Music that changed the world
John Lennon: “Imagine”
The composition by Lennon has been accepted all over the world as the song of unity, hope and peace, with powerful lyrics that motivate listeners to imagine a world beyond religious and national boundaries.
The 46664 was Nelson Mandela’s initiative to raise global awareness about HIV AIDS through unique live events and music. 46664 was Nelson Mandela's prison number when he was put behind bars for 27 years for leading the liberation movement against apartheid. The concert series continues to make an impact for the cause till date.
This day-long concert was organized by singer and songwriter Bob Geldof and Midge Ure in 1985 to raise funds for famine relief in Ethiopia. The first of its kind benefit concert showcased 75 live performances and raised $245 million.
Black Eyed Peas - Where’s the love
“Where Is The Love” was released in 2003 in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The band recreated the track to raise a voice against the rise in terror attacks in 2016, the ongoing crisis in Syria, the Philando Castile and Alton Sterling deaths, and the ambush killings of five police officer in Dallas. Its questioning lyrics addresses issues like terrorism, racism, gang violence, pollution, war, intolerance, and violence against LGBT people.
K'naan: “Wavin’ Flag”
The song is a memoir of K’naan’s childhood in Somalia during the civil war in the country. It was a life he escaped to settle in Toronto. The song is a protest poetry rap that beautifully explores his memories of the civil war and the tough but hopeful journey of a refugee. It conveys a message about the world coming together rather than a land breaking apart. The song became the anthem of the world with several versions, the most popular one being the celebration mix for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Bob Marley and the Wailers: “Them Belly Full (But We Hungry)"
Marley and Wailers composed the piece in 1975 to acknowledge the plight of victims living in unbearably harsh conditions due to inequality in the Caribbean. "Them Belly Full (But We Hungry)" was a pragmatic warning to the people in power about the danger of letting a nation's poor remain hungry. The lyric, “A hungry mob is an angry mob” clearly conveyed that injustice could often lead to violence.
In 1985, activist and musician Steven Van Zandt along with record producer Arthur Baker formed the group "Artists United Against Apartheid" to protest against apartheid, a system of racial segregation in South Africa. With the support of journalist Danny Schechter, the duo sought out a group of well-known artists, including Bruce Springsteen and Miles Davis, to perform the protest song "Sun City". The composition was premiered at the United Nations and raised over $1 million for anti-apartheid projects.
Hope for Haiti Now: A Global Benefit for Earthquake Relief
The global charity telethon was hosted in the January of 2010 to raise funds for earthquake victims in Haiti. With performances by renowned artists like Beyonce, Shakira, Coldplay, Justin Timber and Madonna, the concert drew 83 million viewers and raised $58 million.
Bob Dylan: "Times They Are A-Changin"
This 1960s song summarized the anti-establishment mood of the people participating in the civil rights movement, popularly known as the hippie movement. The line "Your sons and daughters are beyond your command" is an instance of how certain lyrics can encapsulate exasperation that is timeless. It is little wonder then that critic Michael Gray called this Dylan track "the archetypal protest song."
Can music really change the world?
To quote Pete Seeger, ‘The right song at the right time can change history’
Music is a universal language understood beyond borders and cultures. It is a force that binds people together and lifts them emotionally.
History has witnessed artists harness music for humanitarian causes. Musicians, whether to motivate, inspire or bring people together for a common mission, have set the precedent that music can be used to serve a higher social cause.
Here’s a look at some influential pieces of music that have left an indelible social imprint: