Songs of Hope: 50 Songs Created for a Better World

Music has been the universal medium to send a message and create powerful emotions throughout the years. As years went by and lyrics progressed, music became more than melodies to enjoy, it became a signature of social movements, a voice for the voiceless, and a symbol of hope.

Whether the lyrics carry a love message, an anti-war anthem, or a call for peace, we celebrate this International Day of Living Together in Peace with a list of the best songs created for a better world that you may have (or not) heard of, but you definitely should listen to.

Let’s get together and share the message of peaceful coexistence through the universal language of music!

1. Redemption Song - Bob Marley

Marley's songs serve as the epitome of peace and unity, embodying timeless values that resonate across generations. They stand as an immortal hymn for every social movement striving towards a better world, and “Redemption Song” is an example of how a song can bring our troubled souls the calm we need in life, making us reflect on our past selves and the future we envision.

Watch an exclusive version of this song by Mermans Mosengo (only for members) here.

2. Blowin’ in the Wind - Bob Dylan

This Bob Dylan classic from 1962 is described as a protest song and an anthem for civil rights and nuclear disarmament. The song questions the persistence of war, needless violence, and oppression.

Lyrics like “...the answer my friend, is blowin’ in the wind” express the frustration of men's inability to achieve lasting harmony and stability.

Would you like to see a cover of this song? Let us know in the comments.

3. A Better Place - Enzo Buono, Jason Tamba, Habib Gueye, Mark Johnson and Clarence Bekker

Released on International Human Rights Day in 2012, this song was created through a partnership between PFC and the United Nations Millennium Development Goals Achievement Fund. We realize that true change for the good of everyone always comes from the hearts of the people, and with music, we can unite to make the world a better place.

4. Glory - John Legend

Released in December 2014, "Glory" was a song performed by John Legend and Common for the movie “Selma.”The song serves as the theme for the 2014 historical drama film directed by Ava DuVernay, a chronic of the historic 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches led by Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders. Since then “Glory” has become an anthem of resilience, hope, and perseverance in the face of adversity.

5. Get Up, Stand Up - Bob Marley & The Wailers

A timeless song about standing up against oppression and injustice, Bob Marley and Peter Tosh urge listeners to take action and fight for their rights. Since then, the song has been embraced by numerous civil rights movements, anti-apartheid movements, and movements for justice and equality.

6. A Change Is Gonna Come - Sam Cooke

Released in 1964 by the legendary singer-songwriter Sam Cooke, this song is a dedication to those oppressed by social inequalities created by a structure that marginalizes the poor while benefiting the wealthy. The song was inspired by various events in Cooke’s life, particularly when he and his group were turned away from a white-only motel in Louisiana. Today, his words are coming true; slowly but surely, the change he longed for is manifesting for the better, and this time, it's here to stay.

7. Skin Deep - Buddy Guy

Written by Buddy Guy, Tom Hambridge, and Gary Nicholson, "Skin Deep" delivers a powerful message about the importance of looking beyond the surface of how we see each other on the outside and recognizing that our values and good intentions unite us all.

“Underneath, we’re all the same.”

8. Ripple - Grateful Dead

Written by The Grateful Dead, "Ripple" is an introspective song that delves into the mysteries of life and reflects on the paths we choose as we age. Some interpret the song as an exploration of faith, while others see it as a journey of self-reflection and acceptance. However, there's no denying that the song evokes a sense of peace and tranquility for listeners, regardless of interpretation.

9. Love Train - The O’ Jays

Love, togetherness, and social change—this classic performed by the O’Jays was written by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff and is celebrated for its upbeat and infectious melody, as well as its positive and inclusive message of love and unity.

10. All You Need Is Love - The Beatles

“All You Need Is Love” was first performed at the “Our World” live television show in 1967, the song was particularly significant as it marked the first live international satellite television production. Soon it would become an anthem for the whole world, as its message is a celebration of love as the universal force that transcends boundaries.

