Won't You Be My Neighbor? - Fred Rogers
"Won't You Be My Neighbor?" may be the most beloved song of all time which was never released as a single and never hit the charts. It was written and performed by Presbyterian pastor Fred Rogers on his Public Broadcasting System children’s show, “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.” Each episode began with Rogers coming home, singing his theme, then changing into sneakers and a zippered cardigan sweater. In a typical episode, Rogers might have an earnest conversation with his television audience, interact with live guests, then take a field trip to such places as a bakery or a music store. Today his sweater hangs in the Smithsonian. And his gentle anthem lives on in our hearts.
The Dog Days Are Over - Florence + the Machine
I can tell you exactly where I was the first time I heard Florence Welch’s resounding voice sing those fateful first lyrics; “Happiness hit her like a train on a track…” It was the summer of 2010. I was sitting at work and watching the trailer for Eat Pray Love. I’d read the book and was inspired to redesign my life as many other women were. The fact that it was made into a movie didn’t surprise me, but the song used in the trailer was enchanting. I looked it up and found “Dog Days Are Over” by Florence + The Machine. I’d never wanted to be a character in a song so badly. I wanted to be the woman she described who left everything behind in pursuit of wild adventure. It practically felt like an instruction manual to do so with lyrics like, “Leave all your love and your longing behind you / Can't carry it with you if you want to survive.” I credit this song with pushing me to leap out of my comfort zone and run like mad towards my dreams.
Heal the World - Michael Jackson
The song focuses on life and world issues, the song is telling people what is going on with the world and how it can be fixed. During an internet chat in 2011 Michael claimed that Heal the World was the song he was most proud of and felt like it was one of his biggest achievements in his career. The song inspired Michael to develop the charity “Heal The World Foundation.” The song encourages everyone not to be discouraged by the bad in the world because it can be fixed if we all come together to aid those in need. We are all part of the world and if we want to make it a better place then we need to come together to make a difference because when it comes down to it we are all in this for the long hull together; nothing will change and heal unless we do it ourselves.
You've Got A Friend In Me - Randy Newman
Toy Story is an inspiring movie – a technological marvel that manages to teach universal themes about friendship using something quite unexpected – toys. To capture the theme of the movie the filmmakers needed a voice that you instantly relate to, and the charming tenor of Randy Newman fit the bill. While the lyrics of the song don’t move much further than the basic theme of friendship, Newman’s charming sincerity sells it and makes it into the kind of song that can make you smile instantly. That’s some inspiration right there.
Sometimes You Can Make It On Your Own - U2
Words left unsaid can haunt a person after a loved one has died. Those words were powerfully put together in a vulnerable ballad by U2 called “Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own”. It earned the band Song of the Year at the 2006 Grammy awards for its intimate portrayal of the strained relationship between a father and son. It’s a real life story of Bono and his late father, and Bono sang the song at his father’s funeral in 2001. In the song, he yearns to break down walls for a closer relationship. He sings, “You don’t have to put up a fight / You don’t have to always be right / Let me take some of the punches / For you tonight.” So many people found the song to be everything they couldn’t say to someone who passed away.
I Believe - Blessid Union of Souls
The song was written by vocalist Eliot Sloan after his girlfriend Lisa was forced by her father to stop dating Sloan. Society, as a whole, has a lot of issues and the song touches on the problems. The song instills hope in people and the belief that everything will work out. Eliot has said in various interviews that God is love and he’s referring to him in the song. The band has a very strong faith but they don’t want their messages to be overtly religious. The lyrics in the song help others remain faithful and “believe.”
Keep the Faith - Bon Jovi
I love Bon Jovi’s “Keep the Faith.” I have it on the MP3 player, and play it when I feel stuck in a rut or having the occasional fits. This is another classic inspirational song that can help nudge you to move forward in tribulations. “Gotta keep the faith. Don't you let love turn to hate. Gotta keep the faith.”
Golden - Jill Scott
I could start every day with Jill Scott’s “Golden”. The 2004 R&B hit is all the sunshine anyone needs who wants to take on whatever the day may bring. Scott boldly declares that she’s bringing her personal freedom into her everyday life at work and at play. She sings, “I'm taking my own freedom / Putting it in my song / Singing loud and strong / Grooving all day long.” She wants to live life as though it’s precious and rare. It inspires me to not get trapped in the mundane duties of life and see it for the wonder that it is. Life is golden!
Say - John Mayer
"Say" is a very simple song that everyone should live by. We should always speak up and let others know how we feel and what lies within that we keep silent. You never know when your time is up or really if you’ll ever see someone again; so when the opportunity unveils itself we must all say what we need to say. Our words may not always be positive and inspirational yet if we don’t say what is needed and how we’re feeling then - what’s the point of living and being part of each others lives? In order to get the most out of life, we have to live our life to the fullest which means we need to say what we need to say.
Top Gun Anthem - Steve Stevens
My co-workers gave me a lot of grief for including the Top Gun theme on this list. So, just in case you are as skeptical as they are, allow me to explain. The Top Gun theme is one of my earliest experiences with actually enjoying music, and it was the song that inspired me to get a guitar and start playing when I was older. Everything about it screams “the ‘80s,” but everything about it also screams “this is awesomely inspiring.” It is simply a great piece of music, and one that would have the same amount of power if performed by a choir or string quartet. Few things get me ready to take on the world like this legendary riff, and I hope you can feel the same. “Talk to me Goose!”
