Top 10 Musicians Who have Influenced Social Change

Imagine – John Lennon

The anthem for World Peace and universal hope, the song ‘Imagine’ is considered to be the most profound song where the vision is so accurately and movingly conveyed. It was originally featured on the 1971 album “Imagine” and reached the top of the charts in England.

Imagine is a humanistic song that encourages people to unite spiritually, emotionally and mentally in this exquisitely beautiful home of Earth. It denies any human-made social as well as political boundaries and urges everybody to create war, poverty and religion free world; it advocates for nationless, moneyless, and more importantly classless world. It became the nation’s favorite song lyric in 1999 and second favorite all-time song in a large best-music-of-the-millennium poll.

Strange Fruit – Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit,” is one of the most tragic and haunting songs about barbaric practice of lynching in America – when a group of people kill someone for an alleged offence without any legal trial, usually by hanging – which was very common practice at the time. The song was first recorded by the famous jazz singer Billie Holiday in 1939.

The song strongly portrayed lynching in all of its viciousness and inhumanity, when political protest was not often expressed in musical form. The lyrics is more powerful for their ironic language. It was the first time a black artist had sung such a controversial song and gave a didactic or agitational message.

Man in the Mirror – Michael Jackson

“Man in the Mirror” is one of the most critically acclaimed songs by Michael Jackson and written by Glen Ballard and Siedah Garrett. Released in 1988, the song is about personal deliverance for making a positive impact on the world.

The song is about a man’s resolve before he desires to transform the world, it focuses on self-reflection and the inner-struggle of every individual to become superior, more moral and ethical. It raises the questions: ‘What is your responsibility to society? How do perceive the possibility of positive change? Is it possible to change the world without changing yourself? To what extent one can influence change? The song urges us to start talking to ourselves and be the change we would like to see around.

Blowin’ in the Wind – Bob Dylan

In April 1962, at Gerde’s Folk City in New York’s Greenwich Village, The 20-year-old Bob Dylan played his new song, which became the civil rights’ anthem. This song had a major influence on American singer-songwriter Sam Cooke, who wrote similar kind of song ‘A Change is Gonna Come’.

Bob Dylan stated about the song: “I wrote ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ in 10 minutes, just put words to an old spiritual, probably something I learned from Carter Family records. That’s the folk tradition. You use what’s been handed down.”

A Change is Gonna Come – Sam Cooke

Cooke wrote this as a protest song to support the civil rights movement for black Americans who were fighting for equality. Before this song, most of his writings were either touching ballads or lighthearted uptemo tunes but when he heard Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ In The Wind,” he became inspired to write something similar. The song was released on December 22, 1964 by RCA Victor.

The Way It Is – Bruce Hornsby and The Range

The song portrays 1980s America from a critical perspective, it illustrates a divide between the rich and poor, and it represents social ills like racial segregation. He insists on taking law makers into careful consideration about segregation which is morally wrong. It also recounts the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as a victory in the civil rights movement, but emphasizes that more should be done because things never change when we wait for social problems to change themselves. It requires active steps ourselves to change them.

This song was written and recorded by Bruce Hornsby and the Range from their 1986 album The Way It Is. In 1986, it topped the charts in the United States, Canada and the Netherlands and reached inside the top twenty in Ireland, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

Redemption Song – Bob Marley

“Redemption Song” is a song by Bob Marley, produced by Chris Blackwell and released by Island Records. The song is considered to be one of Marley’s greatest works. Some key lyrics have been taken from a speech of the Pan-Africanist orator Marcus Garvey during October 1937.

He wrote the song, circa 1979, when he had been diagnosed with the cancer in his toe that later took his life. The song also expresses his secret pain and struggle with his own mortality. The song urges listeners to liberate themselves from mental slavery, which can only free one’s mind.

What A Wonderful World -Louis Armstrong

Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World,” released in 1967, the songs initiated people to live optimistically and make the world a better place for upcoming generation. With its hopeful tone, slow tempo and wonderful lyrics, the song tried to sooth the increasingly racially and politically charged climate of everyday life in the US. Though it didn’t do very well in America and sold less than 1000 copies, but in the UK, it was a major success and reached number 1 in the charts.

Nina Simon Why? (The King Of Love is Dead)

This was written by Gene Taylor, Simone’s bass player, and the song was inspired by Martin Luther King’s death. Nina Simon performed the song three days after his murder and with 24 hours after the song was written at Westbury Music Fair in New York on Sunday 7th April 1968. During the performance, she made it clear, “We can’t afford any more losses … they’re killing us one by one.”

The song implies, which King should have been able to pursue instead of having to take up the fight against an pointless evil. It expects to stop such brutal killings and gruesome attitude towards black. it also expects a different circumstances, more human tolerance for each other. Killing burning is gonna help anyone anymore.

Love Train – The O’Jays

‘Love Train’ is a hit single by The O’Jays, released in 1972 and written by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. It reached number one on the Hot 100 as well as the R&B Singles in 1973 and was certified gold by the RIAA.
The song initiates different races coming together and shaking hands, ending racial conflict and promoting peace and love.