Music. I genuinely love music. Every kind of music. Jazz, pop, gospel, country, rock, neo-soul, blues, indie, classical…
A seemingly infinite combination of notes, tones, and tempos can bring you to tears, move you to march, or temporarily transport you to another place in time. Universally, music unite people from diverse backgrounds to break bread or cut a rug.
But songs also play a pivotal role in recording our history, capturing our history, and — for better or worse — predicting our future.
With what feels like an onslaught of tragedy occurring around the world over the last few months, many people wonder what on Earth is going on. People rush to judgment, fearful that the end is near. I, however, turn to lyrical genius of performers like Marvin Gaye, Bob Dylan, Nina Simone, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Buffalo Springfield, The Beatles, Stevie Wonder, and Sam Cooke, just to name a few.
When you listen carefully to some of these lines, you’ll notice that as much progress as we may have made, there are times it may feel like we’re standing still…
Picket lines and picket signs
Don’t punish me with brutality
C’mon talk to me
So you can see
What’s going on
Yeah, what’s going on
Tell me what’s going on
– “What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye (1971)
Some folks are born made to wave the flag
Ooh, they’re red, white and blue
And when the band plays “Hail to the chief”
Ooh, they point the cannon at you, Lord
– “Fortunate Son” by Creedence Clearwater Revival (1969)
People, the world today is in a very difficult situation
And we all know it because we’re the ones to created it
We’re gonna have to be the ones to clean it up
We’re gonna have to learn to live together and love each other
– “Who’s Gonna Take the Weight” by Kool & the Gang (1971)
There’s something happening here
What it is ain’t exactly clear
There’s a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware
– “For What It’s Worth” by Buffalo Springfield
Gotta get down to it
Soldiers are cutting us down
Should have been done long ago
What if you knew her
And found her dead on the ground
How can you run when you know?
– “Ohio” by Crosby, Stills, and Nash
And then to stop the United States of yelling for a trial,
Two brothers they confessed that they had killed poor Emmett Till.
But on the jury there were men who helped the brothers commit this awful crime,
And so this trial was a mockery, but nobody seemed to mind.
This song is just a reminder to remind your fellow man
That this kind of thing still lives today in that ghost-robed Ku Klux Klan.
But if all of us folks that thinks alike, if we gave all we could give,
We could make this great land of ours a greater place to live.
– “The Death of Emmet Till” by Bob Dylan (1962)
Some may find listening to songs of protest and power depressing or disturbing in times like these. But I find them both comforting and inspirational; I’m comforted to know that the pain we are experiencing is not new and inspired to do my part to ensure that future generations can listen to these songs as cultural history lessons instead of eerie reminders of current headlines.
But music is not just a history lesson set to beats and melodies. It can also serve as an excellent source of hope and healing. And, as today is World Smile Day, I’d like to share with you 10 of my favorite songs almost guaranteed to put a pep in your step, some smooth in your groove, and a smile on your face!
Take a listen and groovin’ into your weekend like…
Aisha’s Happy Songs
(in no particular order)
- “Peacemaker” by Kool & the Gang
- “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin
- “I Don’t Care” by Judy Garland
- “Happy” by Pharrell Williams
- “Can’t Stop the Feeling” by Justin Timberlake
- “Ain’t It Fun” by Paramore
- “Make ‘Em Laugh” by Donald O’Connor
- “Smile” by Kirk Franklin
- “Heaven” by Mary Mary
- “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now” by McFadden & Whitehead
- “Equals” by MUTEMATH
- “Sing” by Sesame Street Workshop
- “I Love You So Much” by Chance the Rapper
- “Brave” by Sara Bareilles
- “Life Is a Highway” by Rascal Flatts
- “Don’t Give Up” by New Radicals
- “Get On Your Feet” by Gloria Estefan
- “Golden” by Jill Scott
- “Don’t You Worry Bout a Thing” by Stevie Wonder
- “Pure Imagination” from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory