Songs are very personal expressions, and yet some have come to represent important cultural, political, and social events. In certain periods of time, songs have had a huge impact in people’s lives. Some songs have changed the course of history and made the world a better place. They are songs that changed the world and made a difference.
Anthems of unity
“We Shall Overcome” by Joan Baez was a popular anthem of the civil rights movement in 1963. It was successful in doing so, but it has become more than a call for unity against racial prejudice in the Sixties. Now, when anything needed to be overcome, everyone sings this song. It has transcended generations and issues, and is unparalleled in its capacity to bring people together.
Perhaps, only Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ In the Wind” is sung as often and for the same reason. This song has a huge upper hand. It is not hard not to sing along, and even if someone does not know the lyrics and the melody, it’s very easy to learn.
Remembering events others would rather forget
“Sunday Bloody Sunday” by the Irish super band U2 was the battle cry against violence. In writing and performing the song, the band has no intention whatsoever of dampening the emotions tied to memories of Bloody Sunday, an unfortunate event involving the murder of protesters in Derry in the early ‘70s. But rather than call attention to dark times and stress the bitter conflict that still assail Northern Ireland, this track, along with the rest of the album, “War” presents a positive point of view – the there is always an alternative to war.
Boosting a campaign
Stevie Wonder’s “Happy Birthday” does not just pertain to everyone’s birthday. In 1981, The King Centre asked this singular artist’s name to help with the campaign to declare a national holiday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “Happy Birthday” did help in pushing legislation to approve a once-denied petition that was first put forward by Dr. King’s supporters in 1968.
Call for collective action
“Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by Band Aid raised 160 million pounds for Live Aid. The world saw important artists from the United Kingdom coming together to feed the hungry and impoverished in Africa. It was a catchy Christmas tune, but the song was secondary to the message: “Feed the World.” Now, the song is forever tied to the admirable collective effort to deal with the famine in Africa in the 1980s.
One year after in 1985, the Americans organized a conglomerate of musicians called USA for Africa and launched their own single, “We Are the World” to contribute to the relief efforts. The single became a chart topper, record holder, and Grammy Award winner. All the earnings – about $63 million was given to charitable initiatives in Africa and the USA. The song featured the most popular pop artists in the world at the time. A remake of the song was made in 2010 for the benefit of the victims of the earthquake in Haiti. “We Are the World 25 for Haiti” was recorded by the most popular artists and musicians of the 21st century.
We all aspire for peace in our lives and in the world at large. And nothing better than John Lennon’s “Imagine” represents this common aspiration. No other song has given us words and melodies that we feel in ourselves but do not have the means to express. “Imagine” has given life to the spirit of humanity that unites us all, even as we are divided by religion, politics, race, and nationality. When John Lennon wrote, “I hope someday you’ll join us and the world will be as one,” he probably wrote with hope, but with no real inkling as to what the song would mean to the world.