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  • Jasmond Hatch

Five Songs That Remind Us of the Power of Music

In this country, we all see how many races, especially African Americans are treated poorly. With music being one of our most beloved pastimes, it was important for these artists to sing change into our ears. Whether it's talking about the war on drugs in under deserved neighborhoods, or police brutality that remains an issue to this day, people have been exposed to the truth of this country. Look at this list of songs that not only made change but pushed through the airwaves so well, that the accolades were endless. These songs help us take back our power!


Sam Cooke


A Change Is Gonna Come (1964)

Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position 31

Billboard R&B Singles Peak Position 9

Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award 1999


Sam Cooke was a recognized success in the music industry. With his sweet, mellow yet powerful voice, Cooke led African Americans to a peaceful and encouraging mood with the release of this 1964 classic. During this time, Cooke was influenced by the message of the dream in Martin Luther King Jr's I Have a Dream speech at the Civil Rights March on Washington in 1963. Towards the end of 1963, Cooke stated that the "Change" composition came to him in a dream. For this song to come from this piece, it speaks a lot on the progression of the Civil Rights Movement. A movement that helped change the course of treatment towards African Americans.


Marvin Gaye



What’s Going On (1971)

Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position 27

Mainstream Top 40 Peak Position 24

Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Songs of All Time Rank 4


In a time where African Americans thought things would get ultimately better since the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Marvin Gaye released this song to literally ask the question “What’s Going On?” The inspiration for the song came from Renaldo "Obie" Benson, who was a member of the Motown group The Four Tops. He and the group experienced police brutality and violence in Berkeley, CA in 1969 at a protest against anti-war. The influence of this event prompted Benson to get in the studio and create this song and present it to Gaye. Gaye stated, With the world exploding around me, how am I supposed to keep singing love songs?


Public Enemy



Fight The Power (1989)

Billboard Hot Rap Singles Peak Position 1

Billboard US Hot Hip-Hop/R&B Songs Peak Position 20

Grammy-Nominated Best Rap Performance 1991

RIAA Songs of the Century Rank 288


During a time where drugs plagued urban neighborhoods of America, during a time when racial profiling was at an all-time high, and during a time where 5 young men of color were wrongfully convicted of a crime they didn’t commit, this song brought the power. This song was released at a crucial time in America's struggle with race. It captured both the psychological and social conflicts of America. When I think of this song, I continue to go back to the Central Park 5 case. The initial event happened in 1989 and later went to court in the 90s. It's utterly ridiculous how racial profiling and coercion put those innocent young men in jail. Luckily, the wrong was made right years later and they became the "Exonerated 5". This was a true event of fighting the power!


2Pac



Changes (1998)

Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position 32

US Mainstream Top 40 Peak Position 38

Grammy-Nominated Best Rap Performance 2000

MTV VMA Nominated Best Editing in Video & Best Rap Video 1999


“I see no changes, wake up in the morning and I ask myself, is life worth living or should I blast myself.” Those words resonated true for many individuals living in middle to low class society. With gang violence on the rise during those times, racism in effect, and the recent events years earlier in Los Angeles surrounding Latasha Harlins and Rodney King, this song spoke of those changes that African Americans desperately sought. Though 2Pac was not alive to see this song get the praise it received, his legacy and his voice still lives on.


Childish Gambino



This Is America (2018)

Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position 1

Grammy Award for Record of the Year 2019

Grammy Award for Song of the Year 2019

Grammy Award for Best Music Video 2019

Grammy Award for Best Rap/Sung Performance 2019


This song came about due to the recent racial profiling and discrimination that happened continuously for years. What stands out the most with this song is the video. Donald Glover a.k.a Childish Gambino is seen wandering around different areas showing what happens in what some may call AmeriKKKa. The shootings, police brutality and downright evil treatment that is shown, allowed us to see the problems with this country up close and personal. After all, the song is titled This Is America.