53 Songs About Changing the World

Updated on April 3, 2018
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FlourishAnyway believes there is a playlist for just about any situation and is on a mission to unite and entertain the world through song.

Whatever your social cause is, become an activist and make positive change now. Get inspired with a playlist of pop, rock, country, and hip-hop songs about changing the world.
Whatever your social cause is, become an activist and make positive change now. Get inspired with a playlist of pop, rock, country, and hip-hop songs about changing the world. | Source

You Have the Power to Make a Difference

If you feel small and anonymous, there's a good reason for it. Along with 7.5 billion other people on this planet, you're just one person swimming in a vast sea of humanity.

What could a single individual do to make a difference? Problems such as climate change, gun control, immigration, poverty, and pet overpopulation—they may seem too daunting. Is it worth the effort to try to change the world?

I urge you to instead consider the consequences of not doing so. Pick an issue you care about deeply. Dare to educate yourself about it because facts still matter. Connect with other people and share your story, your vision. Go local or go big, just do something.

Rather than stand there and shake your head, be a soldier in the good fight by throwing grenades of kindness, love, and compassion. Disrupt the status quo with fresh ideas and a desire to see them through. Hurl smiles and encouraging words. Arm yourself with civility and acceptance for others. Whether you're seeking to change laws, individual lives, or attitudes, the opportunity is yours to step forward and make a difference.

To motivate and inspire you onward, here is a list of pop, rock, country, R&B, and hip-hop songs about changing the world. Now go use your powers for good!

1. "One Man Can Change the World" by Big Sean (featuring Kanye West & John Legend)

Written as a tribute to Big Sean's late grandmother, this 2015 hip-hop song reminds us that we each have the power within us to change the world. Mildred V. Leonard was one of the first black female captains in World War II, returning home to earn a bachelor's and master's degree and serve as one of Detroit's first black female police officers—a true trailblazer.

As the family matriarch, Mildred encouraged Big Sean to pursue his dreams, and he passes her message of inspiration to others:

I hope you learn to make it on your own
And if you love yourself just know you'll never be alone ...

And when you get it all just remember one thing
Remember one thing: That one man could change the world.

2. "Waiting on the World to Change" by John Mayer

Every generation feels misunderstood and disenfranchised because they are young. Each wave of young people faces its own crisis of conscience regarding whether to stand up and make necessary changes in the world or continue to watch from the sidelines.

In this 2006 rock song, the narrator describes feeling marginalized by leaders and resents that his generation is regarded as standing for nothing. He describes the heavy burden of working to change an unfair system that controls the flow of information. (Hey, nothing worth fighting for is easy!) Rather than getting angry and impatient enough to change the world now, he takes the approach that one day his generation will be in charge. How do you want to do it?

3. "Spiritual Revolutionary" by Nabil and Karim

With a central message that change begins from within, this 2017 hip-hop song encourages listeners to discover what inspires them and know what they stand for. It cites Mahatma Gandhi's famous quote about changing the world by starting with yourself: "You must be the change you want to see in the world.”

4. "A Change Is Gonna Come" by Sam Cooke

Released in 1964 during the Civil Rights Movement, this R&B song was inspired by Sam Cooke's personal experience of racism and discrimination. It reminds us that “You must be the change you want to see in the world.”

5. "Change" by Christina Aguilera

Christina Aguilera's voice lifts and inspires in this 2016 rock song as it describes the senselessness of being hated for one's race, nationality, or who you love. Use it as a personal anthem of tolerance, acceptance, and love for your fellow human. We are all more similar than we are different.

6. "Man in the Mirror" by Michael Jackson

Let the dominoes of positive change start with you!

This 1987 tune is one of my favorite pop songs with a message, and it features a narrator who confesses that he has too often been self-centered rather than being concerned with the world around him. By becoming a better person, he seeks to grow into a role as a more conscious global citizen:

I'm starting with the man in the mirror
I'm asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you want to make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change.

