6 Influential Songs About Change

As summer approaches, I find myself constantly thinking about change. How did this school year go - for myself, for my kids, for my school community? It’s also a very helpful time for reflection: what will I do differently next year, and what are my goals for making a change?

I think about the song Pete Seeger adapted from Ecclesiastes, “Turn! Turn! Turn!”

I want to put a ding in the universe.
— Steve Jobs

Try this: Reflect on Proud Moments & Areas of Opportunity

  1. Sit for five minutes without talking.

  2. Reflect about your school year. What are the highlights? What didn’t go so well?

  3. Write down five highlights, and why they were successful.

  4. Write down five areas of opportunity - things you would have done, said, or planned differently - and what you would have done to improve those moments. Calling these “opportunities” hopefully makes it easier to look at them positively and work to change.

Some change just happens naturally - each year we grow older without much effort. But most change - especially when trying to move to something more positive or satisfying - requires considerable effort by those seeking the change, and sometimes against those who would prefer things to stay the same.

Songs about change - YRM

Change can be influential.

In 1913, the Ballets Russes premiered the performance of “The Rite of Spring.”

The music was discordant and bombastic, and the choreography by Vaslav Nijinsky was jerky and unfamiliar. This defied the popular graceful aesthetics of classical ballet. The audience, unnerved by it all, broke out in a riot.

By the end of the first act the police had to be called to control the scene. “The Rite of Spring” is “considered to be one of the most influential musical works of the 20th century.” (source: Wikipedia)

Many songs work within popular culture to provoke change. Here are 6 great songs about change:

1. Redemption Song (Bob Marley)

His last single before his early exit from cancer. “None but ourselves can free our minds.”

2. We Shall Overcome (Traditional)

Pete Seeger heard a version of this song, sung by striking tobacco workers in South Carolina in 1945. He changed “We will overcome…” to include the word “shall” because he thought the “ah” vowel in shall was easier to sing.  It is one of the most important songs in U.S. History.

3. Keep Your Eyes on the Prize (Traditional)

The Highlander Folk school in New Market Tennessee played a key role in the organization and education around social justice since the 1930’s, including the promotion of hymns as songs of social justice.

Through the work of Zilphia Horton and Myles Horton, this song, as well as “This Little Light of Mine” and “We Shall Not Be Moved” rose to prominence as protest songs in the Civil Rights Movement.

4. Fight The Power (Public Enemy)

PE encouraged people of all backgrounds to get involved in politics. Their embrace of militaristic strength - an homage to the Black Power movement - shouts “gotta give us what we want - gotta give us what we need” in a demand for equal respect, fair treatment, and calling out systemic racism decades before #BlackLivesMatter.

5. Same Love (Macklemore and Ryan Lewis ft. Mary Lambert)

With the rise of viral videos, it’s clear that YouTube can be a protest stage unlike any other. The video for “Same Love” has over 200 million views. The song supports marriage equality for all, and is told from the perspective of a young person who has seen the way politics, religion, and social media can contribute to our cultural divide.

6. Change my Mind (Yo Re Mi)

Kickstart a conversation about the beauty of change and transformation by singing along to “Change My Mind”, a mindful song that reminds us we don’t have to live in a fixed mindset - mental shifts can be a good thing! This song can be an impactful addition to your classroom curriculum when exploring change and transformation in early childhood education.

As the summer season pulls us into vacation mode, identify things you’d like to change. How will you work to achieve them? Anything is possible, and today’s a great day to get started!


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Inspiring songs about change - YRM

Dan Costello is a professional musician, music educator and certified Children's Yoga Instructor (KAY) specializing in early and elementary education.

A music teacher for ten years, Dan has developed music education curriculum which combines movement-based activities, joyful sing-alongs, and songwriting.

Dan plays piano, guitar, clarinet, drums, ukulele, and just about anything he can find. He plays in bands and writes songs for children and adults. His favorite songs are the ones we sing together.