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Sunday, October 16, 2016

Change the World: Songs for Reflection and Discussion

last updated September 17, 2020

posted by Catharine Hannay

Here's the latest in the popular series of song playlists for teachers, parents, or anyone who likes music with positive or thought-provoking lyrics.  This time the focus is on diversity, unity, love for humanity, and making a difference.  Scroll to the bottom of the page for questions you can use in teaching or for self-reflection, as well as links to more posts on compassion and service.

I've tried to include something for everyone, and I've tried not to include any offensive content... but some of the lyrics and images may not be appropriate for children or might not be suitable for your context.  Be sure to preview the full lyrics and video before deciding whether a particular song is appropriate to share with your family or class.

Be the Change, MC Yogi
lyrics; official video
"Once upon a time, not long ago, there was a boy who would grow and become a great soul.  He lived in India, and his name was Gandhi.  He believed in human rights, and he fought for equality.  He felt so strongly that he trained himself, 'cause he realized first he'd have to change himself."

Being Kind, Empty Hands Music
lyrics and free mp3 download; official video
"When the world is full of violence and it needs a little kindness...  I open my eyes, realize, we are fine, one small act at a time."

Change the World, Colby and Awu
"Time to rid the world of prejudice, and start a revolution.  I’m talking no more hunger, and no more pain.  No more violence, and no more slaves.  No more hatred, and no more greed... No more discrimination, kids need an education, gotta give hope to the up and coming generation...  We can change the world."

Do Something, Matthew West
lyricsofficial video
"Well, I just couldn’t bear the thought of people living in poverty, children sold into slavery. The thought disgusted me. So, I shook my fist at Heaven. Said, 'God, why don’t You do something?' He said, 'I did. I created you.'"

Earth SongHarry Belafonte (on the Muppet Show)
lyricsofficial audioMuppet Show video (Unfortunately, the video with the intro and conclusion is no longer available; here's a link to song facts explaining the meaning.)
"We are of the spirit, truly of the spirit. Only can the spirit turn the world around... Do you know who I am? Do I know who you are? See we one another clearly? Do we know who we are?"

Free Your Mind, En Vogue
lyrics; video of live performance ft. Kelly Clarkson
"Why oh why must it be this way?  Before you can read me you gotta learn how to see me.  Free your mind and the rest will follow.  Be color blind, don't be so shallow."

From a Distance, Julie Gold

"From a distance you look like my friend even though we are at war. From a distance I just cannot comprehend what all this fightings for. From a distance there is harmony and it echoes through the land. It's the hope of hopes. It's the love of loves. It's the heart of every man."

Give Love, MC Yogi
lyricsofficial video
"Hate and fear will try to blind us, but love unites us, nobody can fight this. ’Cause love is righteous and it might just save the whole world from this global crisis... Open up your heart and let it shine the brightest... Give love, give your love away.Give love, don’t be afraid."

If I Ruled the World, MILCK
lyrics; official video; official lyric video
"If I ruled the world....We'd be kind to refugees, plant more trees in inner cities. We'd bus kids to see the ocean... I'd make news more beneficial. I'd make every driver signal... I'd keep music in the schools, and hear every point of view."

Keep Changing the World, Mikeschair
"There's so much suffering just outside our door.  A cry so deafening we just can't ignore.   To all the people who are fighting for the broken.  All the people who keep holding on to love.  All the people who are reaching for the lonely.  Keep changing the world."

Keep Loving: A Universal Love Song, Nimo (Empty Hands Music)
"Whether you got a family or single parentin’- Or you're Asian, African, European or American.  Whether you pray-to-God or atheist is irrelevant.  'Cuz what you got inside is the same as all your brethren.  So keep loving.  It’ll change your heart, it’ll change your mind.  And then you’ll start to change your eyes.  Everything you touch, everyone you see will soon become your family." 

Love is Still the Answer, Jason Mraz
lyrics; official video
"There's only one answer that matters
Even if your heart has been shattered
Whatever you want, whatever you are after
Love is still the answer."

Love with Your Life, Hollyn
lyrics; official lyrics video
"L-o-v-e rolls off the tongue
But sometimes the word's just not enough
Gotta dig a little, dig a little deeper
You gotta love with your life."