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7. "Make a Little Wave" by Demi Lovato and Joe Jonas

Small acts of kindness can unleash large effects elsewhere, the so-called "butterfly effect." That's the essence of this 2009 pop song which encourages listeners to reach out in love and use to benevolent words and deeds to help those in need. What have you done today to unleash kindness upon this world?

8. "Change" by Carrie Underwood

When you're on the very low end of the wage scale, even a temporary setback can mean the difference between having nightly shelter and being forced to live on the streets. Sadly, more than half a million people in the United States today live on the streets, in shelters, in subsidized transitional housing, or in their cars.

This 2009 country song oozes empathy for such vulnerable people by drawing attention to that spare change on your floorboard, sticky with Coke. That forgotten money may not be worth much to you, but it could help change someone else's world. The song puts the onus on you: "Whatcha gonna do?"

9. "One Tribe" by Black Eyed Peas

One planet. One race. One tribe. We are all human and share a common destiny, according to this 2009 pop song. It advocates forgetting the conflict and instead joining hands to connect and overcome.

Resistance in the Age of Trump

The Trump era has inspired a resistance.  A resistance movement is an organized effort by a significant proportion of the population of a country that opposes or resists legally established government and seeks to disrupt civil order or stability.
The Trump era has inspired a resistance. A resistance movement is an organized effort by a significant proportion of the population of a country that opposes or resists legally established government and seeks to disrupt civil order or stability. | Source

10. "Heal the World" by Michael Jackson

With an emphasis on the power of love to change the world, this 1991 pop song implores the listener to see the world as a reflection of God's love. Find the beautiful place in your heart that reflects that joy so that you can make the world a better place for the living.

11. "What About Now" by Daughtry

This 2006 rock song and its accompanying video provide a social commentary on change and the responsibility to act. I imagine that the song could be a conversation between God and a world-weary traveler. As God references people who are homeless, hungry, and hurting, it implores the listener to start now before it's too late.

Tell Us in the Comments Section How You're Trying to Change the World

12. "I Need to Wake Up" by Melissa Etheridge

In a world full of problems, become one of the solutions. We need you!

This 2005 rock song urges you to wake up and speak out so that others can feel your urgent call to action. The narrator feels that she must have been sleeping until now, having ignored the plight of climate change, habitat destruction, and pollution. Making up for lost time, she wants to spur others onward to change.

Gun Control Advocates and the Never Again Movement

After 17 classmates lost their lives to a gunman armed with a semi-automatic rifle, students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, spoke out against the powerful NRA gun lobby and advocated for changes to gun laws.
After 17 classmates lost their lives to a gunman armed with a semi-automatic rifle, students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, spoke out against the powerful NRA gun lobby and advocated for changes to gun laws. | Source

13. "Imagine" by John Lennon

John Lennon sang of peace and unity in this classic rock song during the waning years of the Vietnam War. A decade later, he would become a victim of gun violence.

This tune creates an idyllic picture of humanity laying down its weapons and joining together in brotherhood, no one hungry, greedy, or self-righteous:

You may say that I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one.

14. "One Love" by Bob Marley and The Wailers

Now as much as ever, we could use the global unity that Bob Marley is calling for in this reggae-infused song from 1965. The narrator urges us to hear the children crying, give thanks to God, and join forces for good.

He also notes that evildoers with their hearts full of corruption will have no place to hide. During his lifetime, Marley was a vocal anti-apartheid advocate.

15. "With My Own Two Hands" by Ben Harper

What an uplifting song! This simple rock song from 2003 inspires hope for the power of one individual to make an impact. It describes how you can change the world with your own two hands by reaching out, holding, and comforting others. In doing so, you can make the world a place that is brighter, better, kinder, and safer. And who wouldn't welcome that change?

16. "Once a Day" by Michael Franti & Spearhead (featuring Sonna Rele & Supa Dups)

You never know what curveballs life will throw you, so rise up and live a purposeful life. This 2016 reggae-influence song nourishes the soul with its positive message. Written after his young son was diagnosed with a kidney disorder, it encourages us to each show kindness and gratitude in our lives as a way of making the world a better place.

If you like this song, why not make yourself a playlist of other uplifting and positive songs to help boost your mood and keep you motivated for change?