11. We Want Peace - Lenny Kravitz

This hidden gem was written by Lenny Kravitz and released as a download-only track in 2009 as a protest against the 2003 invasion of Iraq, this song addresses issues like war, violence, and injustice.

12. One Love - Bob Marley

Released in 1965, we chose “One Love” as one of the most important phrases of representation for Playing For Change. The reason is simple but meaningful: unity, peace, and love emphasize the importance of coming together despite differences.

13. We Got To Have Peace - Curtis Mayfield

Curtis Mayfield was an artist whose lyrics demonstrated awareness of social problems like inequality, civil conflicts, and social division. In "We Got To Have Peace," Mayfield calls for unity, understanding, and cooperation among people of all backgrounds, a message that resonated strongly in the political climate of the 1970s.

14. Why Can’t We Be Friends? - War

Released in 1975, War released “Why Can’t We Be Friends” as a funk-reggae video that addresses unity, understanding, and acceptance, creating a parody of everyday life issues and political themes, making them easier to digest.

15. Peace Train - Cat Stevens

Originally released on the album "Teaser and the Firecat" in 1971, "Peace Train" is a timeless anthem that urges unity among people. Through its lyrics, it praises the power of the peace train to unite individuals and transcend division and conflict.

16. Waiting On The World To Change - John Mayer

Crafted by John Mayer, this poignant anthem spotlights the significance of collective action in effecting change, urging young people to raise awareness and take action without delay.

Read the Behind The Scenes: A World Of Musicians United For A Change.

17. While My Guitar Gently Weeps - The Beatles

Inspired by the teachings of an I Ching book, George Harrison wrote this song, reflecting on the notion that everything holds a purpose in the moment it happens. While the song evokes feelings of sadness, introspection, and frustration, its essence lies in the understanding of our mistakes, serving as a lullaby for a brighter tomorrow.

18. Imagine - John Lennon

“Imagine” envisions a world without borders, possessions, or religions, where humanity lives in harmony and promotes a future free of divisions and conflicts that plague society, emphasizing the universal message of hope and unity.

19. Gimme Shelter - The Rolling Stones

Released in 1969 on their album "Let It Bleed," The Rolling Stones raised awareness about the crude reality of war and how people are desperate to find a shelter in between. In a 1995 interview with Rolling Stone, Mick Jagger explained that the band was undoubtedly impacted by the Vietnam War when creating the song.

20. One - U2

"One" explores themes of love, forgiveness, and reconciliation. However, the song is not about the conventional idea of "coming together." Instead, as Bono has explained, it delves into "the differences that keep us separate, as well as the obligation we have to work together despite those differences."

21. What’s Going On - Marvin Gaye

"What's Going On" was inspired by Gaye's own experience of social and political unrest in the United States during the late 1960s and early 1970s, including events such as the Vietnam War, racial injustice, and environmental degradation. The lyrics convey a message of social consciousness and a call for change

22. Playing For Change - Sara Bareilles

“Playing For Change” is an original song written by GRAMMY award-winning singer/songwriter, Sara Bareilles, featuring Chris Pierce, the PFC Band, and musicians from six countries. The lyrics embody the Playing For Change movement values in order to inspire and connect the world through music.

23. What A Wonderful World - Louis Armstrong

At the time of its release, 'What A Wonderful World' didn’t receive much recognition in the United States because ABC Records president Larry Newton disliked the song and refused to promote it. After a turn of events, Newton was removed from the label, and the recording was given minimal promotion. However, this wasn’t enough to stop the success of the song, which is now known all over the world proving the power of music is unstoppable.

24. Better Together - Jack Johnson

This beautiful song was a single, released in February 2006 from Jack Johnson's third studio album, In Between Dreams, and was inspired by his love for his wife. “Better Together” has a universal message that “it’s always better together” when we lead with love as the answer.

25. Give Peace A Chance - Plastic Ono Band

Released as a single by the Plastic Ono Band, the song was recorded during John Lennon and Yoko Ono's protest for peace in Montreal, Canada. Along with an enthusiastic crowd of students, Hare Krishna devotees, and celebrity friends, they recorded one of the best-known anti-war songs.

26. We Are The World - Michael Jackson

This charity single, titled 'We Are the World,' was recorded by USA for Africa. It was inspired by 'Do They Know It's Christmas?' a 1984 charity single recorded by some of the most popular British and Irish musicians to raise money to end famine in Ethiopia. The lyrics of 'We Are the World' are a call for peace, focusing on the well-being of children around the world. There’s also a full documentary about the making of the song available on Prime Video.

27. What’s Up - 4 Non-Blondes

“What's Up?" explores themes of introspection, self-discovery, and existential questioning in search of understanding their life, as they grapple with personal struggles and strive for inner peace.

28. Where’s The Love? - Black Eyed Peas

"Where's The Love?" is a song that requires little explanation, as its lyrics address pressing issues such as racial injustice, terrorism, and the myriad of social problems affecting today's youth. Through its powerful message and emotive delivery, the song is a cry for change and social consciousness, urging listeners to confront the challenges of the world around them.

29. Innuendo - Queen

This song is known as one of the most ambitious songs composed by Queen due to its complex musical arrangements, diverse instrumentation, and thought-provoking lyrics. “Innuendo” was written by Brian May and the cryptic and metaphorical lyrics explore themes of mortality, spirituality, and the human condition while telling us that we have to keep on living and trying until the end.

30. Under Pressure - Queen

This single released in 1981 was the iconic collaboration between two of the biggest rockstars of all time, David Bowie and Freddy Mercury. "Under Pressure" explores themes of labor pressure, stress, and the human condition as a routine society. The song's lyrics touch on topics such as economic hardship, social inequality, and the struggles of everyday life.

31. Fragile - Sting

“Fragile” explores the vulnerability and fragility of life, inviting the listener to appreciate the fleeing existence of nature. The song is characterized by its gentle guitar arpeggios, subtle percussion, and smooth voice.

32. I Wish You Peace - Eagles

The Eagles included this song on their 1975 album One Of These Nights. The song expresses a sentiment of goodwill and hope for a better future even in the uncertainty of time.

33. Heal The World - Michael Jackson

Written and composed by Michael Jackson, this song is a call for global unity, compassion, and peace. The lyrics convey a message of hope and optimism to come together to make the world a better place for future generations.

34. With My Own Two Hands - Ben Harper

Ben Harpers calls to action and to recognize the power that people hold with his song “With My Own Two Hands,” becoming a theme of empowerment and social responsibility that resonated with audiences around the world.

35. Soulshine - The Allman Brothers Band

Released by The Allman Brothers Band on their 1994 album Where It All Begins, this song carries the message of finding inner peace, strength, and light amidst life's struggles and challenges.

36. Doctor My Eyes - Jackson Browne

“Doctor My Eyes” explores the feelings of confusion and the search for clarity in a world filled with pain and uncertainty. Its timeless message and memorable melody continue to captivate audiences all over the world.

37. Love - Imagine Dragons

"Love" is a song by Imagine Dragons, released as part of their album Origins in 2018. The song conveys a message of hope and perseverance, as well as it emphasizes the power of love to overcome obstacles and bring people together.

38. Higher Ground - Stevie Wonder

“Higher Ground” explores the spiritual theme of consciousness, personal growth, and transformation; it highlights the daily life struggles of some people in the world. The funky bassline, driving rhythm, and energetic horns make this song one of the most signature songs written and composed by Stevie Wonder.

A member-exclusive version featuring the PFC Band live in Australia is now available for our members! Log in and check it out.

39. Lean On Me - Bill Withers

“Lean On Me” is a message of support and solidarity by Bill Withers, released in 1972. Withers wrote this song to appeal directly to a friend, with the lyrics: “You just call on me, brother, when you need a hand. We all need somebody to lean on.”

