15 Inspirational Songs And Lyrics To Lift You Up, Give You Goosebumps, And Reignite Your Fire

I remember the first time I heard Peter Gabriel’s “Solsbury Hill.”

Freshman year of college, which was daunting by itself, but I’d also attempted a romance to go along with suddenly finding my entire life’s direction in total question.

It starts with:

“Climbing up on Solsbury Hill
I could see the city light
Wind was blowing, time stood still
Eagle flew out of the night”

…immediately situating the listener as an archetypical wisdom seeker climbing above everyday noise in hopes of glimpsing truth.

“He was something to observe
Came in close, I heard a voice”

…which made me lean my soul even more into the song so that I wouldn’t miss any of the magic about to come.

“Standing, stretching every nerve
Had to listen, had no choice
I did not believe the information
Just had to trust imagination”

It was a song about trusting one’s guides, both inner and outer, and every single time I listened to Gabriel’s seeking voice and those pristine lyrics I was transported to a place where I knew who I was, as well as feeling grounded, safe, protected, and even cherished.

I have never since doubted the awesome power of a damn good song.

Certain songs simply “do it” for us. They stop time, they heal, they become aural talismans.

The jams. The ballads. The rock operas. The moody blues and the funk resurrections.

Lyrics combine with music, combine with delivery, ultimately combining with our emotional and mental DNA to inspire, energize, enervate, and sometimes even challenge us to do better in our lives.

Here are 15 inspirational gems of songs that never fail me.

Songs To Uplift The Soul

1. Respect, Aretha Franklin

You’d be hard-pressed to find a better anthem for lifting oneself away from toxic people or situations than this Motown classic from the Queen of Soul herself, Ms. Aretha Franklin.

It encapsulates what any of us truly ask of others: just a little respect. When we receive respect, the world opens up.

What you want
Baby, I got it
What you need
Do you know I got it
All I’m askin’
Is for a little respect when you get home (just a little bit)…

2. Heroes, David Bowie

When the world says we can’t sustain our fire, leave it to Mr. Bowie to remind us that we don’t have to be heroes forever and ever. A day at a time does it.

This spare, simple song ignites my inner revolutionary fires every time.

I, I will be King
And you, you will be Queen
Though nothing will drive them away
We can be heroes just for one day
We can be us just for one day…

3. I Wish U Heaven, Prince

Love, life, joy. Prince could easily fill a list of any kinds of songs by himself.

But for sweet melodic simplicity that posits the listener in the real world but says life is wonderful anyway, you can’t beat this brief but infectious tune.

Doubts of our conviction
Follow where we go
And when the world’s compassion
Ceases still I know
For your every touch I thank U so much
And for your every kiss I wish U love
I wish U heaven…

4. Why Can’t We Be Friends, War

Some songs are meant to be rowdy, raucous affirmations, best sung along with a group of karaoke friends you’ve only just met.

This is one of those songs, a funny ode to seeing beyond foibles and embracing the “other” in everyone.

The color of your skin don’t matter to me
As long as we can live in harmony
Why can’t we be friends?
I’d kinda’ like to be the president
So I could show you how your money’s spent
Sometimes I know I don’t speak right
But yet I know what I’m talking about
Why can’t we be friends?

5. Under Pressure, Queen

“It’s the terror of knowing what this world is about…”

When Queen invited David Bowie to duet on this song, some part of this pairing had to know immortality was being created.

This is the song to belt out when defying a brutal world is not only the sane thing to do, it’s the only thing to do.

Can’t we give ourselves one more chance?
Why can’t we give love that one more chance?
‘Cause love’s such an old fashioned word
And love dares you to care for
The people on the edge of the night
And love dares you to change our way of
Caring about ourselves…

Songs To Give You Goosebumps

6. Adore, Prince

Another Prince entry, Adore is the song that, if you have designs on sealing the deal with another, you need to practice singing extensively.

It’s cheeky, it’s sensual, it’s romantic, it’s funny, and it’s passionate, which are all things a good intimate encounter should be.

Delivered in one of Prince’s most delicious falsettos, this one produces goosebumps on top of goosebumps.

This condition I got is crucial, crucial baby
You could say that I’m a terminal case
You could burn up my clothes
Smash up my ride, well maybe not the ride
But I got to have your face
All up in the place
I’d like to think that I’m a man of exquisite taste
A hundred percent Italian silk imported Egyptian lace
But nothing baby, I said nothing could compare
To your lovely face…

7. Woman, John Lennon

Honesty is sexy. When a person admits fault and owns up to the pain caused, loved ones feel seen, held, acknowledged, and maybe…maybe… willing to forgive.

Love does that at times. John’s love letter to Yoko is about as bare-emotioned as a person can get, which is precisely the kind of nudity needed for people to truly merge into one another.

Woman I can hardly express
My mixed emotions and my thoughtlessness
After all I’m forever in your debt
And woman I will try to express
My inner feelings and thankfulness
For showing me the meaning of success…

8. Why Should I Love You, Kate Bush

Sex, affection, tenderness, love: all a roll of the dice or is there more to it than that?

