Rock and pop music has always prized the value of personal freedom, and the songs about freedom on this list show that some of the world’s greatest songwriters were often at their personal best when composing tunes about liberty in all its forms.
Many of these songs have gone on to become classics in their respective genres, and music fans will definitely spot some personal favorites here. And as long as there are gifted songwriters in the world, there will undoubtedly be musical celebrations of freedom.
1. “Freedom” by Wham!
One of George Michael’s first hits as a songwriter and producer, “Freedom” took radio stations across the globe by storm when it was first released in 1984.
Wham! disbanded only two years after the song hit the airwaves, but George Michael would go on to even greater success as a solo artist and songwriter in later years. Still “Freedom” remains one of the best songs in the late performer’s catalog.
The song is also a powerful statement about the things that we often do for the people we love.
2. “Break My Stride” by Matthew Wilder
One of the catchiest tunes to come out of the 1980s synth-pop movement, Matthew Wilder’s “Break My Stride” combined reggae-infused sensibilities with sparkling pop production. The combination served him well: “Break My Stride” was a smash hit when it was released.
In the intervening years, Wilder has gone on to a successful career as a songwriter on soundtracks to films like “Mulan,” but “Break My Stride” might just be the composer’s best tune. The song is a wonderful paean to personal freedom and confidence.
3. “Dancing With Myself” by Generation X
Today, Generation X is better known as the band that launched Billy Idol’s career. But “Dancing With Myself” shows the performer at his best.
The song describes the rush of emotion that we often feel when we throw away the expectations of others and start living for ourselves. Having ushered in an era of 1980s pop optimism, “Dancing With Myself” remains a must-listen for fans of melodic rock music with a punk twist.
4. “Deacon Blues” by Steely Dan
Describing the experience of a jazz musician who is keen to embrace a life of personal freedom over the vagaries of the workaday rat race, “Deacon Blues” remains a highlight of Steely Dan’s extensive and notable back catalog.
With its cutting-edge jazz orchestrations and bright studio sheen, the song is cerebral enough to appeal to music theory heads and emotional enough to appeal to people who just love a good tune.
But it is the sheer musical genius of songwriting partners Walter Becker and Donald Fagen that really sets this song apart from anything else that came out in 1977.
5. “Shout” by Tears for Fears
As the song that would become the opening tune on their breakout hit album “Songs from the Big Chair,” “Shout” felt like a true cri de coeur from Tears for Fears when the single was first released in 1984.
As the song shows, establishing our personal freedom isn’t always easy; indeed, singer Roland Orzabal returned to the subject of setting strong emotional boundaries many times over the course of his career.
But “Shout” is undoubtedly one of Orzabal’s best songs. It remains a testament to the otherworldly talent of the group.
6. “It’s My Life” by Talk Talk
Over the course of their short career as a band, Talk Talk always displayed a knack for transcending the surface bombast of the synth pop genre. Despite its huge pop production, in fact, “It’s My Life” is filled with ideas about personal freedom and the power of going it alone.
The song was revamped for the pop charts by No Doubt in 2003, but Talk Talk’s original version still has a power to it that must be heard to be believed. This is a song that definitely shouldn’t be overlooked by diehard music fans.
7. “Guitar Man” by Bread
Throughout the 1970s, songwriter David Gates’s band Bread were one of the most well-regarded adult contemporary groups in the world. But even in the era of easy listening, Gates’s astounding compositional abilities showed that Bread weren’t just AM radio’s equivalent of a one-trick pony.
“Guitar Man” celebrates the personal freedom of life as a musician; the song’s sweet Beatles-esque harmonies and driving rhythms really set it apart from other hits of the time. Moreover, the song still holds up almost fifty years after its initial release.
8. “Wind of Change” by Scorpions
By the late-1980s, rock band Scorpions were bearing witness to enormous social changes and tremendous societal upheaval in their home country of Germany.
Long occupied by the Soviet Union, for example, East Germany was on the road to liberation in 1989 when the Berlin Wall was finally torn down. “Wind of Change” describes the massive social unrest that rocked Germany during this period.
The track remains one of the most touching odes to national and personal freedom ever written. It has since become the band’s signature song and a symbol of post-Soviet German unification.
9. “I’m Set Free” by The Velvet Underground
Later a massive influence on the worlds of both rock and punk music, Lou Reed’s band The Velvet Underground were largely ignored by the general public when they released four landmark records between 1967 and 1970.
Viewed as little more than Andy Warhol’s house band, in fact, the group was such a commercial failure in their day that Reed had to move back in with his parents after The Velvet Underground split up in 1973.
And while few knew it at the time, VU songs like “I’m Set Free” would one day go on to become musical classics about personal freedom.
10. “I am a Rock” by Simon & Garfunkel
Undoubtedly, Simon & Garfunkel’s signature tune “I am a Rock” remains a great listen for anyone who needs a dash of confidence with their morning coffee.
Singing about the benefits of personal freedom, the folk duo really knew how to craft a powerful tune about resilience and self-belief. “I am a Rock” quickly became a fan favorite when it was released in the heady days of 1966, and radio stations across the world still frequently include the song on their “best of” playlists.