Change Is Gonna Come. A change for the better.
The history of black music is so fascinating. African Americans created some of the greatest music that ever was, is, or will be. The key to change the world lies within these songs.
As always, thanks for reading, and keep it loud!