Songs about change can help you process life’s big changes. Whether negative or positive, music helps give perspective and context to your transformation.
When changes are needed, on a personal or global scale, it’s easy to find inspirational songs on the subject. This is because music has had a long history of accompanying social, economic, and personal changes.
But songs about change aren’t always about changes that are needed. Sometimes changes in our lives just simply happen and they seem to come out of nowhere. You may suddenly start to feel strongly about someone or maybe a relationship has changed in some way.
This is where music does its magic, as there are many different songs that can be found about any type of change. With that said, the following tunes are some of the best and most well-known inspirational or reflective songs about change.
In this musical plead to the human race, mega popstar Michael Jackson asks listeners to change their negative ways by first examining themselves for flaws, which he metaphorically describes as looking “in the mirror”. The overall theme of the song is that changes in the world are necessary, but this starts on an internal level with each human being.
This R&B-inspired acoustic pop tune by Eric Clapton is about a man who wants to make changes in the world so that he can show his love interest how infatuated he is with her. While the song itself is generally a love song, its secondary theme is about how humans often feel powerless as individuals when they want to make greater changes on a global scale.
Few songs about change are as strongly associated with a specific era as this Scorpions’ power rock ballad is. Wind of Change was written about the end of the Cold War and how many were hopeful at the time that this would bring some positive changes to the world. The lyrics, “I follow the Moskva down to Gorky Park listening to the wind of change,” refer to both the Moskva River and Gorky Park in Russia.
Change was written by Blind Melon’s late frontman Shannon Hoon about recognizing the times in life when it’s necessary to make a change. When things are looking grim and a person’s very existence relies on it, a pivotal change needs to take place. Hoon sings, “When your deepest thoughts are broken keep on dreamin’ boy,” as a way of telling the listener to change their entire thought process and to think positively.
This acoustic-heavy duet is about the moment when someone realizes they’ve developed strong feelings for someone else. When Swift sings, “All I know is a simple name,” this indicates that her new love interest is someone she has just met. The fact that she doesn’t know this person very well but “everything has changed” means that she is looking at life differently after meeting this person.
With no instruments other than an acoustic guitar and a harmonica, Dylan sings this classic tune about much-needed changes coming during times of unrest and strife. While Dylan stated that the civil rights movement was one of his key inspirations for writing this song, he also made it clear that it’s an anthem about positive social changes happening during any era.
Sheryl Crow’s tune, “A Change” is about changing your surroundings when things are going wrong. It was inspired by the story of Joe Meek, the infamous record producer who killed both himself and another person after reportedly experiencing financial problems. Crow points out in the song that “a change would do you good” and sings about making the necessary changes to get away from a bad situation before it gets worse.
There are few people on earth who are not already familiar with John Lennon’s Imagine, thanks to its opening piano melody and epic chorus. Lennon sings about an imagined world that has made major changes by doing away with countries, greed, hunger religion, and possessions. While this may sound a bit too idealistic for some, Lennon is fully aware of this as he sings, “You may say I’m a dreamer.”
Although it was released two years after his death, 2pac’s song Changes became a massive hit and an anthem for oppressed or disenfranchised people everywhere. Set to the piano sequence of Bruce Hornsby and the Range’s “The Way It Is”, the lyrics are about a lack of changes in social reform and deals with heavy topics, including oppression, racism, social injustice, poverty, and war.
Anyone who graduated high school in the late ‘90s to early 2000s is all too familiar with this song. Graduation is an anthem about the last days of high school and all the life changes that follow after that. It’s about cherishing memories of the past while still looking forward to the future and recognizing how changes in life can be both bad and good at the same time.
One of Bob Marley’s most remembered songs from his collection of socially-conscious songs was “Redemption Song” partly for its hauntingly beautiful melody. The song is about people moving forward and overcoming oppression.
Lyrics: “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery / none but ourselves can free our minds”.
Sam Cooke had already established himself as a popular singer/songwriter when “A Change Is Gonna Come” came out shortly after his death at the height of the civil rights movement in 1964.
Lyrics: “It’s been a long, a long time coming / but I know a change is gonna come”
Released in 1972, this rock classic has stood the test of time as one of Bowie’s most remembered songs. It’s about the “strange fascination” of artistic reinvention and self-examination on the road from obscurity to stardom.
Lyrics: “Time may change me / but I can’t trace time”
Patti Smith has been more known for her albums than her singles. “People Have the Power” came out in 1988 and is somewhat of a buried gem from the era about social empowerment.
Lyrics: “People have the power / to redeem the work of fools”
The 1969 album Clouds, “Both Sides Now” is about how a person moves through different states of mind from believing in dreams to waking up from them.
Lyrics: “Now old friends they’re acting strange / and they shake their heads, they say I’ve changed”.
Gil Scott-Heron is considered an early influential pioneer of what became hip-hop music. This legendary 1974 recording is spoken word over music.
Lyrics: “The revolution will be no re-run, brothers / the revolution will be live”
The optimistic spirit of “I Melt With You” is part of why it’s been a timeless classic since its release in 1982.
Lyrics: “I’ll stop the world and melt with you / you’ve seen the difference and it’s getting better all the time”
Expose had a string of hits in the 80s, helping change pop music to move in a more female direction. “Seasons Change” was a ballad about a fading relationship, hitting number one in 1987.
Lyrics: “No more day by day / you dream again it seems in vain / seasons change”
Some might consider this song an historic time-marker because it signaled an evolution toward expanding visual arts in the 1980s. In 1981 it was the first video played by MTV to launch the new era of TV programming based on music videos.
Lyrics: “And now we meet in an abandoned studio / we hear the playback at it seems so long ago”
“Walk Right In” ushered in a new sound of the 12-string guitar and topped the charts in 1963. The song lyrically suggests a shift to a more casual lifestyle.
Lyrics: “Everybody’s talkin’ ’bout a new way of walkin’ / do you want to lose your mind?”