We all have heard the clichéd phrase that music can change lives. However, it can do much more than that. Music can even shape history. Some songs have been composed whose powers are so magnanimous that they even changed history! Over the decades, music has consistently had a significant cultural and political impact on real-world events and provided power for positive change and unity at historic moments. Even during our own liberation war, many songs have been composed to inspire our freedom fighters. Well, music isn’t only a source of recreation. If structured correctly, it can bring about a revolution. Here are a few examples of such songs:
‘Chol, Chol, Chol’ By Kazi Nazrul Islam
The song Notuner Gaan, more popularly known after its first line ‘Chol, Chol, Chol’, gives goose-bumps to this day! It is so invigorating and meaningful that it evokes the spirit of freedom, justice and truth among people. On the first week of February in 1928, Nazrul came to Dhaka to attend the Muslim Literary Society’s second annual conference. He wrote this song at Syed Abul Hossain’s Dhaka house. The Bangladeshi government adopted this song as the national marching song of Bangladesh on 13 January, 1972 in its first meeting after the country’s independence.
‘Imagine’ By John Lennon
This famed song was written and performed by Beatle and English musician John Lennon in his solo album. The lyrics ask the listener to imagine a world freed from class, religious, or political boundaries; it also encourages people to become less attached to material possessions. It is ultimately a call for world peace. Lennon himself once said of the song that it is “virtually the Communist manifesto, even though I’m not particularly a Communist.” It was written in 1971 during the Vietnam War, though its message encouraging tolerance and equality is no less relevant today.
‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ By Bob Dylan
This classic by Bob Dylan has been used as a protest anthem ever since its release in 1962. It was considered a civil rights anthem and Sam Cooke thought it could be lent to the cause and began to perform it as part of his live set. It was later used as an anthem for the Vietnam anti-war movement and more recently in Iraq anti-war protests.
‘They Don’t Really Care About Us’ By Michael Jackson
“They Don’t Care About Us” is the fifth single from Michael Jackson’s album ‘History: Past, Present and Future, Book I’, released on March 31, 1996. The song remains one of the most controversial pieces Jackson ever composed. Some parts of the lyrics had disturbed the US Jewish community even though Michael Jackson had said later it was a song against all kinds of discrimination. He had argued that critics had misinterpreted his context, either unintentionally or deliberately. The title of the song says it all. Those who are corrupt and powerful really don’t care for common people.
‘American Idiot’ By Green Day
This punk rock anthem is the title track from Green Day’s album “American Idiot.” The song was released in August of 2004 to mostly positive reviews by critics and four Grammy nominations. The song criticizes America circa 2004 in the midst of the Bush Administration and the growth of the “new media,” which comes under fire in this song. In a 2004 interview with Q magazine, members of Green Day even discussed flag desecration in relation to their song, saying that they would support it. “American Idiot” was ranked the number 13 Single of the Decade by Rolling Stone in 2009.
‘Get Up Stand Up’ By Bob Marley
This iconic song is a reggae song written by Bob Marley and Peter Tosh. The song originally appeared on The Wailers’ 1973 album “Burnin’” and was played live in many versions by Bob Marley & The Wailers. While touring Haiti, Marley was extremely moved both by the lives of the Haitians and the extreme poverty they faced. As with many of these songs, “Get Up Stand Up” still holds relevance in the modern world where inequality and human rights violations still abound. It has been covered by a myriad of other artists.