17. "Same Love" by Macklemore & Ryan (featuring Mary Lambert)

This 2012 hip-hop song became an international hit, the first Top 40 in America to promote gay marriage, and ultimately an anthem for marriage equality. The narrator describes various homophobic stereotypes. I'm sure you know them all. He also calls out hip-hop culture for its homophobic slurs by pointing out that civil rights are human rights, whether we're talking about the LGBT community or people of color.

Gay marriage was eventually legalized in the United States in June 2015 as a result of a landmark Supreme Court case.

18. "Change the World" by Colby and Awu

There are so many factors dividing our world today, including politics, religion, and socioeconomic status. This motivational pop song from 2013 urges us to stop dehumanizing and polarizing the opposition, and instead seek common ground.

The fate of humanity is intertwined, thus the song advocates seeking to understand others first and opening both your heart and your mind to the mindblowing possibility of peace. Hate won't get us to a better place. Only sympathy, empathy, and positive partnerships will. Are you in?

Members of the LGBT community advocate for transgender rights and for basic civil rights in employment and housing.  Marriage rights was also a key platform issue prior to the legalization of same sex marriage in all 50 states.
Members of the LGBT community advocate for transgender rights and for basic civil rights in employment and housing. Marriage rights was also a key platform issue prior to the legalization of same sex marriage in all 50 states. | Source

19. "Do Something" by Matthew West

Tired of waiting for someone else to do something about the issue you care about? This Contemporary Christian song from 2012 takes the vantage point that recognizing the problem is not enough. Wanting change is simply a start. You have to do something.

Nothing will change if you simply sit still, so get up and own your place in the world to make it better.

Animal Rights Movement

Animal rights activists have long been concerned with the property status of animals, factory farming, veganism, animal experimentation, companion animal homelessness and overpopulation, fur, hunting, and other issues.
Animal rights activists have long been concerned with the property status of animals, factory farming, veganism, animal experimentation, companion animal homelessness and overpopulation, fur, hunting, and other issues. | Source

20. "If You're Out There" by John Legend

Consider this 2008 R&B number an urgent call to action. It's time for the new generation to answer the narrator's plea and lead change in the world.

The narrator urges listeners to conquer hunger, hate, and violence through love. He has the conviction that a better world is possible:

If you hear this message, wherever you stand
I'm calling every woman, calling every man
We're the generation
We can't afford to wait
The future started yesterday, and we're already late.

Immigrant Rights Movement

Millions of American immigrants are denied basic human rights because they are undocumented.  They work in low-wage industries and lack basic labor protections, education, mobility, and access to public services.
Millions of American immigrants are denied basic human rights because they are undocumented. They work in low-wage industries and lack basic labor protections, education, mobility, and access to public services. | Source

Even More Songs About Changing the World

Song
Artist
Year Released
21. We are the World
USA for Africa
1985
22. If You're Out There
John Legend
2008
23. We Want Peace
Emmanuel Jal
2012
24. I Will Change the World
Melissa Etheridge
2012
25. One Day
Matisyahu
2009
26. I Can't Change the World
Brad Paisley
2013
27. I Can
Nas
2002
28. Bomb the World
Michael Franti & Spearhead
2003
29. Better Way
Ben Harper
2006
30. We're All in This Together
Ben Lee
2005
31. Be One
Natalie Grant
2015
32. I Was Here
Lady Antebellum
2008
33. Today I'm Gonna Try to Change the World
Johnny Reid
2010
34. 4 Minutes
Madonna
2008
35. We're Not Gonna Take It
Twisted Sister
1984
36. I Was Here
Beyonce
2011
37. People Help the People
Cherry Ghost
2007
38. What's Going On
Marvin Gaye
1971
39. Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)
Marvin Gaye
1971
40. Where Is the Love?
Black Eyed Peas
2003
41. Heroes (We Could Be)
Alesso (featuring Tove Lo)
2014
42. I Won't Back Down
Tom Petty
1989
43. You've Got to Stand for Something
Aaron Tippin
1990
44. Firework
Katy Perry
2012
45. Brave
Sara Bareilles
2013
46. I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing
The Hillside Singers
1971
47. Revolution
The Beatles
1968
48. Truth to Power
OneRepublic
2017
49. I Need to Wake Up
Melissa Etheridge
2005
50. We Will Rise Up
Andra Day
2015
51. Today I'm Gonna Try and Change the World
Johnny Reid
2010
52. Eve of Destruction
Barry McGuire
1965
53. There's Still My Joy
Indigo Girls
2010
Do you know a song about changing the world that should be on this playlist? Make a recommendation in the Comments Section below.
Anti-Muslim fear, hatred, and prejudice has grown since the September 11 attacks.  It includes elements of both xenophobia and religious intolerance.
Anti-Muslim fear, hatred, and prejudice has grown since the September 11 attacks. It includes elements of both xenophobia and religious intolerance. | Source

