A good friend of mine challenged me to create a list of songs that I felt were particularly inspiring. As a long-time lover of both music and opinionated lists I accepted that challenge. Here were the basic stipulations we worked out:
- They must be inspiring in a spiritual and/or emotional way. I take this in a very broad sense, since I see spirituality in a wide variety of kinds of music. However, this means a lot of my favorite bands won’t be on the list (I listen to them for other reasons).
- The inspirational nature of the songs must be such that it can be obtained without previous background knowledge of the context in which the song was written, the personal history of the songwriter, historical details, etc. I will comment on why I like it, however, it will not be in-depth about the meanings behind the songs.
- No points are awarded for “sonic textures,” musicianship, technical ability, etc. This is all about pure inspiration.
So here we go, a tentative “Most Inspiring Playlist” of songs that inspire me personally. The format will be song, artist, and album, with comments if necessary.
- “This is the 21st Century,” Marillion, Anoraknophobia
- “When I Meet God,” Marillion, Anoraknophobia
These two songs, from the same album, are definitely at the top of my inspiring list, but only as a pair. They go perfectly together – one song about the despair and hopelessness in modern life and reaching out to God as a result (“When I Meet God”), and another song about how there is still magic and wonder and life in the world even though science seems to push these things aside (“This is the 21st Century”). It’s exactly the juxtaposition that many modern faithful people can feel.
- “Let it Be,” The Beatles, Let it Be
I particularly like the guitar solo on the Phil Spector version. Very gritty. I like the other versions, too.
- “For Real,” David Wilcox, East Asheville Hardware
This one is just so touching. Also about God, in a roundabout way (the last verse is the punchline). This one actually isn’t written by David Wilcox, it was written by someone named Bob Franke; I am only familiar with the David Wilcox version.
- “Acid Rain,” Liquid Tension Experiment, Liquid Tension Experiment 2
This song is “inspiring” in the sense that I used to listen to it anytime I needed to get pumped up to do anything (play a show, give a speech, etc.). Sort of fast prog-metal workout music.
- “Heart of the Sunrise,” Yes, Fragile
Definitely takes a bit of patience, but the payoff is mighty.
- “Stuck Between Stations,” The Hold Steady, Boys and Girls in America
Just a heartwarming rock tune with great poetry. Cheers me up whenever I hear it. Actually, this song helped me through the first night after learning that a friend had passed away. Just put it on repeat.
- “Amie,” Damien Rice, O
- “When in Rome,” Nickel Creek, Why Should The Fire Die?
Another one of those powerful, short songs about education, medicine, and death.
- “Only the Young,” Brandon Flowers, Flamingo
Saw this music video and immediately went and bought the album. Reviewed it at Linescratchers.
- “La Salam,” Hamza el-Din
Not sure which album this is on. I have two of his albums but only know this from coming across it on YouTube. Beautiful, peaceful Arabic tar and oud composition.
- “Hallelujah,” Jeff Buckley, Grace
Somebody tried to argue to me that this was not the best version of this song. I wanted to punch them. Just kidding. Sort of. This is not a “matter of opinion.” It’s just objectively the best.
- “Kyrie Eleison,” Divna Ljubojevic
Here my love for Orthodoxy is showing through, but this tune is killer.
- “You Can Close Your Eyes,” James Taylor, Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon
This song, my friends, is how you can get any girl to fall in love with you.
- “Water Music,” Handel
Okay, so this is actually a lot of songs but I especially like Suite 1. I needed some classical music on here, and this is my favorite of all (okay, it’s baroque, but still).
- “(That’s How You Sing) Amazing Grace,” Low, Trust
A melancholy song about faith, to be sure, but still inspiring to know that such music exists.
- “Redemption,” Jars of Clay, Furthermore: From the Studio, From the Stage
One of my favorite songs about being redeemed ever in the world. Actually one of my favorite spiritual songs ever. From the band: “Art can make people feel what’s true without telling them.”
- “From the Morning,” Nick Drake, Pink Moon
Nick Drake inspires me to pack the most punch in my songs in as little time as possible.
- “Hell’s Kitchen,” Dream Theater, Falling Into Infinity
I don’t like many instrumentals but this one is quite inspiring, to me.
- “Untouchable, Part 2,” Anathema, Weather Systems
This song makes me feel all weepy for some reason. Melancholy. I love great male-female duets.
Twenty seems like plenty, doesn’t it? I’ll probably disagree with this list as soon as I wake up tomorrow (at least, some of it), but here it is right now.