10 Truly Inspirational Songs
Back in the '80s, when muscleheads like Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger ruled the box office, an action flick wasn't complete without a montage of its hero pumping iron with a rock song in the background. Often, the songs chosen for these inspirational scenes fell on the cheesier side of the spectrum -- check out the training sequence in the 1986 cult martial arts film 'No Retreat, No Surrender' for proof. Today, Diffuser.fm takes a look at 10 tracks that prove it's possible to pen uplifting lines without sliding into cringe-worthy territory. Behold: 10 Truly Inspirational Songs. Play 'em loud and let the healing begin.
One of the standout singles on Peter Gabriel's 1986 mainstream breakthrough, ‘So,’ 'Don't Give Up' tells the story of a man and a woman dealing with the pain of losing a job. Sadly, it remains a timely lyric, even all these years later, and Kate Bush turns in a delicate yet assured vocal performance as the woman who tries to lift the man’s spirits with lines like, “Don't give up / you’re not beaten yet.” ‘Don’t Give Up’ remains a staple in Gabriel’s live set and has been covered by a wide array of artists, including Willie Nelson, Pink and Sarah Brightman.
The inspiration behind this Misfits classic has been debated over the years – is it about World War II? prostitution? – but Glenn Danzig’s F.U. refrain “I ain't no goddamn son of a bitch” during its hopelessly catchy chorus feels like a defiant declaration of independence.
After ‘Static Prevails,’ their 1996 Capitol Records debut, died a quick commercial death, Jimmy Eat World wrote ‘The Middle’ about being dropped from the label. Opening with the line “Hey, don't write yourself off yet / It's only in your head you feel left out or looked down on,” the song has gone on to become a “yes I can” anthem for the post-Warped Tour generation.
“It's a real honest kind of love song. I don't think I've ever done a real love song before,” Talking Heads frontman David Byrne says about ‘This Must Be the Place (Naïve Melody)’ in an interview featured on the DVD of the group’s ‘Stop Making Sense’ concert film. In a song boasting many standout lines, “Never for money, always for love” is the one that rings the loudest and lands ‘This Must Be the Place’ on our 10 Truly Inspirational Songs list.
“May your past be the sound of your feet upon the ground / Carry on,” fun. vocalist Nate Ruess sings on ‘Carry On,’ a rallying cry of perseverance from their ‘Some Nights’ album. Listening to that line, coupled with the track’s skyscraping guitar solo, one can’t help but get swept up by inspirational tone. ‘Carry On’ clearly struck a nerve with music fans, climbing to No. 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 in late 2012 and selling more than a million downloads in the process.
R.E.M.’s discography is famously loaded with cryptic lyrics, but on 1992’s ‘Everybody Hurts,’ the next entry on our Truly Inspirational Songs list, the message comes across loud and clear. “When you're sure you've had enough of this life, well hang on / don't let yourself go / everybody cries and everybody hurts sometimes,” Michael Stipe softly sings during the first verse over a bed of acoustic guitars, minimal percussion and keyboards. The song’s uplifting message has made ‘Everybody Hurts’ a sort of modern-rock gospel hymn. In 1995, British charity the Samaritans even used the tune as part of an anti-suicide campaign.
Pet Shop Boys clearly knew what they were doing when they released their ‘Winner’ single right around the time of the 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremonies. It's about savoring a moment of triumph, and over a crystalline keyboard pattern, Neil Tennant sings, “'Cause you're a winner / took so long, we worked so hard / we came so far and just to compete / but don't forget all the love and laughter / now the world is at our feet.” Yes, ‘Winner’ is PSB’s synth-pop Tony Robbins moment.
“This year I'll live like I've never lived before / this is my year for sure,” goes the chorus of Lawrence Arms’ emotionally charged ‘100 Resolutions.’ Diffuser.fm has been lucky enough to see the Chicago power trio live and has witnessed an entire club of sweaty punkers screaming along with guitarist/vocalist Chris McCaughan during this gem. It’s enough to make the hardest mohawked dude feel all giddy inside.
“What made me behave that way? / using words I never say / I can only think it must be love / oh, anyway, it's looking like a beautiful day,” Elbow’s Guy Garvey ponders on the British group’s superb 2008 ‘One Day Like This’ single. To truly catch the stirring effect of this Truly Inspirational Songs list entry, click on the YouTube link below to see Elbow transform a capacity festival crowd into a church choir.
The Clash’s Mick Jones defiantly proclaims, “I've been beat up / I've been thrown out / but I'm not down / I'm not down,” on the iconic punk group’s ‘I’m Not Down.’ The song – and especially that lyric – perfectly showcase the band’s rebel spirit.