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 FlourishAnyway

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      • FlourishAnyway profile image
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        FlourishAnyway 3 days ago from USA

        Dianna - Thank you for such a sweet message. I hope you have a fabulous weekend!

      • teaches12345 profile image

        Dianna Mendez 4 days ago

        Imagine is a classic for this topic! Underwood's message in song speaks to my heart and what I believe will change the world: caring for others. Always enjoy your articles!

      • FlourishAnyway profile image
        Author

        FlourishAnyway 10 days ago from USA

        Sean - Thanks for your energy around changing the world. I hope you are working hard in your sphere of influence to make positive strides. Have a great day!

      • Sean Dragon profile image

        Ioannis Arvanitis 10 days ago from Greece, Almyros

        This is an amazing article, dear Flourish! Thank you for this, thank you for the Love you put on it, it seems a great Heart. I love your work anyway, and this article is an opportunity to express it.

        You are a Smiling Heart, and it's so important for the world today.

        God Bless you!

        Sean

      • FlourishAnyway profile image
        Author

        FlourishAnyway 2 weeks ago from USA

        Natalie - Thanks for the recommendations! All the best, Flourish

      • FlourishAnyway profile image
        Author

        FlourishAnyway 2 weeks ago from USA

        Chitrangada - I hope you're changing the world in your corner of it. If we all work hard we can make it happen! Thanks for stopping by.

      • Natalie Frank profile image

        Natalie Frank 2 weeks ago from Chicago, IL

        Great list LInda! I'm making a play list with some of the more positive ones. How about the Indigo Girls - There's Still My Joy

        "One tiny child can change the world

        One shining light can show the way"

        and 2Pac Changes

        "We gotta start making changes

        Learn to see me as a brother instead of two distant strangers

        And that’s how it’s supposed to be

        How can the Devil take a brother if he’s close to me?"

        I love that you've included Matisyahu

      • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

        Chitrangada Sharan 2 weeks ago from New Delhi, India

        Wonderful list of such inspirational songs. I know some of them by heart. Music has the power to unite people, and it can inspire to bring the positive changes in the World.

        Thanks for sharing another excellent list of songs!

      • FlourishAnyway profile image
        Author

        FlourishAnyway 2 weeks ago from USA

        Genna - Thanks for your kind words of support. I'm sure you are changing the world where you are. Have a wonderful Easter weekend.

      • Genna East profile image

        Genna East 2 weeks ago from Massachusetts, USA

        This is so inspirational. "Dare to educate yourself about it because facts still matter. Connect with other people and share your story, your vision. Go local or go big, just do something." Bravo! 'Heal the World', 'What About Now' and 'Imagine' are among my favorites for this wonderful list. Thank you.

      • FlourishAnyway profile image
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        FlourishAnyway 2 weeks ago from USA

        Larry - Hope you're changing your world and not letting the rest bother you too much. Have a great weekend!

      • Larry Rankin profile image

        Larry Rankin 2 weeks ago from Oklahoma

        Waiting on the world to change:-/

        Great list.

      • FlourishAnyway profile image
        Author

        FlourishAnyway 2 weeks ago from USA

        Jo - Thanks for stopping by! Have a great week!

      • jo miller profile image

        Jo Miller 2 weeks ago from Tennessee

        This is a very timely list. Many good songs here.

