Songs that Inspire & Ask Questions
So many times when we are down about life, we need to have someone else understand HOW we feel. Sometimes when someone else expresses our same thoughts and feelings, then it makes it easier to deal with the depression, the setbacks, the emptiness, the questions of 'why?' To realize that these feelings are part of being human and that it's okay to feel them makes a person's struggles easier to endure. It makes it easier to hold onto hope.
This hope is found in the stories, the lives, the words, the faith, and the music of others. Even though some music is more about what life should be like, or it asks questions in despair -- that music still touches us and expresses those deep feelings inside us; and the artist giving it expression for us somehow makes our souls not ache quite as bad any more and helps us to carry on. Thank goodness others have expressed these messages of hope -- and of struggle & contemplation -- to let us know that we are on the same journey and we are okay. This is how art should make us feel. Literature has power, but I'd like literature to use that power more often to make us feel the hope that these songs do. I'd like to share the songs below with others, especially teens and young adults.
This John Denver song got me through middle school and high school. I played it over and over, sometimes when I felt alone and empty and other times because I was motivated and inspired. His insightful lyrics combined with the soaring music in the chorus does wonders for the soul. He expresses the sadness & isolation he feels but also expresses his hope -- and he does so beautifully. I think every graduating class should listen to this song. Here are some of the lyrics:
"On the road of experience
, I'm trying to find my own way.
Sometimes I wish that I could fly away
When I think that I'm moving, suddenly things stand still
I'm afraid 'cause I think they always will
And I'm looking for space
And to find out who I am
And I'm looking to know and understand
It's a sweet, sweet dream
Sometimes I'm almost there
Sometimes I fly like an eagle
And sometimes I'm deep in despair
All alone in the universe,
Sometimes that's how it seems
I get lost in the sadness and the screams
Then I look in the center,
Suddenly everything's clear
I find myself in the sunshine and my dreams "
I love James Taylor music, how the chords he plays on his guitar are so crystal clear, stirring the soul by themselves. Up on the Roof is a song about leaving your problems down below and going on the roof and looking out, getting a new perspective. It was recorded first by other artists, including the Drifters, but I love to watch Taylor sing it. It's like he knows exactly what this song is talking about, that he
has been there before. A great
pick-me-up kind of song.
This song, "I Still Believe in Me" is from the TV show FAME. I heard it on the show and HAD to go out and buy the album. This was also one that I played over and over as a teen -- and later as an adult trying to become a published author encountering roadblocks. Always inspiring. Here at some of the lyrics:
"I thought i had it this time
I thought the dream would be mine
hoping to fly, I fall
oh how I just didn't care at all
'cause when you don't care
you don't cry
It wont hurt if you don't try
but I still believe in all of my dreams
And all that I can be
illl learn from mistakes do all that it takes
to make it eventually
coz I still believe in me"
Wow. Just nails it. My dream has always been to be a successful writer. I've had one book published by a major publisher, but I've had many more rejection slips. I was ALMOST the first personal columnist for Better Homes & Gardens -- signed copyright contracts, got paid for the first article -- then the bad economy in 2009 changed the magazine's plans. I was so disappointed. My first book was also pitched as a TV show -- but then the Writers Strike happned at the same time, and things were chaotic. Close but still didn't happen. It hurts to come close, and to still wind up with nothing to show for all your hard work. This song explains exactly how it feels, and when I listen to it, I'm comforted knowing that the lyricist felt this way before too -- that others have felt it -- and gone on. The lyrics acknowledge my disappointment, frustration, emptiness, and hopefulness -- and this acknowledgement, this expression of understanding -- helps me to pick myself up and carry on.
Here's a comment from the youtube page of this song:
"It was a fantastic show and was great for teenagers then and now if they watch it. It gave hope -- that's what's lacking in society."
Click here for a terrific list of songs compiled after input from various people who suffer with anxiety/depression. These people say this songs help them to deal with their anxiety and depression issues. Compiled by
This song by Twista Feat featuring Faith Evans with some beautiful vocals. Awesome. It's called appropriately, Hope.
"And I wish I could go deep in a zone,
And lift the spirits of the world
with the words with in this song,
And I (I wish)
Wish I could teach a soul to fly,
Take away the pain out cha hands and help you hold them high "
Two more songs that got me through high school: Dan Hill's Hold On and Keith Green's Your Love Broke Through, which is about the love of Christ.
