Circle of Life - Elton John
The Lion King, like many of Disney’s animated classics, is an absolutely inspiring film. The soundtrack contributes to the fantastic atmosphere by using original works from none other than Sir Elton John. “Circle of Life” is a song that goes beyond the world of the lions in the jungle to become a stirring ballad about of the joy and sadness that all creatures on this earth feel. We are all a part of the circle of life, and this great song celebrates all that that means.
Better Now - Collective Soul
Few people know what it’s like to be “better now” more than Collective Soul front man Ed Roland. The band most known for its mega hits “Shine,” “The World I Know,” and “Heavy” took a devastating hiatus in the early 2000s due to record label issues and an affair between the band’s guitar player and Ed Roland’s wife. Ed and the band used the time off to good use, and with “Better Now” they announced their presence back on the scene. The song brought the band back to prominence with Collective Soul’s signature positivity and, of course, a brand new guitar player.
You're the Best Around - Joe Espisito
Few things get me fired up like the last twenty or so minutes of the amazing sports thriller Karate Kid. While the thrilling victory over the Cobra Kai is more than enough to excite anyone, Joe Espisito’s “You’re the Best Around” provides an inspiring musical backdrop to the karate insanity (karatesanity). Listening to this song while working it is like having your own personal trainer in your ear, making you ready to press on no matter how tired you are!
Bridge Over Troubled Water - Simon and Garfunkel
"Bridge Over Troubled Water" was released by Simon & Garfunkel in 1970 and quickly hit <, staying there six weeks. The single has sold 6 million copies, an ode to two close friends who knew their run was coming to an end. Paul Simon has expressed regret over insisting Art Garfunkel sing it in a falsetto solo. On their 2003 "Old Friends" reunion tour, they took turns delivering it. The title is from Claude Jeter's "I'll be your bridge over deep water if you trust in me," in the Swan Silvertones’ 1958 "Mary Don't You Weep." The verse "Sail on, silvergirl" was for Simon's wife Peggy, who was distressed at finding her first gray hairs.
Firework - Katy Perry
“Do you ever feel already buried deep? Six feet under screams, but no one seems to hear a thing?” When Katy Perry sang these lyrics in her No. 1 hit 2010 song “Firework”, she touched a soft spot in the hearts of millions. “Firework” speaks to the lonely, broken hearted and the lost with the promise that they have a spark and that they can “ignite the light and let it shine.” It’s certainly a rally song when you need a confidence boost, because it’s hard not to feel better when you hear her sing, “Boom, boom, boom, even brighter than the moon!”
Seasons of Love - Cast of "Rent"
I’ve loved musicals ever since I was a child, but no musical gripped me more than Rent. I’d wanted to see it ever since it first came on Broadway, but I wouldn’t get my chance until a tour came to my town in celebration of the movie coming out in 2005. And that’s when I first heard “Seasons of Love”. It instantly became one of my favorite songs. It breaks down time into that famous lyric “525,600 minutes / 525,000 moments so dear / 525,600 minutes / How do you measure a year?” The song reflects on everything comprises a life from cups of coffee to sunsets. And in the end, life is really measured in love. “Seasons of Love” has been my anthem and a comfort in difficult times. I’ve known friends who used this as their wedding song, because it so encompasses part of what we are here for – to love!
Feeling Good - Nina Simone
“Feeling Good” has been recorded by numerous artists, but none as soulful and stirring as the cover by the incomparable legend Nina Simone in 1965. Holding her own a capella for the first 39 seconds of the song, Simone’s voice is pure jazz as it croons how nature reflects her mood. She sings, “Birds flying high you know how I feel / Sun in the sky you know how I feel / Breeze driftin' on by you know how I feel”. It’s not only a feel-good tune, but it serves as an anthem to anyone embracing a fresh start. As the chorus goes, “It's a new dawn. It's a new day. It's a new life for me… And I'm feeling good.”
Defying Gravity - Cast of Wicked
Although Wicked took Broadway and the U.S. by storm in 2003, you didn’t have to see the musical based on The Wizard of Oz to have been inspired by its pinnacle song “Defying Gravity”. The song is the heroine Elphaba’s declaration that she will not be held down the expectations of others and she’s ready to both literally and figuratively fly! She sings, “I'm through with playing by the rules of someone else's game / Too late for second-guessing, too late to go back to sleep / It's time to trust my instincts, close my eyes and leap”. It’s truly an anthem for awakening to yourself and launching into something new despite what people say. In the play, audiences stand and cheer when Elphaba lifts off the stage and boldly proclaims, “So if you care to find me / Look to the western sky… / To those who ground me / Take a message back from me / Tell them how I am defying gravity”. I know it gives me chills every time I hear it, because I’m reminded that no one can hold me down or hold me back from my dreams.
Invincible - Muse
Rock band Muse has come on strong in recent years with their infectious blend of hard rock, classical music, and R&B, but before that they were known mostly for their epic, fist pumping anthems. While there are numerous songs to choose from, Invincible shines above the rest. The uplifting melody builds to a frenzy, encouraging us to think about working together instead of working against each other. By working together we always have a chance to turn things around. Also, that guitar solo is just absolutely rad!!
Lose Yourself - Eminem
One of the most inspiring songs of last 10 years came from one of the most unlikely sources. Until 2002, rapper Eminem was known for hit songs with controversial lyrics that in their most uncensored state were very violent. However, Eminem showed he was more than just “Slim Shady” when he released “Lose Yourself” as part of the soundtrack for his semi-autobiographical film 8 Mile. The song is a courageous “don’t give up” vote of confidence and hits the nerve of anyone who’s trying to rise above their circumstances. Speaking on behalf of his character, he says the most important thing is to seize “the moment / You own it / You betta never let it go / You only get one shot / Do not miss your chance to blow / This opportunity comes once in a lifetime.” The song won an Academy Award and fueled the passions of many who aspired for higher heights.
Let It Be - The Beatles
Patience is an important part of life and in order to get the answers that we need to be able to let it be. This song states the obvious that the world is going to continue to rise and shine no matter what is going on. At some point the answer and solution to our problem will be revealed to us but we must be patient because no matter how much we rush things, the answer won’t reveal itself until it’s the appropriate time. Inspirational songs, like this help to humble us during hard times and show us that there is no magic button to make things better; we have to endure the storm before the sun will shine again.
Dare You to Move - Switchfoot
Rock act Switchfoot has been cranking out inspiringly spiritual music for years now. The band has always been unique in its approach to making secular rock with a distinctly Christian meaning, and “Dare You to Move” is their greatest crack at the formula. Combining a big, anthemic melody with huge drums supplies the backdrop for a plea that all people can relate to – the need to get, get going, and make something positive happen in this world. It is easy to get stuck in stand still, but this song is about how great it feels to get out!
I'll Be Seeing You - Billie Holiday
"I’ll Be Seeing You" is an inspirational love song for all couples and anyone who has lost a loved one. The song comforts those who have lost love or who miss a special someone because it gives hope that you’ll see that person again. When we lose love it’s hard to go on because in many ways you feel like you’ve lost a part of yourself. It’s hard to cope with the loss because you feel like you have to internally rebuild. Subconsciously if we know that we’re not saying goodbye and if we believe that we’ll see our loved one later, the delayed farewell helps us feel at ease and provides us with the closure that we need. This song shows that sometimes inspiration isn’t always a silver lining that we will see in this lifetime.
The Impossible Dream - Man of La Mancha
“The Impossible Dream,” was Senator Bobby Kennedy’s favorite song, written for Broadway’s 1965 musical “Man of La Mancha” in which it is sung three times. Over the last half-century, it has been a hit for Andy Williams, Eddie Murphy , Cher, Susan Boyle , Connie Francis, Donna Summer , Frank Sinatra, Glenn Campbell, Jennifer Hudson, Johnny Mathis, Liberace, Mantovani , Plácido Domingo, Robert Goulet, Roberta Flack , Roger Whittaker , The Carpenters , The Lettermen , The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, The Smothers Brothers, The Supremes , The Temptations and Elvis Presley. Peter Sellers appeared to sing it on Broadway and in the movie … but was lip-synching while Simon Gilbert sang backstage and off-camera.
