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Rock’s Most Inspirational Songs

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Martin Hunter, Getty Images

We all need to hear a good inspirational song sometimes. After all, there isn’t a single person on Earth who hasn’t experienced a period of trial and adversity at some point in their lives. When you’re down in the dumps, and it just doesn’t seem like things will ever get better, more often times than not something comes along, whether it’s a friend, a family member or even just a simple song to lift your spirits. Here are a handful of classic tracks that have brought just a little bit of inspiration to millions throughout the years


‘Dream On’

Aerosmith
 
 
From: 'Aerosmith' (1973)

Penned by lead singer Steven Tyler, this track served as the Aerosmith's inital breakout hit back in 1973. Tyler and lead guitarist Joe Perry recently have re-recorded the tune with backup contributions from the Southern California Children’s Chorus to honor the victims of the tragic 2013 bombing of the Boston Marathon.

 

 

‘Eye of the Tiger’

Survivor
 
 
From: 'Eye of the Tiger' (1982)

When fictional boxer Rocky Balboa lost his championship belt to the vicious Clubber Lang in the 1982 film ‘Rocky III’ it absolutely robbed the Italian Stallion of his will to fight. It took the intervention of his former rival Apollo Creed and Chicago-based rock band Survivor to get him out of his funk and get him back in the ring. ‘Eye of the Tiger’ isn’t the most obvious choice for inclusion on this inspirational songs list, but we dare you to hear those iconic opening guitar chords and not feel like you can’t take drop Mr. T by the third round.

 

‘Let It Be’

The Beatles
 
 
From: 'Let It Be' (1970)

When you find yourself in times of trouble, mother Mary might not always come to you, but the immortal words of Paul McCartney will. While many believe that the 'Mary' the former Beatle is referring to in the song is the virgin mother of Christ, the Sir Paul revealed to author Barry Miles for the book, ‘Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now’ that the woman in question was actually his own departed mother -- whose name was Mary -- who gave him his own bit of inspiration. “I had a dream I saw my mum, who'd been dead ten years or so,” McCartney recalled. “In the dream she said, 'It'll be alright.' I'm not sure if she used the words 'Let it be' but that was the gist of her advice.”

 

‘The Show Must Go On’

Queen
 
 
From: 'Innuendo' (1991)

Even more than its overall uplifting message of carrying on through tough times, the fact that this song exists is a testament to man’s ability to overcome. Recorded in 1990 when he was nearing the end of his battle with AIDS, many in Queen questioned whether Freddie Mercury was up to the challenge of singing. "I said, 'Fred, I don't know if this is going to be possible to sing,’” guitarist Brian May recalled. "And he went, 'I'll f---ing do it, darling' — vodka down — and went in and killed it, completely lacerated that vocal."

 

‘Don’t Stop Believin’’

Journey
 
 
From: 'Escape' (1991)

It doesn’t get much more uplifting or upbeat than this ‘80s karaoke classic. Ever since it was released in 1981 it has provided inspiration and encouragement to winners and losers alike. Many cite this song as one of the primary reasons for the San Francisco Giants’ first World Series win in 46 years back in 2010. Former Journey singer Steve Perry himself was on hand in the crowd during the National League Championship Series providing the inspirational fuel that the team needed to power through to the end.

 

‘Right Now'

Van Halen
 
 
From: 'For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge' (1992)

Here’s a lesson straight from the lips of the Red Rocker, Sammy Hagar himself – don’t you wait for things to happen, you need to make them happen on your terms. Sure, the song might be most well remembered for promoting the short-lived soft drink Crystal Pepsi, but as Hagar sings in the song itself, “the more you get, the more you want.” And if you can’t get over that special endorsement sheen of ‘Right Now,’ there’s always ‘Get Up’ off '5150,' another inspirational Van Halen classic.

 

‘Don’t Give Up’

Peter Gabriel
 
 
From: 'So' (1982)

Recorded as a duet with Kate Bush for his 1986 album ‘So,’ this inspirational song expertly weaves a man’s feeling of depression with the hopeful message of a female friend. What many people don’t know is that Bush was not Peter Gabriel’s first choice to sing on this track as he revealed to The Quietus in 2011. “There was this reference point of American roots music in it when I first wrote it, it was suggested that Dolly Parton sing on it. But Dolly turned it down... and I'm glad she did because what Kate did on it is... brilliant.”

 

‘Heroes’

David Bowie
 
 
From: 'Heroes' (1977)

At any moment and at any time, anyone of us can be called upon to do great things, or as David Bowie sings, “we can be heroes/if just for one day.” As the Thin White Duke revealed to American Songwriter in 2003, the song itself is about the triumph of love in the face of all obstacles – physical or otherwise. “I always said it was a couple of lovers by the Berlin Wall that prompted the idea. Actually, it was Tony Visconti and his girlfriend. Tony was married at the time. And I could never say who it was (laughs). But I can now say that the lovers were Tony and a German girl that he’d met whilst we were in Berlin."

 

'Always Look on the Bright Side of Life'

Monty Python
 
 
From: 'The Life of Brian' (1979)

Sometimes, nothing can help us forget about our troubles better than a good laugh. So who better than Monty Python, who wrote this bouncy little ditty for the final scene -- during the Crucifixion, of all things -- in their George Harrison-financed film 'The Life of Brian.' After all, what's a better piece of wisdom than "Life's a piece of s--- / when you look at it" provided that you remember to "Keep 'em laughin' as you go?" The song was also brilliantly recast as a showstopper in 'Spamalot,' the Broadway musical based on 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail.'

 

‘Wind of Change’

The Scorpions
 
 
From 'Crazy World' (1990)

Whereas the previous inspirational song was for a long time presumed to have been inspired by the separation caused by Berlin Wall, the Scorpions' smash hit is about the real impending end of Soviet rule in Eastern Europe. At over 6 million records sold, it still holds the distinction of the best-selling single in German history.

 

'I Won’t Back Down’

Tom Petty
 
 
From: 'Full Moon Fever' (1989)

As he recalled in the book, ‘Conversations with Tom Petty,' on May 17, 1987 an unknown assailant threw a can of lighter fluid against his home and set it ablaze. The subsequent fire destroyed nearly everything he owned, and left the singer devastated. Petty rebuilt a new, larger house on the property just to show whoever caused the devastation that he wasn’t scared. Oh, and he also wrote a pretty damn good song about the whole thing too.

 

Next: Top 10 Patriotic Songs

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