Hill: "When the night creeps in so hollow, When the silence makes you scream, When you're so damn scared of failure, When the world's burned out its saviors, When you're feeling too vulnerable to dream. It's then you've gotta Hold on for what you believe in. Hold on, don't let it fade Still you've gotta be strong Find yourself a reason."
Green: "All my life I've been searching for that crazy missing part . And with one touch, you just rolled away the stone that held my heart. And now I see that the answer was as easy as just asking you in. And I am so sure I could never doubt Your gentle touch again."
In elementary school, I played Bobby Sherman, Partridge Family, Jackson Five, and Elvis Presley albums. This song by Elvis was one I would stand alone in my bedroom and sing out loud with the stereo. If I Can Dream asks questions but still speaks of hope and does so with such power. When I sang this song I felt like I could change the world, even as a kid. Amazing song and so was Elvis' performance. Later, it inspired a song I wrote for a Christmas play at the church I grew up in. It was called "A Beckoning Candle", a title taken from the lyrics of this song.
Some of the lyrics:
"There must be peace and understanding sometime
Strong winds of promise that will blow away
The doubt and fear
If I can dream of a warmer sun
Where hope keeps shining on everyone
Tell me why, oh, why, oh, why won't that sun appear?"
Stage plays were also very inspirational to me growing up -- and still are. I love the music especially of Camelot, Annie, Shenandoah, & Pippin, which is about a young man's quest for meaning in life. One of the songs from Pippin is Corner of the Sky, and I played it over and over because it spoke to me so clearly. Later in college I used the lyrics as one of my assignments in a speech class; I knew all the words, and I was passionate about it as I spoke. I got an A. Some of the lyrics:
"Cats fit on the windowsill
Children fit in the snow
Why do I feel I don't fit in anywhere I go?
Rivers belong where they can ramble
Eagles belong where they can fly
I've got to be
where my spirit can run free
Got to find my corner of the sky
Every man has his daydreams
Every man has his goal
People like the way dreams have of sticking to the soul."
Pippin on his search for purpose in life.
I mentioned on the Home page that one of my sons suffered with severe anxiety during his high school years. Here's a link to an article I wrote about this several years ago. During that very bleak time, I kept listening to four songs on the CD player in my car and also bought these songs for my son also. I would go for drives in my car by myself and turn the volume up loud and let these songs comfort me. These songs kept me going, helped me keep my perspective, my hope.
The first one is God is God by Steven Curtis Chapman. Oh my gosh, this song engulfs me when I hear it; it takes me over. Some of the lyrics:
"And the pain falls like a curtain
On the things I once called certain And I have to say the words I fear the most I just don’t know
And the questions without answers Come and paralyze the dancer
So I stand here on the stage afraid to move, afraid to fall,
oh, but fall I must on this truth that my life has been formed from the dust
God is God and I am not
I can only see a part of the picture He’s painting
God is God and I am man
So I’ll never understand it all
For only God is God"
Another Steven Curtis Chapman song that inspires me a lot is Magnificent Obsession. Here are some lyrics:
"Lord, You know how much
I want to know so much
In the way of answers and explanations
I have cried and prayed
And still I seem to stay
In the middle of life’s complications
All this pursuing leaves me feeling like I’m chasing down the wind
But now it’s brought me back to You
And I can see again"
And yet a third Steven Curtis Chapman song. This one is More to This Life. Partial lyrics:
"Today I watched in silence
as people passed me by,
And I strained to see if there was something hidden in their eyes;
But they all looked at me as if to say Life just goes on.
The old familiar story
told in different ways,
Make the most of your own journey from the cradle to the grave;
Dream your dreams tomorrow because today
Life must go on.
But there’s more to this life than living and dying,
More than just trying to make it through the day;
More to this life, more than these eyes alone can see,
And there’s more than this life alone can be."
The fourth song I listened to so much during that dark time was The Well by Casting Crowns.
"Leave it all behind
I have what you need, but you keep on searching
I’ve done all the work, but you keep on working
When you’re running on empty
And you can’t find the remedy
Just come to the well
You can spend your whole life
Chasing what’s missing
But that empty inside, it just ain’t gonna listen
When nothing can satisfy
And the world leaves you high and dry
Just come to the well
And all who thirst will thirst no more
And all who search will find
What their souls long for
The world will try but it can never fill
So leave it all behind
And come to the well"
Finding the 'Hero' in us and in others
In 1993 when I was 31, my nephew, Jacob, then age 8, was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia and needed to have a bone marrow transplant to survive. It was devastating for us all; I remember how I would wake up in the mornings and reality would hit me again, making my heart so heavy I could literally feel it grow heavy. He had to find a marrow donor since his two brothers didn't match him.
