There are countless songs about running away or searching for a dream. Sometimes the search is out of this world. Here are the best songs about searching that tell vivid stories about searching for something or someone.
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It’s interesting that one of the final hits The Beatles recorded would be about a long frustrating journey. The song is about the feeling of loneliness and distance to someone’s door with driving memories that lead the storyteller back to the same road. It deals with the search for immediacy with someone special as a solution to overcome a period of sadness. The storyteller keeps returning “back to the long, winding road” waiting for a door to open. The group recorded several other songs that dealt with the theme of soul-searching.
The Searchers recorded songs written by the famous team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller in the 1950s. They wrote big hits for Elvis Presley and other artists as well. The song “Searchin’ was a hit in 1957 and was the flipside of another hit called “Young Blood.” The song tells the story of searching for a woman no matter what it takes, including becoming a detective. The Coasters were formed in 1955 but didn’t have to search long for a record deal, signing to Atlantic Records that year. Within two years “Searchin'” was a hit that kicked off a series of hits for the group through the end of the decade.
As one of the most celebrated songs about running around seeking an authentic lover, this movie hit paints a movie-like picture. It was written by Wanda Mallette, Bob Morrison and Patti Ryan for the 1980 film Urban Cowboy. The main theme in the chorus is “lookin’ for love / in all the wrong places.” For some reason, 20 other artists turned down the song, so for a while, the song was searching for a singer until Johnny Lee made it a hit. Despite harsh words from music critics, the song was a number one country hit and a top-five pop hit.
Perhaps Neil Young’s best-known song, “Heart of Gold” was a number one U.S. hit in 1972. The backup singers were James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt. Neil wrote it as a soft song on acoustic guitar while suffering from a back injury. It talks about traveling around the world “searching for a heart of gold.” It mentions visiting Hollywood on the journey and crossing an ocean for a heart of gold. But the search never ends as the story resolves with “and I’m growing old.” At that time Neil was 26 years old.
The lead guitar solo is what many rock fans think of when someone mentions the title “Free Bird.” But it’s also a song about traveling to various places while leaving the past behind. It’s a farewell song from someone who wants to be as free as a bird. It’s not clear what the search is for other than to explore freedom. The four-minute single version (in which the B-side was called “Searching”) was released in late 1974. The iconic nine-minute version came out earlier in August 1973 on the band’s debut album.
Another song that deals with flying away in search of a better life is “Learn To Fly,” which was released in November 1999. The song takes the listener on a journey through the mind of someone who has given up on a revolution and wants to find the way back home. It’s an inviting song, asking the listener to fly along. The band began releasing music in 1995 in the aftermath of Nirvana. “Learn To Fly,” which some say is a tribute to Nirvana, was the ninth single for the Foo Fighters and their first to hit number one on the U.S. alternative charts.
Extending the search into outer space, this 1967 song came out at a time when space exploration was emerging and sci-fi TV shows were popular. Written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, the song’s production was ahead of its time and still sounds futuristic. Throughout the recording, the listener is led on a journey through space until “safe on the green desert sand” 2,000 light-years from home. The main recurring theme during this search is loneliness.
Originally intended for The Beatles during the Get Back sessions, this song became a solo anthem for John on his 1971 album Imagine. It’s about the search for truth in the journey through politics and propaganda. The protest song is one of the strongest statements made by the singer, who many consider the spokesman of his generation. The recording includes George Harrison on guitar.
Finding the meaning of life characterizes the search in this song, released by Chicago in 1974, when it became a top ten hit. It mentions how “something’s changed, something deep inside.” The chorus says “I’ve been searchin’ so long / to find an answer / now I know my life has meaning.” It goes on to express the feeling of freedom and asks “who am I?”
Many brides and grooms have chosen “The Search Is Over” as their wedding song. It came out in 1984 and was a number one U.S. hit. The singer reflects on a life of living for the moment through different relationships and then realizes someone who has been patiently waiting for him was there all along, caring. The singer declares the “search has come full circle” as the couple’s destinies have become one.
There are many other monumental songs about searching for something or someone. These selections paint clear pictures of a journey toward a personal goal or escape from the normal world. Usually, a good song about search involves a journey toward an amazing reward or experience.