40. Stand By Me - Ben E. King

The song that started it all, “Stand By Me” was the main inspiration to continue with the PFC movement. The memorable melody and heartfelt lyrics express the theme of friendship and loyalty and convey the idea of providing support and companionship during difficult times.

In the words of Roger Ridley: “No matter who you are, no matter where you go in your life, at some point you’re gonna need somebody to stand by you.”

41. All Along The Watchtower - Bob Dylan

Originally written and released by Bob Dylan, “All Along The Watchtower” gained its most widespread recognition through the cover version by Jimi Hendrix, released the following year on his album Electric Ladyland. Both versions are equally powerful as the lyrics are a cryptic conversation between two individuals stationed at a watchtower, sharing their perspectives about the world and its perils, from losing natural resources after the rich have taken them, to the understanding of what life should be or really can be.

42. Pipes Of Peace - Paul McCartney

"Pipes of Peace" was a solo released by Paul McCartney after leaving The Beatles, this song reached the top charts in the UK as well as in other countries. According to Songfacts, the line: "In love, our problems disappear" was taken from the 1913 Nobel Prize-winning Indian poet, Rabindranath Tagore. The original quotation was: "In love, all of life's contradictions dissolve and disappear."

43. Here Comes The Sun - The Beatles

According to George Harrison’s biography I Me Mine, “Here Comes the Sun” was written in 1969, when Apple Records had George feeling frustrated with the way business was made and the tension between the group. One day after a long winter at Eric Clapton’s house, George was sitting in the garden as the sun rose, and he felt a sense of hope and renewal, which led him to write the lyrics:

“Little darlin’, it’s been a long, cold, lonely winter. Little darlin’, it feels like years since it’s been here.”

44. The Times They Are A-Changin’ - Bob Dylan

A self-conscious protest song, Bob Dylan wrote this anthem influenced by the traditional folk song ballads "Come All Ye Bold Highway Men" and "Come All Ye Tender Hearted Maidens.” Dylan’s lyrics are observations of issues like civil rights, the Vietnam War, and generational tensions, urging listeners to embrace change and confront injustice.

45. With A Little Help from My Friends - The Beatles

This song by The Beatles celebrates the power and unity of friendship. Released on their 1967 album "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," this song is sung by Ringo Starr, with backing vocals from Paul McCartney and John Lennon.

46. Fly Like An Eagle - Steve Miller Band

Released in 1976 on the eponymous album, “Fly Like an Eagle” by the Steve Miller Band is a powerful song that evokes a sense of freedom, transcendence, and spiritual awakening. It symbolizes a desire for personal growth, enlightenment, and self-discovery.

47. Let It Grow - Eric Clapton

“Let It Grow” is a metaphor for the love of his garden in the finding of fertile ground for finding and growing love. Clapton sings about letting things develop naturally, embracing the passage of time, and finding peace in life's uncertainties.

48. Seeds Of Freedom - Manu Chao

Written and performed originally by Manu Chao, “Seeds of Freedom” is a call for a sustainable and better future, encouraging others to plant the seeds of change, growing and nurturing into a better future.

49. Congo To The Mississippi - Mermans Mosengo and Greg Johnson

This original song was co-written by Mermans Mosengo and PFC co-producer Greg Johnson a few years ago on a tour with the PFC Band. The simple message and anthemic chorus were the inspiration to create this Song Around The World.

“Someday we’ll all be free; until then, music is our ammunition.” -Mark Johnson.

50. Teach Your Children - Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

This song written by Graham Nash, carries a poignant message about the importance of passing down wisdom and values from one generation to the next, as well as encouraging parents to impart their knowledge and life lessons to their children.

Let this last song remind us that peace can be cultivated with the correct values and teachings for the youngest generations.

What are your top 50 songs for a better world? Let us know in the comments and don’t forget to share this article on social media!

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