      • FlourishAnyway profile image
        Author

        FlourishAnyway 3 weeks ago from USA

        Dora - Glad you knew a couple songs here, Dora. There were some good new ones I thought you may enjoy as well!

      • FlourishAnyway profile image
        Author

        FlourishAnyway 3 weeks ago from USA

        Frank - We all have the power to change the world, at least our little corner of it. Have a wonderful week!

      • FlourishAnyway profile image
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        FlourishAnyway 3 weeks ago from USA

        Nell - Glad you enjoyed this!

      • FlourishAnyway profile image
        Author

        FlourishAnyway 3 weeks ago from USA

        Rasma - Thank you for stopping by. I hope the article inspires others to do what they can to change the world around them (or keep doing so). Have a great week!

      • CaribTales profile image

        Dora Weithers 3 weeks ago from The Caribbean

        Great topic, and as usual, very well presented. What's more is that I know two of the songs: One Love and Man in the Mirror. I'm keeping up, Flourish!

      • Frank Atanacio profile image

        Frank Atanacio 3 weeks ago from Shelton

        I still am reminded on how much I missed music like man in the mirror.. makes me think about how we can change the world by looking at each other in the mirror.. How can one person change the world.. as Clinton wrote it takes a village.. perhaps we all should look in the mirror together and put the me first behind us...

      • Nell Rose profile image

        Nell Rose 3 weeks ago from England

        What a great list and I have all these songs in my head now!

      • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

        Gypsy Rose Lee 3 weeks ago from Riga, Latvia

        A most informative and interesting hub. Lots of music to like here with thoughts of changing the world. Wonderful to see that this collection is much larger than I thought it might be.

      • FlourishAnyway profile image
        Author

        FlourishAnyway 3 weeks ago from USA

        Clive - That's one of my very favorites, too, and the last song Michael Jackson sang before he died.

      • AliciaC profile image

        Linda Crampton 3 weeks ago from British Columbia, Canada

        Your article and the photos contain important messages, Flourish. Thanks for sharing them. The only song in your list that I know is "Imagine". I've liked the song for a long time.

      • clivewilliams profile image

        Clive Williams 3 weeks ago from Jamaica

        Man in the mirror is one of my faves

      • Robert Sacchi profile image

        Robert Sacchi 3 weeks ago

        You're welcome. These articles are great trips down memory lane.

      • FlourishAnyway profile image
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        FlourishAnyway 3 weeks ago from USA

        Bob - Thanks for that suggestion. I've added it at #52.

      • FlourishAnyway profile image
        Author

        FlourishAnyway 3 weeks ago from USA

        Koralee - Great recommendation! I've added it to the list at #51. If we hurled kind words like we do insults -- frequently and without a second thought -- imagine what a place this would be!

      • Robert Sacchi profile image

        Robert Sacchi 3 weeks ago

        What about "Eve of Destruction"? "You're old enough to kill but not for voting." That was just one of the tidbits in the lyrics. The 26th Amendment lowered the voting age to 18.

      • KoraleeP profile image

        Koralee Phillips 3 weeks ago from Penticton British Columbia Canada

        This is a great Hub :) I love this "Rather than stand there and shake your head, be a soldier in the good fight by throwing grenades of kindness, love, and compassion... Hurl smiles and encouraging words.

        My go to song for inspiration to focus on what's important is Johnny Reid - Today I'm Gonna Try To Change The World.

      • FlourishAnyway profile image
        Author

        FlourishAnyway 3 weeks ago from USA

        Bob - Because music reflects the sociocultural environment, many are naturally about social justice topics and changing the world. I hope we're on to something positive.

      • FlourishAnyway profile image
        Author

        FlourishAnyway 3 weeks ago from USA

        Bill - I hope that between the Women's March and yesterday's march, we are seeing a new era of activism and social awareness.

