Music has consistently had a significant cultural and political impact on our world, and, at times, has provided power for positive change. Nevertheless, certain songs have had more influence than others. Here are 10 of the most influential songs of all time:
Sam Cooke - A Change Is Gonna Come (1965)
This song was written to protest the civil rights movement in the United States. The singer, Sam Cooke, was inspired by Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind", as well as an incident where he was arrested for disturbing the peace after being refused a room at a Louisiana motel. "A Change Is Gonna Come" was released a few months after Sam Cooke's death. He was shot dead at a motel under mysterious circumstances.
The Beatles - I Wanna Hold Your Hand (1963)
Attributed with kick-starting the music revolution of the 1960s, "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" was the song that cemented the Beatles' popularity in America. They went from complete unknowns to the biggest sensation in the history of rock 'n' roll practically overnight. When the band appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show in early 1964, it drew the largest television audience in history at that point in time.
Band Aid - Do They Know It's Christmas (1984)
Former Boomtown Rats frontman, Bob Geldof, organized this Christmas single back in 1984 in order to raise funds for the famine that was devastating Ethiopia at the time. The star-studded ensemble included David Bowie, Paul McCartney, Sting, Bono and Boy George, among others. In more than 30 years since, there have been a number of Band Aid singles released to raise funds for various causes.
War - Edwin Starr (1970)
American public opinion was turning against the Vietnam War when this song was released, so it was quite fitting that it was also the first-ever Motown song to contain a politically-charged message.
Billie Holiday-Strange Fruit (1939)
At the tail-end of the 1930s, brutality, racism and lynching were still common in the American South. Billie Holiday's song marks the very first time that a black artist had sang such controversial lyrics dealing with such issues. Almost 80 years later, the song still endures, and has become a symbol of the suffering that so many people in the US went through.
John Lennon - Imagine (1971)
"Imagine" is without doubt one of the most influential songs of all time. Its unifying message, aimed at showing that there was more to unite people than break them apart, actually has a strong anti-establishment message when you scratch a little deeper under the surface. Former Beatle John Lennon released it in 1971.
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis - Same Love Feat. Mary Lambert (2012)
The world of hip-hop and rap has traditionally been closed when it comes to gay issues, but that all changed in 2012, when Macklemore released this powerful record. Mary Lambert, who sings the chorus, was raised in the church and grew up knowing that she was gay. She has spoken in public about feeling sorrowful over her inability to change, and apologizing to God for being a sinner. Macklemore said that he wanted to address the issue of homophobia, in this song.
U2 - Sunday Bloody Sunday (1983)
The Troubles was an ethno-nationalist conflict that took place between 1968 and 1998. Members of the popular rock band, U2, grew up during the conflict. This song is a reference to it, particularly the Bloody Sunday incident of January 1972. It serves as a nonpartisan condemnation of the bloodshed in Ireland.
Sex-Pistols - God Save the Queen (1977)
The Sex Pistols certainly timed the release of this record perfectly, as it coincided with the Queen of England's Silver Jubilee. The band even tried to play the song on the River Thames outside Westminster Palace, but were thwarted by the authorities. It lives on as a punk rock anthem to this day.
Public Enemy - Fight the Power (1989)
Embodying a message of black pride, this militant and confrontational approach to the plight of the black community stirred up some controversy. It contains a unified message that was supported by many different people - it was about getting listeners to participate in politics.