I'm Walking On Sunshine - Katrina and the Waves
“Walking on Sunshine,” recorded in 1983 by Katrina and the Waves lives on thanks to advertisers who typically pay $150,000 to $200,000 per year to use the catchy, upbeat song. It only hit e on the charts, but royalties from commercials have earned $1 million per year since the '80s, according to a former employee at EMI music, who called it the company’s “crown jewel.” It has been featured in multiple films, including “The Secret of My Success” (1987), “Daddy Day Care” (2003), “Bean” (1997), “Look Who's Talking” (1989), “American Psycho” (2000) and “High Fidelity” (2000) and on TV’s “Gilmore Girls,” “Prison Break,” “Sports Night” and “Glee.”
Standing Outside of the Fire - Garth Brooks
"Standing Outside The Fire" is sung by Garth Brooks and has as its most notable line is "Life is not tried, it is merely survived if you're standing outside the fire." It was released in December 1993 and reached & on the Billboard Country Charts, but is remembered by many as the music to a viral video in which an athlete with Down syndrome stumbles during the State Track and Field Meet. His father encourages him to finish, shouting "Get away from him! He is not finished!" Boosted by his father's urging, the young man picks himself up and sprints across the finish line for a satisfying finish.
Do You Realize?? - The Flaming Lips
Certain songs make you lie still and contemplate the meaning of life, and there aren’t many that take you there quite like The Flaming Lips’ “Do You Realize??”. From the 2002 album Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, “Do You Realize??” asks listeners to understand the frailty of life and act accordingly with appreciation. The lyrics say, “Instead of saying all of your goodbyes / Let them know / You realize that life goes fast / It's hard to make the good things last.” Every time I hear this song, I feel compelled to drop petty concerns about how I look or how slow traffic is and remember that we are on this earth for merely moment and then we’re gone. So it’s important to cherish every inch of our time here; after all, before we know it, it will all be gone.
Gonna Fly Now - Bill Conti
“Gonna Fly Now" is the stirring theme song from the movie “Rocky,” released in February 1977 and played by every high school band since. It became part of American culture as Rocky Balboa completes daily training while the song plays, then builds with his famous run up the "Rocky Steps" at the Philadelphia Museum of Art where he raises his arms in victory. In “Rocky II,” an alternate version is sung by children and Rocky III features a disco version. It also shows up in Rocky IV and in Rocky Balboa – with more trumpets. It remains an inspiring classic – the theme for the underdog attempting the impossible.
Don't Worry, Be Happy - Bobby McFerin
"Don't Worry, Be Happy" is a cheery 1988 hit by Bobby McFerrin that became the first a cappella song ever to reach < on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, a position it held for two weeks. The song was not written by Bob Marley as is widely believed. Its title is taken from a quote by Hindu philosopher Meher Baba. It was released in conjunction with the 1988 film “Cocktail” and featured in the movies “Casper” (1997),”Dawn of the Dead” (2004), “Jarhead” (2005), “Flushed Away” (2006) and “WALL-E” (2008). It became an unofficial anthem in Jamaica after hurricane Gilbert struck in September 1988 and caused months of hardship.
It's A Great Day to Be Alive - Travis Tritt
"It's a Great Day to Be Alive" wasn’t an immediate hit. It was first released in 1990 by Country music artist Jon Randall, then a few years later by the Sky Kings – and didn’t get much attention. Then in 2000, superstar Travis Tritt gave it his unique touch and it took off, peaking on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart at >. A cheerful, happy piece, it was praised as “sunny” by Billboard reviewer Deborah Evans Price. In 2001, Country artists Pat Green and Cory Morrow included it on their March 2001 album “Songs We Wish We'd Written.”
The Power of Love - Huey Lewis and the News
Yep, the Back to the Future classic made our list! Huey Lewis was the king of happy ‘80s pop songs, and this pro-love anti-consumer riff tells all of us of just how powerful love can be. In this world we are told we need a lot of different things, but at the end of the day what we need is really simple – love. Sometimes it takes a great ‘80s song and an even more bombastic ‘80s movie to remind us of that. Fortunately, the introduction of this song is so memorable that we can carry it with us forever.
Nothing's Gonna Stop Us - Starship
Cheesy ballads were a staple of ‘80s music, but none of them give me a personal lift like Starship’s “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us.” When I am feeling down and need a pick me up, something about this song always gets me smiling again. It is the height of ‘80s optimism – the drums sound happy, the melodies are inspiring, and the feel good never stops. Also, the video, which comes from the movie Mannequin, is just a spectacle through and through. The drummer singing backing vocals is my favorite part! Let them say I’m crazy – I don’t care about that, indeed!
Shackles - Mary Mary
“Take these shackles off my feet so I can dance!” Living for God is not easy, and this awesome song by my favorite ladies of Mary Mary-explain this in “Shackles”, a Christian dance song released in the early 2000s. I was still very green as a sports reporter and was faced with discrimination early on in my career. This was not a simple task, and had to fight daily the temptation to quit, and just run and hide. “Take these shackles off my feet so I can dance! I just want to praise you. I just want to praise you!” This song was instrumental in keeping my focus on the Lord, not just on people or myself. In turn, this helped me finish the race and overcome difficulties.
Turn! Turn! Turn! - The Byrds
The Byrds’ “Turn! Turn! Turn” is the very rare radio hit based entirely on a passage of Scripture, in this case a passage from Ecclesiastes. While the Biblical writer goes on to say that all of it is meaningless, The Byrds stuck to the inspiring opening moments of the passage, creating a song that glorifies the joys and sorrows of life as one. It is simultaneously one of the most depth-filled and shallow songs on the entire list, but I dare you to note feeling something when you listen to it!