      • FlourishAnyway profile image
        Author

        FlourishAnyway 3 weeks ago from USA

        Linda - We can all model the type of kindness we wish to see reverberate throughout the world. My causes are the environment and pet overpopulation, and I have traditionally given until it hurts. I hope many others dedicate (or re-dedicate) themselves to whatever cause appeals to them. I also hope we'll look back on this era as one of renewed activism. Have a wonderful weekend.

      • FlourishAnyway profile image
        Author

        FlourishAnyway 3 weeks ago from USA

        Heidi - There are so many good ones. Although I like "Image," I've heard some new ones (to me anyhow) in the last year or two that have really inspired me. Most of them have been introduced to me by young people (my daughter's friends and classmates who are passionate about making a difference). An amazing teacher at her high school has a junior year "Change the World" project that each student is charged with designing and executing. Some of those projects are large in scope, innovative, and truly phenomenal. It makes me feel energized that Generation Z has such passion.

      • FlourishAnyway profile image
        Author

        FlourishAnyway 3 weeks ago from USA

        Nikki - What kind support. Thank you for your sweet words. I hope we all work towards making our world more loving and tolerant wherever we live and however we are able to do so.

      • FlourishAnyway profile image
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        FlourishAnyway 3 weeks ago from USA

        Mary - Thank you for your kind support. I hope more people get involved in causes they believe in so that we can all make the world a better place.

      • FlourishAnyway profile image
        Author

        FlourishAnyway 3 weeks ago from USA

        Bill - I hope the young people's movement continues. They have such determination! You're right about there being so many social issues that need support. Hope your weekend is a good one.

      • FlourishAnyway profile image
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        FlourishAnyway 3 weeks ago from USA

        Devika - We need all the help we can get in this world working for good. Thanks for your kind comments.

      • FlourishAnyway profile image
        Author

        FlourishAnyway 3 weeks ago from USA

        Louise - Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. I like those particular songs, too. Have a wonderful weekend!

      • Robert Sacchi profile image

        Robert Sacchi 3 weeks ago

        A good list that spans the decades from the '60s to today. I notice most of the songs are from this century. Do you think the music world becoming more politically active?

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 3 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

        I was in college in the late 60's and I swear, it seemed like every other song recorded was about changing the world....where did that conviction go to? Perhaps the youth marches of yesterday are a beginning. Anyway, Imagine will always lead the way, for me, in this category.

      • Carb Diva profile image

        Linda Lum 3 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

        Flourish, I must admit that many/most of the new ones I had not heard (I tend to listen to classical music). I guess I should "change my tune."

        I am encouraged by the young people of today protesting the unsafe environment in the schools. Since Columbine nothing has changed, and there is no excuse for that.

        Thank you for including Marvin Gaye, one of my favorite artists--another one taken from us much too soon.

        I hope you are having a good weekend. Thank you for putting together this very timely article. We all need to be involved. I think it was Gandhi who said be the chance you wish to see in the world.

      • heidithorne profile image

        Heidi Thorne 3 weeks ago from Chicago Area

        What an appropriate playlist for this weekend with all the marches going on. I think "Imagine" is my favorite about changing the world. Thanks for making our world a better place with sharing your playlists!

      • nikkikhan10 profile image

        Nikki Khan 3 weeks ago from London

        A wonderful hub Flourish to bring some change in this world for good.All songs are amazing to inspire us to do something except keep on watching and blaming others.

        You’ve done a brilliant job here, thumbs up!

      • aesta1 profile image

        Mary Norton 3 weeks ago from Ontario, Canada

        Poetry in music often inspires more than speeches and you have woven your choices into some of the current issues today we need to stand up for. Great hub.

      • bdegiulio profile image

        Bill De Giulio 3 weeks ago from Massachusetts

        Hi Flourish. Very appropriate list with what’s going on in the world lately. Just yesterday our community participated in the March for Our Lives to support the students from Parkland, Florida. Some great songs in your list and certainly no shortage of social issues worth supporting. Great job.

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        Devika Primić 3 weeks ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

        The world is not much of a safe place. Powerful songs and I didn't think of these songs in such a way.

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        Louise Powles 3 weeks ago from Norfolk, England

        There's so many good songs in there. I particularly love Imagine, Man in the Mirror and One Love.

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