Our Past Does Not Dictate Our Future. The Top 10 Change Songs of All Time

Our Past Does Not Dictate Our Future. The Top 10 Change Songs of All Time

Posted on 23. Feb, 2010 by in Blog Special Series

First, I want to thank all of you who submitted your suggestions for this list. Your input was invaluable!  Not all, but most songs made the list.

This isn’t your typical Top 10 list.  It’s written specifically for you, today’s change leader.  You, the person, who is ready to start putting into play new ways of leading people through change, bringing people into change, and collaborating for audacious results.  This is about hearing the voice of the many to distill the crystal clear message about making tomorrow better.  I hope this is as much fun and interesting as a call to action.

To hear the songs in this post, click on the Artist/Song title.

#10: Sweet Honey in the Rock – Ella’s Song

This was recommended by my Twitter friend, Pam Fox Rollin (@PamFR). The song is a civil rights song.  The message, though, is timeless.  Leading and bringing change requires solidarity of everyone to make a profound difference.  The song’s other important message is to teach others to never settle for what’s not working.  To paraphrase MLK, mediocrity is a gradual drug that lures us into accepting what is reality and that not much can be done to change it.  Today’s change leaders, much like the message in Ella’s Song, rise above the mediocrity and find passion in creating a better future.  Life depends on it.  The message easily translates into the business world.


#9: Beatles – Let It Be

On the surface the title contradicts change – let it be. The Beatles’ song, however, covers an important, and often-overlooked truth about change – there is beauty in observing and not immediately responding.   Know your sources of inspiration during tough times.  For anyone going through change and leading change, sources of inspiration keep us focused on the bigger picture and not the sometimes distracting details.  Let It Be gives strength for those difficult changes we endure to come out the other side stronger, perhaps transformed.

#8: Natasha Beddingfield – UnwrittenBeddingfield sings that your page is unwritten.  What a beautiful statement when talking about change.  All too often we let our past dictate our future.  An unwritten page is all about possibility.  Change is possibility.  Transforming what is becomes more possible when we look at what isn’t and then explore, together, how to create what the future will become.

#7: Sam Cooke – A Change Is Gonna Come

This song made it to the list based on the recommendation of my good friend Alejandro Reyes (@alejandroreyes).  It’s such an important song about civil rights.  Its message, though, comes across differently than Sweet Honey in the Rock’s song back at #10.  Overcoming adversity with the belief that things will change is at the song’s core.  And it’s a single man’s belief that things will change: “Oh there been times that I thought I couldn’t last long, but now I think I’m able to carry on.” It’s our personal strength to overcome the negative ninjas, or the naysayers, who knock us down for wanting a better future.  Our personal strength is vital during times of change.  It’s what keeps the sanity and the whiskey jar full.

#6: Fleetwood Mac – Don’t Stop

You had to know this would make the list, right?  It is sheer optimismFear seduces us to believe that a different future threatens us today.  It also seduces to be comforted by the past.  But Fleetwood Mac so optimistically calls for us to think about tomorrow.  “Yesterday is gone.”  We all want to be a contribution in this world. Causing change means not letting our “lizard brain,” as Seth Godin calls it, override our ability to sculpt and participate in creating a better future.

#5: Bob Dylan – The Times They Are A Changin’

Sure the scent of pot lingers in the air when recalling when this song was popular.  In the 60’s people were mad as hell about what was going on in our country.  People took to the streets proclaiming their dissatisfaction.  Bob Dylan’s song reminds us that nothing can remain the same that we must change how we do things.  Today this message is so important in an era where apathy runs rampant in businesses.  We are not powerless to improve our world.  Heed Dylan’s message and engage in your business, community, church, job or be left behind, because the times are always changing.

#4: Bill Withers – Lean On Me

Aside from the catchiness of this timeless tune, its message is at the heart of change – it takes community.  What better way to demonstrate community by offering a shoulder for which to lean on when things are tough?  Change always fails when everyone (the community) is not involved.  Today change happens when those impacted are given a voice and roll up their sleeves to figure out how to make change work.  Lean on each other and change becomes a community effort, not a leadership initiative.

