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.
“Freedom” by Pharrell Williams
“Freedom” is an uplifting musical tribute to the concept of free will. The lyrics give praise to what we as mankind know as freedom of choice and freedom of thought. Williams refers to freedoms in this context as a “red flower”, and he goes on to point out how it’s in every living thing in nature.
His words also celebrate our freedom to decide who we are and what we are all about, as he proclaims that “we choose to believe in where we’re from.”
“Get Free” by Lana Del Ray
This slow tempo ballad, which Ms. Del Ray refers to as her “modern manifesto”, deals with a common theme that many people have experienced in their lives. It’s about someone who breaks free from the controlling behavior and judgments of those around them.
It’s about a person following their dreams when others may be trying to discourage it. The lyrics describe this negativity and discouragement as “the black” before Lana indicates that she wants to follow her own heart and symbolizes this as moving “into the blue.”
“Birthplace” by Kris Kelly
Singer-songwriter Kris Kelly discussed with us the inspiration behind his song that celebrates freedom and connections. “There’s a tension there between the desire to have no attachments and also to have the security of home. I went to South America to travel for six months and I didn’t really have a plan. I had my guitar and a backpack.
I started writing ‘Birthplace’ at the start of the trip. The first part of the song is celebrating that freedom of living in the moment, unburdened by the past, attachments to other people or a definition that you’ve imposed on yourself of who you are.
There was a huge freedom in that, but after a few months, I found it hard to meet people and then say goodbye.
I started to feel a desire to settle down again. I was missing home and I started to crave attachments again. Towards the end of the song, there’s a longing for home. It’s a duality that you have to balance every day.”
“Free Fallin’” by Tom Petty
This ode to Southern California, by the late Tom Petty, deals with multiple themes. The lyrics paint a picture of a man who’s free and does as he wishes, even if it breaks some hearts along the way.
However, he is beginning to see the downside of all the freedoms that he normally enjoys. Instead of simply being free, he is starting to regret not connecting with someone and entering into a meaningful relationship. He is “free falling out into nothing.”
”Weightless” by Natasha Bedingfield
Just as one would expect when looking at the title of this song, “Weightless” is an inspirational tune about letting go of the things that hold us down in life. Bedingfield’s lyrics give this song a featherlight feel to it as she sings about floating beyond the sky’s limit and adopting a more carefree way of looking at things.
The minimalist music during the verses, with very little bass, adds to the weightless feeling of the song. Momentum then builds and erupts it into an energetic chorus that serves as a proclamation of freedom in all its glory.
“I Want to Break Free” by Queen
Queen’s classic hit “I Want to Break Free” is about wanting freedom when in a relationship and feeling that one has to simply break free from it. The song deals with conflicting feelings as it details how a person feels when they’re both in love and feeling restrained from living their life.
Freddie Mercury, the band’s meteorically famous lead vocalist, sings from the point of view of a man who does not want to live alone, but who must also make it on his own. There seems to be an overall positive outlook from this character regarding forthcoming freedoms as he admits that “life still goes on.”
”Free Bird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd
As an anthem for free-spirited classic rock fans, “Free Bird” is about resisting commitments and change. It’s about having the freedom to leave a situation at the drop of a dime. Just as a bird spreads its wings and flies away when it chooses to, so does the narrator in this song.
While most of the lyrics are about freedoms and choices, there’s also a contrasting undercurrent flowing through the song that deals with a person’s second nature and inability to change.
”Redemption Song” by Bob Marley and the Wailers
This classic reggae song is about achieving freedom from what singer Bob Marley referred to as “mental slavery.” By the second verse, it’s clear that this song is about gaining strength and freedom from a higher power.
While singing over nothing but the gentle strumming of an acoustic guitar, Marley makes references to both historical slavery and modern-day technology with his mention of the atomic bomb. He assures the listener that these things can’t “stop the time”, which is an allusion to the freedom in the afterlife that he suggests awaits everyone.
”Human” by The Killers
In “Human”, singer Brandon Flowers asks, “Are we human or are we dancer?” He uses the word “dancer” as if it’s a species, in the same way that the word “human” is used. He’s asking the question of whether humans possess free will and are consciously in control of their own actions or are they simply just puppets on a string.
At one point in the song, there’s an almost Pinocchio-like reference when he asks his maker to “cut the cord” and let him go. This song is all about having the freedom of choice, and even choosing to have that specific freedom.
”Freedom” by Rage Against the Machine
This controversial song deals with heavy topics relating to the freedoms of native civilizations in their homelands. It references the Inca and other native American civilizations and argues that many freedoms that these groups once enjoyed were taken away from them through colonization.
Most of the song involves lead vocalist, Zach De la Rocha, rapping and rhyming over a punchy and heavy bass line. By the end of the song, this turns into an escalating guitar sequence, paired with an aggressive chant of “Freedom? Yeah right!”
“Chimes of Freedom” by Bob Dylan
This poetic piece by Bob Dylan, which has been covered by countless other artists, is about the small glimpses of freedom and change that the world’s downtrodden masses rarely get to see.
Most of the lyrics describe the bleak scenarios that underprivileged people often find themselves in. Both lightning and bell chimes in the song symbolize increased freedoms and a positive change in their situations.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.