Today (April 22nd) marks the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, an annual event which celebrates the birth of the modern environmental movement. 🌎
Since the 1970’s, the movement has focused on an emerging public consciousnesses and the idea that we need to work together to solve the world’s problems. With that in mind, we can always look to music for hope and inspiration. Here are 30 songs that provide messages of courage, inspiration, humanity and hope for a better world…
1) Bon Iver – PDLIF
“Please Don’t Live in Fear… There will be a better day”
The latest release from Bon Iver amidst the coronavirus pandemic: this track offers an uplifting message of courage and hope. Proceeds from the track being are being donated to humanitarian aid organisation Direct Relief, who provide support to health care workers and staff during the coronavirus pandemic.
2) Sam Cooke – A Change Is Gonna Come
“It’s been too hard living, but I’m afraid to die
Cos I don’t know what’s out there beyond the sky
It’s been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change is gonna come, oh yes it will”
Released in 1964 during the Civil Rights Movement, this classic track was inspired by Sam Cooke’s personal experience of racism and discrimination. The central message reminds us that we should cling to hope, and “You must be the change you want to see in the world.”
3) Oasis – Whatever
“I’m free to be whatever I, whatever I choose
And I’ll sing the blues if I want”
Oasis probably aren’t the first band that spring to mind when you think of ‘unity’, but on this track, Liam and Noel highlight the fact that as individuals, we’re free to pursue our own dreams, and make our own decisions- despite what others may think. This classic track was released in 1994, and scored Oasis their highest chart entry to date at the time.
4) Foals – Mountain At My Gates
“Yeah, when I feel low, you show me a signpost for where I should go”
The second single from Foals’ fourth album ‘What Went Down” – this track uses the metaphor of a ‘mountain’ to describe the challenges in life which are difficult to overcome. Yannis describes the pursuit of a ‘foothold’ and ‘signpost’ to find his way. By the end of the song Foals have left the mountain behind- suggesting that we can all find a solution to overcome our problems.
5) Biffy Clyro – Victory Over the Sun
“We can change the world despite all our enemies
We’re fighting on, listen to your heart and sing”
In an interview, vocalist Simon Neil spoke to Kerrang! magazine about this semi-mysterious anthem: “It’s about that feeling where you can almost do anything if you stick together.”
6) The Farm – All Together Now
“All together now
All together now
All together now
In no man’s land”
The Farm’s iconic anti- war track ‘All Together Now’ links some of the band’s favourite themes: socialism, brotherhood and football. The result is a poignant anthem that cements it’s place in the history books.
7) Declan Mckenna – Brazil
“I’ve got a mission and my mission is real
Because you’ve had your chances, yeah you’ve had enough
I’m gonna burn your house down to spread peace and love”
Declan Mckenna’s debut single ‘Brazil’ is a protest song, criticising corruption in sport and taking a dig at FIFA during the 2014 World Cup. “I started hearing things about the FIFA World Cup and the corruption around it. I don’t really know why or how it happened, but I ended up writing a song about it”. It (could) serve as a subtle reminder to speak up for what we believe in and take a stand against injustice.
8) Bob Marley – One Love
“One love, one heart, let’s get together and feel alright”
Bob Marley’s classic jam ‘One Love’ was written during the turmoil of the Jamaican election in 1976- remembered as one of the most violent times for the country. Marley delivers a message of strength, unity and harmony- “let’s get together and feel alright”.
9) Kendrick Lamar – Alright
“We gon’ be alright
Do you hear me, do you feel me? We gon’ be alright”
“Alright” provides a message of hope and escapism amid To Pimp a Butterfly’s battle to find higher purpose. We hear you Kendrick. We gon’ be alright!
10) Queen – I Want to Break Free
“I’ve got to break free
God knows, God knows I want to break free”
Freddie Mercury takes on the role of a degraded housewife fighting against societal norms in Queen’s classic track “I Want to Break Free”. Many interpret that the track may also be linked to sexual freedom, ‘coming out’ and having the courage to be an individual in society.
11) Arcade Fire – Wake Up
“With my lightning bolts a-glowing
I can see where I am going”
Arcade Fire deal with The Big Questions. Life. Death. A higher purpose. And on ‘Wake Up’, they channel all of these questions into an unforgettable rock symphony, offering a somewhat morbid message of courage.
12) Electric Light Orchestra – Mr Blue Sky
“Hey there Mr. Blue, we’re so pleased to be with you
Look around see what you do, everybody smiles at you”
In this sunny track, The Electric Light Orchestra sing about finally seeing blue skies, a metaphor for overcoming troubles and finding light beyond darkness.
13) Elbow – One Day Like This
“Throw those curtains wide!
One day like this a year’d see me right”
Taken from Elbow’s fourth studio album ‘The Seldom Seen Kid’, this uplifting anthem won the Ivor Novello award for Best Song in 2009, and was later placed at number 41 on NME’s list of “150 Best Tracks of the Past 15 Years!
14) Harry Styles – Treat People With Kindness
“Maybe we can find a place to feel good
And we can treat people with kindness”
‘Treat People With Kindness’ is a slogan Harry Styles has been using since 2017- put into a track from his recent album ‘Fine Line’. In a 2019 interview, Harry said “The slogan on his merchandise has been widely adopted by fans as a symbol for love, kindness and acceptance.”
15) Florence and the Machine – Light of Love
“Don’t go blindly into the dark, in every one of us shines the light of love”
The lyrics from Florence and the Machine’s recently released track were first featured in Vincent Haycock’s book ‘Don’t Go Blindly Into The Dark’, created during Florence and Vincent’s 8-year collaboration together. Proceeds from the songs are being used to support intensive care units worldwide in the treatment of the coronavirus pandemic.
