The written word is powerful and some may say that the spoken word is even more powerful but when you put powerful words to melody there is no denying the impact a song can have. In an era where twerking has become a verb, people want to be fresh as hell if the feds are watching, and gold is all in someone’s chain, it’s great to look back on songs that had some possible life changing content.
Some songs make you want to fight against the system, some want to make you analyze what is happening around you, and others just make you believe in the absolute wonder of you. These are 10 songs that made you want to “Get Up, Get Out, and Get Something.”
10.Tomorrow – Quincy Jones feat. Tevin Campbell
This song was literally the graduation song for anyone graduating in the early 90’s. With the simple lyrics, “Tomorrow will bring a better you a better me, you know that we’ll show this world we got more we could be..” It made many kids believe in themselves. “Tomorrow (A Better You, a Better Me)” is the title of a song originally recorded by The Brothers Johnson as an instrumental in 1976 on the album Look Out for #1. In 1989, Siedah Garrett wrote lyrics to the song, and it was recorded by Quincy Jones featuring Tevin Campbell on vocals for the album Back on the Block.
9. Fight the Power – Public Enemy
Man this song used to get me amped up! “Fight the Power” is a song by American hip hop music group Public Enemy, released as a single in June 1989 on Motown Records. It was conceived at the request of film director Spike Lee, who sought a musical theme for his 1989 film Do the Right Thing. First issued on the film’s 1989 soundtrack, a different version was featured on Public Enemy’s 1990 studio album Fear of a Black Planet. My favorite line from this song is “Elvis was a hero to most but he never meant sh*t to me you see, straight up racist the sucker was simple and plain, mother f*ck him and John Wayne.” Enough said.
8. Get Up Stand Up- Bob Marley
“Get Up, Stand Up, stand up for your rights” is all you need to hear from Bob Marley and you are ready to hit the streets to protest. Either that or smoke a joint then go protest. Relax…I kid I kid! “Get Up, Stand Up” is a reggae song written by Bob Marley and Peter Tosh.The song originally appeared on The Wailers’ 1973 album Burnin’. It was recorded and played live in numerous versions by The Wailers and Bob Marley & The Wailers, along with solo versions by Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer. It was later included on the compilations Legend and Rebel Music, as well as Live recordings such as Live at the Roxy among others.
7. A Change is Gonna Come – Sam Cooke
As soon as hear, “I was born by the river…” You can’t help but feel the emotion Sam Cooke put into this song and the message he was conveying that spoke to the moment. “A Change Is Gonna Come” is a 1964 single by R&singer-songwriter Sam Cooke, written in 1963, first recorded in January of 1964, and released under the RCA Victor label shortly after his death in late 1964. Though only a modest hit for Cooke in comparison with his previous singles, the song came to exemplify the 1960s’ Civil Rights Movement. The song has gained in popularity and critical acclaim in the decades since its release, and is #12 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
6. Self Destruction – Various Rappers
“Funky fresh dressed to impress ready to party, money in your pocket, dying to move your body.” Those particular lyrics are not that inspiration but they are memorable as MC Lyte dropped a few jewels in her verse for the collaborative effort with her fellow rhyme sayers to help stop the violence in hip hop music and the black community. “Self-Destruction” was produced by KRS-One and D-Nice of Boogie Down Productions (Hank Shocklee of the Bomb Squad is credited as an associate producer), and featured the following:Boogie Down Productions (KRS-One, D-Nice & Ms. Melodie)Stetsasonic (Delite, Daddy-O, Wise, and Frukwan)Kool Moe DeeMC LyteDoug E. FreshJust-IceHeavy DPublic Enemy (Chuck D & Flavor Flav)
5. I Believe I Can Fly – R. Kelly
We just featured this song in another one of your countdowns but that just speaks to what R. Kelly was able to do with this song. It was so inspiration even Yolanda Adams remade it. “I Believe I Can Fly” is a 1996 song by R&B singer R. Kelly. The song was written, produced and performed by Kelly and was featured on the soundtrack to the 1996 film Space Jam. It was originally released on November 26, 1996, but later appeared in Kelly’s 1998 album R..
4. What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye
The wonderful but tragic thing about this song is that it is written so well that is still relevant today which is also sad. “What’s Going On” is a song by American recording artist Marvin Gaye, released in 1971 on the Motown subsidiary, Tamla. Originally inspired by a police brutality incident witnessed by Renaldo “Obie” Benson, the song was composed by Benson, Al Cleveland and Gaye and produced by Gaye himself.
3. Man in the Mirror- Michael Jackson
“I’m going to make a change for once in my life…” With those few words many people found themselves looking into their own lives to see how they could change themselves in order to change the world. “Man in the Mirror” is a song made popular by Michael Jackson and written by Glen Ballard and Siedah Garrett. Jackson’s recording was produced by Quincy Jones and co-produced by Jackson. It peaked at number 1 in the United States when released as the 4th single in January 1988 off his 7th solo album, Bad.
It is one of Jackson’s most critically acclaimed songs and it was nominated for Record of the Year at the Grammy Awards. I love this song for many reasons but after meeting Siedah Garrett I loved it even more because she is an amazing person and to hear her tell the story of how she was able to get the song to MJ is an inspiration in itself.
2. Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now – McFadden and Whitehead
This song was once referred to as the new black national anthem and you can’t deny its a stone cold groove. This is a party joint with a strong message. “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now” is a disco song performed by R&B duo McFadden & Whitehead from their debut album, McFadden & Whitehead. They wrote and produced the song along with keyboard player Jerry Cohen. Released from their self-titled debut album in 1979, the song spent a week at number one on the R&B singles chart. It also proved to be a successful crossover hit, peaking at number thirteen on the Billboard Hot 100, and reached number 5 in the UK. The single also made it to number ten on the disco charts. It eventually went double platinum, selling over 2 million copies.
1. We are the World – Various Artists
Do I really need to talk about how powerful this song was and its only right that Michael Jackson had something to do with it. “We Are the World” is a song and charity single originally recorded by the supergroup USA for Africa in 1985. It was written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie, and produced by Quincy Jones and Michael Omartian for the album We Are the World. With sales in excess of 20 million copies, it is one of the fewer than 30 all-time singles to have sold 10 million (or more) copies worldwide.