What is greatness in songs? There are a quantitative measure of hundreds of thousands of paid and free streams, sales, radio airplay and votes. These combine the qualitative data of how the songs make people feel, connect with the music and lyrics. Neither can account for your personal taste and connections though. You either like a piece of music and connect with it or you don’t.
There are many songs on the list that influenced history, Sam Cooke – “A Change Is Gonna Come” (1964) was influenced by his personal experiences where he was refused a room at a white-only hotel then arrested for disturbing the peace. The song was released a few months after his death. It was written and inspired by the Beatles music and the messaging in their music.
What can probably be considered John Lennons’ most well-known song “Imagine” is Lennons’ magnum opus. John himself said that the track is “anti-religious, anti-nationalistic, anti-conventional, anti-capitalistic…but because it’s sugar-coated, it is accepted.” We can argue the messaging in the music where a multi-millionare is messaging that we need to give everything away, but that’s another matter. John Lennon was assassinated in 1980.
There is probably not a person in the western world that hasn’t heard the U2 “Sunday Bloody Sunday” (1983) which describes the Northern Ireland war. The song is about the Bloody Sunday incident in Derry, January 1972, where British paratroopers killed 13 Irish citizens at a civil rights protest. U2 performed the song around the world waving a white flag for peace, which also links back to the Catholic Bishop of Derry Edward Daly using a bloodied handkerchief as a white flag while escorting people through the streets.
Moving on to more recent music, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis feat. Mary Lambert – “Same Love” (2012) addresses gay rights with its chorus by Mary Lambert which resonates with LGBTI+ members where “I can’t change, even if I tried, even if I wanted to”. Lambert was raised in the church and grew up knowing she was gay, frequently apologising to God for being a sinner, for being gay. Macklemore has said ” “This is an issue that I feel strongly about, that I feel passionate about. These people are human beings that should have the exact same rights as everybody else”. The music video for the song at the time of writing this post had 250 million views.