#3: John Legend – If You’re Out There

I cry and dance when I hear this song.  The driving message in this song is that we can’t look or wait for someone to bring and lead change.  It’s up to each of us.  I don’t care what role you play in life, in your business, or in your job – change is possible when we own up to this one fact: we each have much to contribute and our ability to lead is as natural as our need to connect with people.  These are all essential for making lasting change.  “We can be heroes” Legend sings when we stand up for change.  As my good friend Alejandro Reyes says, “It’s now o’clock.” Your life, business, or job is waiting for you to show your leadership talent and help change become a new reality.

#2: John Lennon – Imagine

This song is the epitome of an inspired vision.  A vision should describe how the future will be better and how to engage in that new future.  Lennon’s song is a metaphor for what leaders must do when bringing change: share what you see that compels you to change the reality. Be inspired by what Lennon created in this song to shape how you can craft you vision. Imagine and dream what it looks like. Go ahead, it’s okay to tap into the emotion of a better future.  It’s what your people are waiting for – something to believe in and something they can help create.

So there you have it. The top 10 change songs of all time. The songs that capture the essence of change.  Songs that call out to us to find different ways to bring change to our businesses, lives, jobs, or organizations. It’s now o’clock.  Tick tock. Lead brilliantly. Lead together. Choose to make a difference.

#1: Michael Jackson – Man in the Mirror

Michael takes the top spot because the song so eloquently hits all the people elements to make change possible.  It’s honest. It’s real. My dear friend Dina Henry Scott suggested this song, and how appropriate!  Change is about the human condition. It’s about people.  We all want to be part of something bigger then ourselves.  Change starts with our Self.  MJ knew this when he sings he’s been a victim of a selfish kind of love and sees that change is other-focused.  Change starts with the person staring back at you in the mirror.  There in the mirror is you.  You, everyday, standing for something and making a difference.  Leading change is not about an individual leader’s hope to make a lasting impression.  It’s about leading change to make life, work, a day better for everyone.  Leading change is a selfless act.

What is thought or message stands out from the list? Or perhaps you disagree. Comment below.

Tags: , , , ,

8 Responses to “Our Past Does Not Dictate Our Future. The Top 10 Change Songs of All Time”

  1. Dina

    24. Feb, 2010

    I’m honored that my suggestion was included in this great list! I forgot about “Unwritten” but that song still brings tears to my eyes whenever I hear it! I loved this article, Shawn! So inspirational! Thank you!

    Reply to this comment
    • Shawn Murphy

      24. Feb, 2010

      Dina, MJ was a great recommendation. I considered including Earth Song, but decided to keep the list to reflect one artist’s song. Unwritten has inspiring lyrics. Not sure I want to hear the current version anytime soon though…too much radio play. =) Thank you for contributing to the list and conversation.

      Reply to this comment
  2. Remy G

    04. Mar, 2010

    the next list should include “right now” by van halen and maybe “walk on” by U2. Great first list tho! Remy

    Reply to this comment
    • Shawn Murphy

      05. Mar, 2010

      Thank you, Remy, for the suggestions. We had a good response to the post and will definitely do another down the road.

      Reply to this comment
  3. Cyrus

    28. Mar, 2010

    Love the list, now I have new songs to download from iTunes.
    thanks Shawn!

    Reply to this comment
    • Shawn Murphy

      28. Mar, 2010

      I must admit my favorite on the list is John Legend’s “If You’re Out There.” It’s a powerful, moving song.

      Reply to this comment
  4. Mitch Mitchell

    13. Nov, 2011

    Only two songs on this list I didn’t know, and that link to the John Legend song doesn’t work anymore so I’ll have to find it elsewhere. I’m really happy Man in the Mirror is at the top of the list as Michael Jackson is my favorite, although I might have also suggested Keep The Faith by him if I’d seen the earlier post last year. I love this stuff; thanks!

    Reply to this comment
    • Shawn Murphy

      14. Nov, 2011

      Hi Mitch,
      Thank you for reading this post. I had fun putting it together with all the input. I’ll fix the link. Good looking’ out.


      Reply to this comment

Leave a Reply