As doctors tried to get him in remission so a transplant could take place, the donor program and Red Cross searched the list of donors who had signed up all over the world. Miraculously, a donor in the Netherlands matched and agreed to be Jacob's donor. The transplant was successful, despite some ups and downs -- and Jacob went on to graduate from college, get a great job, and get married. Unfortunately, we never got to meet Jacob's donor because the Netherlands had rules against doing so. But that anonymous man will always be in our hearts.
I did a lot of volunteer work with the donor program, doing publicity, raising funds, speaking, and writing. I met so many wonderful people who either stepped forward to be donors or who were fighting cancer and other blood diseases. They became heros in doing this. Mariah Carey's hit Hero was a very popular back then, and I was listened to it a lot, even making it the song for a slideshow I put together for the bone marrow program. Finding the strength in each individual -- sometimes when we never even knew it was there -- is indeed inspiring.
When I hear this song, I think of all those brave people I met during my work with the marrow program. I think of kids and adults I knew who gave a good fight but succumbed to diseases. I think of all those people who decided to be donors -- some saving lives and some giving some months or a few years to prolong someone's life long enough to reach goals, cross items off of bucket lists, and in one case I know of --- to get married. Of course, I think especially of the person from the Netherlands who was Jacob's donor. He is our hero.
Songs of Friendship & Support
Having friends and family around to offer support and just to listen to us is extremely important when we are going through the valleys of life. These songs are all excellent in expressing how important that is.
Bill Withers put it all very succintly when he sang in Lean On Me:
"Sometimes in our lives
We all have pain,
We all have sorrow
But if we are wise
We know that there's always tomorrow
Lean on me
when you're not strong
And I'll be your friend,
I'll help you carry on
For it won't be long
'Til I'm gonna need somebody to lean on
Please, swallow your pride
If I have things you need to borrow
For no one can fill those of your needs
That you won't let show
You just call on me, brother,
when you need a hand
We all need somebody to lean on
I just might have a problem that you'll understand
We all need somebody to lean on."
Another James Taylor song: You've Got a Friend: "When you're down and troubled and you need a helping hand, and nothing, oh, nothing is going right . . . "
Dionne Warwick, Stevie Wonder, Elton John, & Gladys Knight sing That's What Friends Are For". --- and seem to have a great time singing it together. " Keep smilin', keep shinin' Knowin' you can always count on me, for sure That's what friends are for.
For good times and bad times
I'll be on your side forever more"
Candle on the Water was a song made popular from a Disney movie. Very nice lyrics, such as:
"I know you're lost and drifting.
But the clouds are lifting,
Don't give up you have somewhere to turn."
Another comforting song is Bridge Over Troubled Water, by Simon & Garfunkle. My older sisters had a poster of these lyrics in their bedroom when I was growing up. Lyric sample:
"When you're weary, feeling small
When tears are in your eyes, I'll dry them all
I'm on your side, oh,
when times get rough
And friends just can't be found
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down"
Shower the People is another James Taylor song that speaks to the heart.
Wise words from Taylor:
"Just shower the people you love with love
Show them the way that you feel
Things are gonna work out fine if you only will
Shower the people you love with love
Once you tell somebody the way that you feel
You can feel it beginning to ease
I think it's true what they say about the squeaky wheel
Always getting the grease."
Below is a song I wrote with Brooke Hatala and Billy Smiley; I wrote these lyrics, remembering the times I'd get depressed and feel like I didn't have a purpose, I didn't have direction -- I'd feel like I was suffocating inside the house. So I would go outside at nighttime and look up at the stars. And someone it was if they would talk to me, to tell me everything would be okay, that I would find a place for me. I always find great inspiration in it. This link is to Brooke's music page; please scroll down to find "Stars" listed (I also wrote the lyrics for "Just Hold Me."
Here are three other songs that will probably appeal to high school students.
Natasha Bedingfield wrote Unwritten for her younger brother for his 14th birthday. She said, "I feel like his life was reminding me about how people make us feel like we have to have it all figured out already. We have to already choose what college we're going to go to, what subject we're going to study, and we don't even know much about life yet." She added, "It's a song about just not worrying."
"We've been conditioned To not make mistakes But I can't live that way, no"
The first is No Such Thing by John Mayer. This song expresses thoughts related to high school; although it's not comforting in the true sense of the word, it is comforting to have the song express some of the doubts and concerns that people have and realize that is it's common to feel such feelings.
"'Welcome to the real world,'
she said to me, condescendingly.
Take a seat
Take your life
Plot it out in black and white
Well I never lived the dreams of the prom kings
And the drama queensI
'd like to think the best of me is still hiding up my sleeve. . .
I wanna run through the halls of my high school
I wanna scream at the top of my lungs
I just found out there's no such thing as the real world,
just a lie you've got to rise above
So the good boys and girls take the so called
Faded white hats
Grabbing credits, maybe transfers
They read all the books but they can't find the answers
"A Wonderful World" by Louis Armstrong is simply a song that makes you feel appreciative of life. And nobody sings it like he does.
"I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day,
the dark sacred night
And I think to myself
what a wonderful world."
The second is Place in This World by Michael W. Smith.
"A life of pages
Waiting to be filled
A heart that's hopeful
A head that's full of dreams
But this becoming
Is harder than it seems
I Believe I Can Fly by R. Kelly will always remind me of when my oldest two sons were little and would sing the chorus of this song. I can still hear their little boy voices whenever I hear this song. Makes me miss those days and those little boys who are now men.
"See I was on the verge of breaking down
Sometimes silence can seem so loud
There are miracles in life I must achieve
But first I know it starts inside of me, oh oh"
SONGS THAT ADDRESS THE ACHING OF YOUR SOUL & AND ASSURE YOU THAT EVERYONE ASKS THESE QUESTIONS, EVERYONE FEELS EMPTY SOMETIMES.
Somewhere Over the Rainbow is a classic. The heartfelt aching in it is palpable, almost tangible. Such yearning and longing for something more. And one of my mother's favorite songs when she was a little girl in the 1930s when the movie first came out.
"Somewhere over the rainbow Bluebirds fly.
Birds fly over the rainbow.
Why then, oh why can't I?"
John Lennon spoke for a generation in his beautiful song, Imagine.
"You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope some day you'll join us
And the world will be as one"
The Annie Lennox song, Why?, is a very insightful song about relationships and miscommunication. The music perfectly conveys this sense of confusion and frustration. Beautiful.
"Why can't you see this boat is sinking?
This boat is sinking, this boat is sinking
Let's go down to the water's edge
And we can cast away those doubts
Some things are better left unsaid
But they still turn me inside out
This song is Theme from the Valley of the Dolls, a controversial 1960s movie -- controversial because of the drug use and other things of of questionable character depicted in it. It's sung by the incomparable, fantastic Dionne Warwick. Wow. I just love that something extra she puts in her voice.
This has to be the most haunting song I've ever heard. It bothers me deeply because the music and lyrics combine to create the emptiest sound I've ever heard. Yet, I like to listen to it because it reassures me that others ask weird questions or feel isolated and lost or not real --- or even wonder what's back of the sky. It makes me feel like I'm part of humanity, and that these thoughts are part of being human.
The use of these incomplete questions, these stream of consciousness questions with Warwick often not finishing a whole question before moving on to the next one -- seems very true to life to me. Our minds don't form complete questions all the time in our thoughts, but they are complete in our souls as we wonder and have doubts and get scared. Sometimes part of the pain we feel in life is not being able to EXPRESS or ARTICULATE THAT PAIN so that someone can understand our feelings. It somehow lessens the pain when someone can articulate it for us. Basically, everyone wants to their feelings to be understood. So when I listen to the song, I'm thankful that the songwriters, Andre Previn and Dory Previn, provided such a creative outlet for deep thoughts and feelings. The phrase, 'achingly beautiful' describes this song well.
"When did I stop feeling sure,
And start wondering why,
Is this a dream, am I here, where are you
What's in back of the sky, why do we cry
Gotta get off, gonna get
Out of this merry-go-round
Gotta get off, gonna get
Need to get on where I'm bound"
This insightful song is from LaCrae, as he beautifully expresses his questions and doubts.
Coping with Death/Grief
And of course there are those times when someone close to us dies, and it's incredibly tough to deal with it. It's also incredibly tough to put into words what we are feeling inside I think Steven Curtis Chapman does it again by tapping into our souls; he wrote With Hope after the death of his young daughter.
Can't Cry Hard Enough by The Williams Brothers does a good job, I think, in expressing the utter loss that one feels, the aching. But it does so in a beautiful way, and even in the feeling of loss, the lyrics and soaring music take the soul to a place of hope, that once the tears have subsided, living life to the fullest is important.