This collaboration between Kate Bush and (guess who) Prince rolls into the ear with a driving question and an underlyingly tingly subconscious answer just out of reach.

The fine purple
The purest gold
The red of the Sacred Heart
The gray of a ghost
The ‘L’ of the lips are open
The ‘O’ of the host
The ‘V’ of the velvet
The ‘E’ of my eye
The eye in wonder
The eye that sees
The ‘I’ that loves you

Of all of the people in the world
Why should I love you?
There’s just something ’bout you
There’s just something ’bout you
Of all the people in the world
Why should I love you?

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9. Gigolos Get Lonely Too, The Time

Angst can be so sexy. Angst gives goosebumps because – to be honest – we want to be the object of someone’s angsty feelings once in a while!

Leave it to Morris Day and The Time (musical forefathers of Bruno Mars’s smash hit, Uptown Funk) to make folks swoon with a song that could only have come from the Eighties.

Just once, I wanna love without takin’ off my clothes
Just once, I wanna love with somebody who knows
That I got more money than you could ever see
But honey, money won’t get me up off my knees…

10. All Is Full of Love, Bjork

Bjork has a way of drawing out a word until it becomes a full verse, and that talent is well-used in this languid bath of a song (the official video should come with a bag of ice and a towel to dab sweat).

Like the slowest, warmest kiss ever received while one’s eyes are closed, this is voice and music to wrap the soul in bliss.

You’ll be given love
You’ll be taken care of
You’ll be given love
You have to trust it
Maybe not from the sources
You have poured yours
Maybe not from the directions
You are staring at…

Songs To Guarantee Inspiration

11. Once In A Lifetime, Talking Heads

Goals. Whenever I’m falling short of them, it’s good to pull this song up and dance away.

It’s easy to feel we’re stuck somewhere, but how often do we really stop and ask ourselves, “Well, how did I get here?”

“Letting your days go by,” says lead singer David Byrne. In doing so he issues a clarion call to wake up and move forward.

And you may find yourself
Living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself
In another part of the world
And you may find yourself
Behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house
With a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself, well
How did I get here?

12. Don’t Give Up, Peter Gabriel

Friendship and empathy go a long way when we’re feeling downtrodden.

Solutions may be scarce, but it’s good knowing that a hug, an ear, or a shoulder is never withheld from us by those who care.

Three small words: don’t give up, they comprise a command and a promise all in one. It’s inspiring to know that when we’re tired we have those who’ll allow us to rest.

Don’t give up
‘Cause you have friends
Don’t give up
You’re not the only one
Don’t give up
No reason to be ashamed
Don’t give up
You still have us
Don’t give up now
We’re proud of who you are
Don’t give up
You know it’s never been easy
Don’t give up
‘Cause I believe there’s a place
There’s a place where we belong…

13. I’ll Stand By You, The Pretenders

Another great song of friendship (and a favorite of karaoke machines everywhere).

The lyric, “Won’t let nobody hurt you,” contains so much power there’s no way the listener’s sky won’t brighten, their spine straighten, and their outlook find untapped reservoirs of possibility.

We know we can do anything when someone truly stands by us.

So if you’re mad, get mad, don’t hold it all inside,
Come on and talk to me now.
Hey there, what you got to hide?
I get angry too, well, I’m alive like you.
When you’re standing at the cross roads,
And don’t know which path to choose,
Let me come along, ’cause even if you’re wrong
I’ll stand by you,
I’ll stand by you, won’t let nobody hurt you,
I’ll stand by you…

14. Reelin’In The Years, Steely Dan

There are those who’ve been fooled into buying eyeglasses with rainbows painted on the lenses rather than look up at the sky.

And there are those who think their dreams are invalid because they’re not chasing after the things that others insist they grab.

For those people and others like them, there’s this song, which reminds us to avoid being enraptured by glitter, or tripped up by false doubt, but rather to stand fast and have the will to at times sing, “the things you think are useless I can’t understand.”

Your everlasting summer
You can see it fading fast
So you grab a piece of something
That you think is gonna last
But you wouldn’t know a diamond
If you held it in your hand
The things you think are precious
I can’t understand…

15. Why Wait For Heaven, Wendy & Lisa

So much of life is devoted to sitting still so that we don’t potentially miss out on the promise of the other side.

The other side is bounteous and vibrant, we’re told, but only accessible through penance or self-denial.

Truth is, very rarely do we actually come up with a real reason not to live life here and now! Which we should do. Always.

And it’s a glorious world that gives us that message in stirring song form.

We are hearing talk of better days
We are watching nothing make a change
So silent, past a break
Never noticed we were what’s at stake
The promise of Eden hides our fears
But while we’re here, why wait for heaven?
Ideally we could be free, why wait for heaven

Do you have a favorite inspirational song you’d like to share? Leave a comment below.

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