There are many ways to communicate in this day and age. There are many articles that talk about the irony of so many channels of communication being available, yet no one seems to have a “real” conversation anymore. The one consistent form of communication that there is continues to be through song. No matter what year it is, we still turn to music as the definitive way to express ourselves. Whether that be dancing out in public or having a self-reflective moment in your room. Something about having a melody behind those words causes people to listen more closely, receiving the message in a way that has the ability to take down some of those walls and be able to let the words into their heart. Some songs serve as a mark for a different time in our lives, reminding us how far we’ve come. While some songs are timeless, no matter how long ago they were written.
In the case of the latter, the most potent songs of this nature are songs that speak of the injustice around the world: whether that is through politics, war, civil rights, or the drug crisis. Whether the song was written in 1965 or 2016, the message resonates with many listeners on such a level that the sentiment is always relevant. The importance of these songs cannot be overstated. Oftentimes, the only way you can get people to understand these issues is by singing about them through song. Suddenly, hearing someone’s story from his or her explicit point-of-view makes it hard to ignore. It’s really hard to sing a long to John Lennon’s “Imagine” without being forced to understand the meaning. These are not songs that you listen to for a few months and then discard; it’s not a song that you thoughtlessly sing with when it comes on the radio. Instead, the messages contained in these songs should cause you to think. To see the world from a different perspective and have a broader perspective on what it means to be human. You might take in its message and carry it with you, letting it permeate your thoughts and worldview.
As we wrestle with the state of the nation and the state of the world, we need these songs more than ever. Songs with lyrics that won’t allow us to be complacent with the injustices occurring around the world, songs that inspire peace, but also action as they compel us to use our voices to shout messages of love, inclusion, and justice for everyone. There is not a time when that dialogue has not been important.
The following list of “message songs” is songs that have had that effect on me. In order to illustrate the eternal relevance of injustice, I have chosen songs that are vintage, but timely as ever. This is by far a small sample. There are many more songs in this category that did not make it onto this list. However, I wanted to choose a group of songs that are unrelenting in their timelessness and steadfast in their message. If you choose to listen to these songs, I hope it inspires you to think about their message. I hope you enjoy. Peace and love.
- One of Us – Joan Osborne: “What if God was one of us?” The song is not inherently religious, but forces you to take a hard look at how you are treating others. It also serves as a schooling of sorts to those who call themselves religious but don’t walk the walk. It makes you stop and consider those you would rather turn a blind on as you go about your life. A powerful song with the age-old message of empathy: don’t judge someone until you have walked a mile in his or her shoes.
- The Needle and the Damage Done – Neil Young: Young, doing what he does best. This contemplative song about losing a friend to the perils of drug addiction has never been more relevant. With the opioid epidemic causing tragedy all around the country, the song balances being honest about the horrors of drug addiction while not being preachy or judgmental.
- Change – Tracy Chapman In a similar vein to “One of Us”, “Change” also compels the listener to consider a different perspective. This time, the change would come from a place of self-reflection. “What chain reaction, what cause and effect, makes you turn around, makes you try and explain?” Chapman asks. On the track, her voice sounds weary but determined. She is directly asking the listener to consider the consequences of their decisions and their reactions to the happenings both in their personal life and the world. After all, if a person is casting a blind eye to those close to them who are suffering, how can we expect them to care about the injustice going on all around the world? What line needs to be crossed in order to make them change? This song is unique in that the eponymous change being spoken about can be taken to mean your everyday decisions and also your worldview.
- Bridge Over Troubled Water – Simon & Garfunkel: Perhaps the most uplifting song on this list, the last, and most popular, song from Simon & Garfunkel serves as a song of support and hope. Whatever is happening, we cannot go through it alone. There is too much to be cynical about and we need to be able to lift each other up when one of us falls. Unity is important, and we can’t be unified when we don’t support each other. The emotional crescendo at the end of the song is stunning and filled with strength. It can cause you to visualize the song’s title, Garfunkel’s vocals saying, “I will be strong, so you don’t have to”.
- Imagine – John Lennon: A song that will always be relevant. This purest version of a utopia is something most of us yearn for. However, despite it’s beautiful message, the song’s title, and Lennon’s vocal are indicative of how far away we are from that ideal world. A world where there are no boundaries or prejudices between humans: only love, empathy, and understanding. Those three words should be at the forefront of every human interaction; instead there is far too much misunderstanding, judgment, and hate. When Lennon urges us to “imagine all the people, living life in peace,” the image is far too powerful for one to ignore. As we strive to make a united, peaceful world, let us never lose sight of this song and its message.
Song Lyric of the Day*: I have completely ignored this, and for that, I am sorry. However, it is a new year. Here’s to 2017 being a year of getting things back on track. I present the song lyric of the day: “Quand je marche dans la rue La rue vers le Sacré-Cœur
Je me souviens des promesses Au nom de l’amour”, the song is in French. The rough English translation is this: “When I walk on the street The street towards the Sacred Heart
I remember promises In the name of love” (I find it really applicable to this week’s blog post) – Sacred Heart by The Civil Wars
* My music library contains 11, 265 songs. I realize to some that may seem excessive. To me, it is not enough, because there is so much more to learn. After every blog post, I am going to put said music library on shuffle and the first song that comes up, I will post a lyric that sticks out to me at the moment, and maybe introduce someone to a new song, which would be awesome.