REM Many listeners have misinterpreted the Georgia rock band’s hit single “Losing My Religion” as an anti-Christian song. But in reality, “losing my religion” is actually a southern saying similar to being “at your ropes end” or about to “lose your marbles”. Inspired by Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera, Michael Stipe explains that this is a song about the terror of falling in love with someone and surrendering to the unknown in the form of a romantic expression.
BOB DYLAN is widely regarded as one of the most influential songwriters of all time. Like almost all of his songs “A Hard Rain’s A Gonna Fall” is open to a multitude of interpretations but the most popular at the time (1962) was that it was composed from all of the ideas for unwritten songs he had in his head that he turned into one song because he feared the world was facing a nuclear war over the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. Dylan’s lyrics were his typical metaphorical poetry and it is the case that he even he has changed his explanation of the song several times over the years. Regardless, it possesses one of the music’s most famous opening refrains: “Oh, where have you gone, my blue-eyed son?/And where have you been, my darling young one?”
THE INTERRUPTERS Formed in Los Angeles in 2011, this American punk rock ska band has inspired a generation to get out and vote in this past election in hopes of a brighter future for America. Their single “Take Back the Power” features frontwoman Aimee Allen belting “It’s our time to take back the power. What’s your plan for tomorrow, are you a leader or will you follow?” As the theme song for Hulu’s documentary on the life of Hillary Clinton, young women around the world are sure to be rocking out to this feminist anthem together.
BOB MARLEY shaped an entire generation in the 1960’s and 1970’s and continues to do so well into the 21st century. “One Love” was a sincere message of peace, love and unity in a time of chaos and unrest throughout the world. It’s been almost 40 years since Marley’s death and still his music serves as a profound tool to bring people together and find peace—something he applied time and time again to his own life. When he was first diagnosed with terminal cancer, Marley wrote “Redemption Song” in response to this tragic news “emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, no one but ourselves can free our minds” refusing to give into the fear of death.
JONI MITCHELL Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell is a household name when it comes to Woodstock-era American folk music. Her famous single, “Woodstock” sings of a young hopeful boy walking to the legendary music festival, “We are stardust, We are golden. And we’ve got to get ourselves. Back to the garden.” Mitchell was a prominent voice in the 1970’s peace movement and gave hope to younger generations.
DIANA ROSS Legendary Motown singer Diana Ross is still one of the best-selling female vocalists to date. She was the lead singer of one of Motown’s most successful acts in the 1960s, The Supremes. She sang soulful, positive, feel-good tunes during the Civil Rights movement and Vietnam War, providing solace for listeners. Billboard Magazine named her the 1970’s “Female Entertainer of the Century” and her legacy continues to live on.
BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN Earning the title of Blue-Collar Hero, Springsteen’s iconic “Born In The USA” isn’t a patriotic anthem like its title suggests, but rather a look at the unfair way Vietnam War veterans were/are treated in the country. His music rose to popularity after he continued to speak out on important issues in a time when few did so musically. His third album, Born to Run, was a commercial success that hit #3 on the Billboard charts and went on to sell 6 million copies in the United States.
DIONNE WARWICK covered Rod Stewart’s “That’s What Friends are For” alongside Elton John, Gladys Knight and Stevie Wonder and released it as a charity single for AIDS research and prevention where it went on to become a #1 hit single in 1986, winning a Grammy for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals as well as Song of the Year. As the AIDS epidemic was a dark time in the country and ravaged the US, it’s no surprise that such a heart-warming and reassuring song was named the Song of the Year. Not only did it help bring victims’ loved ones together, but it raised over $3 million for AIDS research.
DIXIE CHICKS Now going by just The Chicks, this country trio’s fame swept across the south in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. The Chicks publicly criticized George Bush and the involvement in the Iraq war, hoping their music could serve as an outlet for the country, but it mostly led to the partial end to their career.
BEYONCÉ Beginning her career as a member of the Contemporary R&B group Destiny’s Child, Beyoncé has been in the limelight for over 20 years, inspiring women of color all over the world with her empowering performances and music. And her career seems to just keep climbing, in 2016 she released her visual album Lemonade which portrayed the strength and beauty in black women, leaving listeners speechless during her song “Freedom” featuring Kendrick Lamar where she ends the track with, ““I had my ups and downs, But I always find the inner-strength to pull myself up. I was served lemons, but I made lemonade.”