Top 10 Social & Political Songs of Our Time
We hear songs everyday, whether on the radio, television, or from music sources such as CD's, iPod, and other sources. Music touches us in a unique way. It is easy to get a song stuck in your head. While you may remember parts from a movie or a television show, you don't play the movie in it's entirety over and over in your head throughout the day. Music touches us.
While there are songs that are meaningless, such as most pop songs, there are songs that have been written through the years that express a deep meaning, meant to move us to action in some way. Here, I want to list the top 10 songs that I believe have a depth of meaning to them, and in some way have caused us to begin talking and thinking about the issues of society. Obviously, this is from my opinion and life experience, but hopefully it gets you to thinking. Some of the songs are more recent, while some come from an era that is becoming quickly distant to us, yet the issues are still before us today.
1. Silent Running- Mike and the Mechanics
I list this one first, because it intrigues me the most. This song has always grabbed my attention. The music fits the lyrics so well. I like songs like this that don't explain themselves. It causes us to have to discuss the meaning, so that we can together arrive at the meaning, then take action. A couple of clues to the meaning of the song will help you in your discussion of the lyrics.
First, there seems to be a consensus that the song is speaking about the cold war, as this conflict between the United States and Russia was going on when the song was written. The band seems to be calling us to take action, and live for a bigger purpose than ourselves.
Too, many think that the song is being sung from the standpoint of Jesus, as there are allusions to someone speaking from heaven who works with the high command. Too, there is an encouragement to pray to God, with the promise that the Father and the Spirit will help from somewhere above the Earth, with Jesus not mentioning Himself.
Whatever all the meaning to this song is, it certainly causes us to think, and to have to consider our own purpose in life.
I originally uploaded the original video to this song, but the recording company took it off. So, here is an impressive video of the song.
Mike&The Mechanics- Silent Running
2. Another Day in Paradise- Phil Collins
In coming to the second song, I chose Another Day in Paradise. I believe this song came out on a Genesis album, but Phil Collins sang it. This is one of those songs that truly cause us to think outside ourselves. Collins doesn't allow us to remain status quo. The lyrics remind us that while we go about our everyday life, there are people all around us who are truly suffering. Let this song remind you that you can make a difference in the people around you.
I want to give you a quick word of advice before we move on. Those people that you see on the street need more than your money. They need a friend. I encourage you to step into their life, and walk with them in the pain. The reward is beyond description.
Another Day in Paradise- Phil Collins
3. Bitter Sweet Symphony- The Verve
Here is one of those songs that jumped out at me the first time I heard it because I liked the music, but I didn't really pay attention to the lyrics. After I did really pay attention, it was a song that caused me to think about the people in my life.
We can tend to push people out of our way to advance ourselves. Knocking people over to climb the corporate ladder only leaves us without friends once we reach the top, wherever that is. In the original music video the singer is knocking people around as he walks down the sidewalk, with no care in the world. Getting wrapped up in our own world while hurting others is easy to do. However, it would make the world a better place if we paid more attention to the people around us.
How are you doing with the relationships in your life? Are you knocking people around physically, emotionally, with your words or in some other way while you achieve your own ends?
Bittersweet Symphony- The Verve
4. Sunday Bloody Sunday- U2
U2 is one of those bands that exist for the purpose of sending the message of social and political change. That message stems from their faith. Bono, the lead singer, travels the world speaking to dignitaries and common people alike to influence change where injustice exists. In their songs you will find many references to injustice, and references to God bringing justice to the world through His people.
This song that I chose has a profound message to it. It was written while Bono was in a hotel room. As the story goes, he was watching the news and saw that a massacre was occurring in his homeland of Ireland. British troops opened fire on a group of innocent civilians. I believe that 14 were killed. It happened to be Sunday when they should have been at peace. The images and story moved Bono to write and sing of that tragic day.
The reason Bono can sing these songs calling for justice is that he has a real faith that leads to action. What a contrast to those involved in that bloody massacre whose faith was not real. True faith causes us to reconcile with those around us.
Sunday Bloody Sunday- U2
5. The Way It Is- Bruce Hornsby and the Range
This is one of those songs that has a catchy tune and lyrics. This song was high on the charts for a long time, and is probably the most well known song of the band. There are people who have next to nothing. We could try to pawn off our responsibility to help them in their need to the government. But, as the song notes, government help is really not much help at all. I encourage you to look around to see those who are truly in need, then take personal responsibility to help them.
Due to a copyright claim by the recording company I cannot play a video or display the lyrics of this song. I encourage you to research the lyrics on your own.
6. Turn! Turn! Turn!- The Byrds
In the 1960s and early 1970s many social and political songs were written as the United States and the World was in social upheaval. The time had come for the institutions and authorities to be challenged. People had grown weary of the systems that had dominated for so long, and they desired for a more natural experience as humans. Among the many songs that came out during this period I chose this one.
This song describes the period well. Everything has it's own time. Times were changing. The time had come for a new order. This song finds it's reference in the Bible in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. Israel was in a similar social upheaval as the new generation that lived during King Solomon's reign desired something better than the old systems.
Even our life has it's time and place. What are you doing with the time you have been given?
7. Age of Aquarius- 5th Dimension
Being a follower of Jesus I believe that God has our times in His hand, rather than us being influenced by the aligning of the stars. However, I am not closed-minded to where I can't listen to what others are saying. In this song, there is strong reference to astrology and the astrological age of Aquarius.
According to the story the age of aquarius is the time dominated by modernization and industrialization. Also, people in this time look to the unity of humanity. I included this song because it touches on an issue that is very meaningful in our society- that we learn to live in unity with each other.
Age of Aquarius- 5th Dimension
8. Born in the U.S.A.- Bruce Springsteen
Though this song is played at fireworks shows on the 4th of July as a patriotic song, this song is not very patriotic. This song is a critique of how soldiers are treated. In the song, the man who became a soldier is not very heroic in that the decision to go into the military seems to be a bit random. When he comes back to the United States, he does not receive a heroes welcome.
As with any song, I challenge you to listen to the words and not just the music. An important message could be there for us to hear and learn from.
I searched high and low for a quality video for this song, but was unable to successfully download one. The sound is not the greatest on the video below, but it gives you the idea of what the song is about as you listen to the words.
Born in the USA- Bruce Springsteen
9. Fast Car- Tracy Chapman
Living in the inner city is no easy task. I know this from experience. Life can be very difficult for people who find themselves living in urban decay. The fight to get out of that situation can be full of disappointment and setbacks. I chose this song because of it's message of life in the inner city and the fight to get out of that life only to be met with disappointment.
If you tend to judge people who live in the less desirable neighborhoods I encourage you to lend a hand rather than putting them down. Many of the people in these neighborhoods are genuinely honest and hard working people who just need a little encouragement.
Fast Car- Tracy Chapman
10. Changes- Tupac
Earlier in this song list I have a song with the same music. This song is a spin off of the song "The Way It Is"by Bruce Hornsby. However the lyrics are quite different. This song is about the need for black people to come together and meet each other's needs rather than killing each other. There are many other issues dealt with in the song as well that the artist felt needed to be dealt with in the black community. He is frustrated because nothing seems to change.
I have white skin, but many of my close friends are black. They tell me of their concerns of gang violence, prostitution, drugs and domestic violence among the black community. My hope is that the goal of this song comes to be- that those in the black community would reach out to each other in love, and that would then cause people of different races to do the same.
So, there it is. I hope this gets you to thinking. There is so much more to life than going to work and making money. There is a whole world around us in need of what we have to offer. Take time today to look around you and see the difference that you can make.