16) Kanye West – Ultralight Beam
“Deliver us serenity, deliver us peace
Deliver us loving, we know we need it”
This uplifting track comes from Kanye’s gospel inspired album ‘The Life of Pablo. The central message focuses on faith, hope, and light- “we on an ultralight beam”.
17) Michael Kiwanuka – Home Again
“One day I know I’ll feel home again
Born again, born again
One day I know I’ll feel strong again”
Kiwanuka explained the meaning of this poignant ballad to Q magazine: “”It’s about comfort and peace. Home is where you’re most yourself – you don’t have many inhibitions, you just feel free to be who you are. The song is about getting back to that place – not literally a house or place but just that feeling, you know? That feeling that let’s you do the things you want to do and you say the things you want to say.”
18) Michael Jackson – Heal The World
“Heal the world, Make it a better place
For you and for me, And the entire human race”
The message of unity is clear within this track- MJ emphasises the idea that showing kindness and consideration to those less fortunate in society can have the power to change the world.
19) Diana Ross – Reach Out and Touch Somebody’s Hand
“Reach out and touch somebody’s hand
Make this world a better place if you can”
Diana Ross’ debut solo single carries a heavy gospel influence, accompanied by a message which encourages consideration for others and a universal social conscience.
20) Crowded House – Don’t Dream It’s Over
“When the world comes in
They come, they come
To build a wall between us
We know they won’t win”
This majestic 80’s pop ballad from Crowded Houses delivers a message of free will, defiance and courage. Nick Seymour, the band’s bassist commented, “The record’s about not giving up hope… there’s an over-riding positive view in all our songs.”
21) The Temper Trap – Sweet Disposition
“A moment, a love, a dream aloud
A kiss, a cry, our rights, our wrongs”
A nostalgic indie anthem of the 2000’s, this life- affirming track reflects the innocence of youth, and the special moments which stick in our memory – ” A moment, a love, a dream aloud, a kiss, a cry, our rights, our wrongs”.
22) Black Eyed Peas – Where Is the Love
“Can’t we all just get along?
Father, Father, Father help us
Send some guidance from above”
This poignant track from the Black Eyed Peas took initial inspiration from 9/11, police brutality and racism in the early 2000’s. The band commented, “There was a lot of separatism, racism, and we felt like the question we had been asking was like, ‘Yo, where’s the love?'”
23) Tom Petty – I Won’t Back Down
“No, I’ll stand my ground, won’t be turned around
And I’ll keep this world from draggin’ me down”
Of his many hits, ‘I Won’t Back Down’ is probably Tom Petty’s most direct and impactful. A song for any struggle, and an anthem of resolve. “It’s a very simple song, but a very powerful song,” says Petty’s lifelong bandmate, guitarist Mike Campbell. “It’s as deep as you want to go. That was one of Tom’s talents, that he could say a lot with very few words.”
24) Jack Johnson – Better Together
“It’s not always easy and sometimes life can be deceiving,
I’ll tell you one thing, it’s always better when we’re together”
Recently performed during ‘One World: Together At Home’, Jack Johnson’s track ‘Better Together’ serves a universal message of unity and togetherness.
25) Nas – I Can
“I know I can (I know I can)
Be what I wanna be (be what I wanna be)”
Nas’ track ‘I Can’ was written about believing in yourself, and finding inspiration, released at the request of his mother in 2002. Nas told Rolling Stone, “I’ve got to be a real human being, and that was one of my real human being records right there, for my daughter. So yeah, that’s one of the most important records I ever made.”
26) Michael Jackson – Earth Song
“What have we done to the world
Look what we’ve done
What about all the peace
That you pledge your only son”
Possibly one of the most relevant songs for World Earth Day, Michael Jackson’s socially conscious track ‘Earth Song’ serves as a confrontational protest against environmental damage and animal abuse.
27) Elton John – I’m Still Standing
“Don’t you know I’m still standing better than I ever did
Looking like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid”
Although this song focuses on Elton John’s personal recovery from a broken relationship, the overwhelming theme is one of surviving, and coming back stronger after set backs in life- “I’m still standing!”
28) The Beatles – Revolution
“You say you want a revolution, well, you know
We all want to change the world”
Lennon told Rolling Stone: “I had been thinking about it up in the hills in India. I still had this ‘God will save us’ feeling about it, that it’s going to be all right (even now I’m saying ‘Hold on, John, it’s going to be all right,’ otherwise, I won’t hold on) but that’s why I did it, I wanted to talk, I wanted to say my piece about revolution. I wanted to tell you, or whoever listens, to communicate, to say ‘What do you say? This is what I say.'”
29) Journey – Don’t Stop Believin’
“Don’t stop believin’
Hold on to that feeling”
Journey’s most iconic, enduring song, ‘Don’t Stop Believin’ is a reference to the dreamers and believers who take to Hollywood to pursue their dreams. Speaking with the British radio station Planet Rock in 2010, Steve Perry said of this song: “Personally, it’s something that means a lot to me. Everybody has emotional issues and problems, and the song has helped me personally to not give up, and I’m finding a lot of people feel that.”
30) Curtis Mayfield – Move On Up
“So hush now child, and don’t you cry
Your folks might understand you, by and by
Move on up, and keep on wishing
Remember your dream is your only scheme
So keep on pushing”
An uplifting call to positivity and motivation, Curtis Mayfield’s soulful anthem ‘Move On Up’ is widely acknowledged as one of his most moving, impactful tracks.