O Siem: We Are All Family, Susan Aglukark
lyricsaudio; video of performances by First Nations
"Siem o siyeya, all people rich and poorSiem o siyeya, those who do and do not knowSiem o siyeya, take the hand of one close bySiem o siyeya, of those who know because they tryAnd watch the walls come tumbling down"

One Tribe
, The Black-Eyed Peas
"It's all one blood, don't care about your face, the color of your eye or the tone of your skin... I don't need no leader that's gonna... make me think I need to fear my brother and fear my sister, and shoot my neighbor or my big missile...Let's catch amnesia. Forget about all that evil... One tribe, ya'll."

Paradigm, Colby and Awu
"Take a little time, open up your mind, and see that humankind’s destiny is intertwined. Take a little time, open up your mind, and see the other side, from a new paradigm."

Peace Train, Cat Stevens (Yusuf Islam)
lyrics;  video of live performance by Yusuf Islam (2006)
"Oh, I've been smiling lately, dreaming about the world as one.  And I believe it could be.  Some day it's going to come.  'Cause out on the edge of darkness, there rides a peace train.  Oh, peace train take this country.  Come take me home again."

Planting Seeds, Empty Hands Music
lyrics and free mp3 downloadofficial video
"Whatever grows will grow... Whatever works will work... What's meant to fail will fail. What's meant to soar, will soar. I am planting seeds, nothing more."

Stay Human (All the Freaky People), Michael Franti and Spearhead
lyricsvideo (audio with album cover)
"I'm givin' thanks for bein' human every morning.  Because the streets are alive with the sound of Boom Bap.  Can I hear it once again?  Tell your neighbor.  Tell a friend.  Every box gotta right to be boomin'.  Every flower got a right to be bloomin'.  Be resistant.  The negativity, we keep it at a distance.  Call for backup and I'll give you some assistance."

This is My Wish/Let There Be Peace; Voctave
lyrics to This is My Wish; lyrics to Let There Be Peace on Earth; video of a capella recording
"This is the time for harmony... Fill the air with joyful noise.  Ring the bells and raise your voice... Let there be peace on earth."

To My People: A Love Song to Humanity, Nimo (featuring Famus and Nick Dalton)
"Every single one of you, through being you, you do, find a way to spread love through Truth, through me and you.  And it's because of you, I grew... Because of you, I made it through ... You’re a blessing to us all, so keep just being you... You're everybody, every being, every life, every moment, everything."

Waiting on the World to Change, John Mayer
lyrics; official video

"Me and all my friends, we're all misunderstood.  They say we stand for nothing and there's no way we ever could. Now, we see everything that's going wrong with the world and those who lead it.  We just feel like we don't have the means to rise above and beat it.  So we keep waiting on the world to change."

We Shall Overcome: Love Will Rise Again, Empty Hands Music
free mp3 download; official video 
"Walls can't hold us in. Fear can't keep us down. Love will rise again. It's rising right now."

We're All in This Together, Ben Lee
"Woke up this morning.  I suddenly realized, we're all in this together. I started smiling 'cos you were smiling, and were all in this together.  I'm made of atoms.  You're made of atoms.  And we're all in this together."

Where is the Love? The Black-Eyed Peas
official video; ASL music videoAuslan interpretationBSL interpretation

"To discriminate only generates hate. And when you hate then you're bound to get irate... Man, we gotta set it straight.  Take control of your mind and just meditate. And let your soul just gravitate to the love, so the whole world celebrate it."

With My Own Two Hands, Ben Harper
lyrics; official video
"I can change the world, with my own two hands. Make a better place, with my own two hands.  Make a kinder place, with my own two hands."

Questions for Reflection and Discussion
  • Do people tend to make false assumptions about you based on your background or appearance?
  • What are some ways people from different backgrounds can work together in harmony?
  • What are some ways people you know are making a difference in the world, or in your community?
  • If you ruled the world, what would you change, and what would you keep the same?
  • Are there ways you are (or could be) making a difference with your own two hands?
  • How does helping your community help the world?
  • How does helping the world help your community?
  • How can we encourage others to stop waiting for the world to change and get involved in changing it?