Born This Way - Lady Gaga
Lady Gaga is known for controversy – both deserved and not – but what has made her a star isn’t her wild costumes and on-stage antics. No, what has made her a star is her ability to empower her audience. It is understood that not everyone will agree with her stances on current hot button topics, but a song like “Born This Way” is, in actuality, about things much bigger than those issues. It’s all about accepting yourself for who you are, and it’s a message that she has used to positively influence people all over the world. Good for her, I say.
Go the Distance - Michael Bolton
“Go the Distance” is originally a Disney song from the 1997 film Hercules, and although I liked the Michael Bolton version, I didn’t think much of it then. However, the song took on a whole new meaning when I began training for my first marathon. I knew I was the underdog. Was never athletic growing up and by early 2011, I’d run one half-marathon against the odds. Running twice that distance seemed like a task that was insurmountable. Somehow I stumbled upon the song again and it was like it was written just for me. The chorus declares, “I'll be there someday, I can go the distance / I'll be there someday if I can be strong / I know every mile will be worth my while”. When he sings, “It’s an uphill slope, but I won’t lose hope”, it just gave me the push to dig deep and keep going even when things get tough. I’m training for my second marathon now, and “Go the Distance” is on my running playlist. My heart still soars when I remember this lyric: “A hero’s strength is measured by his heart.”
Boulevard of Broken Dreams - Green Day
I really don’t know anyone who doesn’t love “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” by Green Day. This one is for the loner, the one who lost all their dreams, and is looking to escape reality. The emotions are really raw in this song and personally, it’s been a cathartic trip when I hear it. Most of the time we’re going blindly towards a goal, and most times we crash and burn in the process. I think that’s when we feel the most vulnerable. When we hear songs that we relate to and feel we have a voice--now, that’s a feeling.
Unpretty - TLC
In 1999, music fans were knee-deep in pop princesses. You couldn’t turn on MTV without seeing bare mid-riffs chiseled to perfection and long sweeping locks of blonde hair. It was enough to make anyone who wasn’t a size zero feel less than beautiful. Like a breath of fresh air came “Unpretty”. The hit song by hip-hop/R&B trio TLC is a positive, confidence-booster. It talks about the need to fit into society’s standards for beauty and the pressures that people put on each other to fit the mold. The chorus promises that hair extensions and lots of make-up can’t hide feeling ugly on the inside and it’s never worth trading in who you really are for what someone else thinks you should be.
One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces
Have you ever been picked on? As a kid I was…. a lot. Having big glasses will do that to you. Fortunately there were always guys who wrote songs like Ben Folds’ “One Angry Dwarf” to give me a reason to laugh and hold my head up high. I listened to this song when I mailed a copy of my first band’s album to the band professor who told me I would never make it anywhere in music, and it’s stuck with me ever since. While we may not all rise to the heights of stardom described in this riotous punk piano rock tune, we can relate to those moments in life where we feel like we’ve risen above those who doubted, ridiculed, and threw us down on the playground. They may have won the battle, but we will win the war!
Keep Holding On - Avril Lavigne
Although she spent many years bouncing around in neckties and a punk pop persona, Avril Lavigne knows how to write a ballad and give it wings. Case in point is the inspiring “Keep Holding On” which was made for the 2006 adventure film Eragon. It’s a song of devotion and standing up for the one you love. She sings, “You're not alone, together we stand / I'll be by your side, you know I'll take your hand / When it gets cold and it feels like the end / There's no place to go, you know I won't give in.” The chorus promises that no matter what, you are never by yourself in this. It’s a comfort to hear this song and know that holding on during tough times is best when you can do together.