10 Thoughtful Songs Arriving in the Aftermath of Tragedy | Playlist
Following devastation, some musicians use their gifts to soothe the pain. This playlist examines 10 thoughtful songs arriving in the aftermath of tragedy.
Nothing can atone for tragedy. NOTHING. While only God himself has the power to bring back lost lives, and the rebuilding process is arduous, music can at least help to soothe the pain. Music has played an impactful role in the aftermath of many tragedies. Sometimes it’s the repurposing of a song as an anthem. At other times, a famous musician may release a benefit single or a song meant to build unity and resolve in the face of adversity. These 10 songs represent thoughtful moments following truly horrible circumstances.
1. Lin-Manuel Miranda “Almost Like Praying”
Ft. Artists for Puerto Rico
Album: Almost Like Praying – Single, 2017 | Tragedy: Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico
Lin-Manuel Miranda assembled a star-studded cast on benefit single “Almost Like Praying,” a musical means to soothe the ails of Puerto Rico in the aftermath Hurricane Maria. Miranda is assisted by Luis Fonsi, Marc Anthony, Camila Cabello, and Jennifer Lopez among others. Fittingly, the majority of “Almost Like Praying” is in Spanish, while Miranda kicks things off with the ‘hook’ in English.
“Say it loud and there’s music playing… / Say it soft and it’s almost like praying / It’ almost like praying…”
Following the reverent start, the Latin rhythms kick in, as do the many celebrity appearances. Throughout its course, each celeb or pairs of celebs get short snippets of the song, which makes it quite intriguing. Throughout, the music and production serves as an excellent backdrop.
2. Maren Morris, “Dear Hate”
Ft. Vince Gill
Album: Dear Hate – Single, 2017 | Tragedy: Las Vegas Mass Shooting
A song for times such as these – that’s what Maren Morris offers up on single, “Dear Hate,” a response to the Las Vegas mass shooting, which took the lives of 58 innocent people. Morris enlist a country music juggernaut, the one and only, Vince Gill. Morris kicks things off exceptionally, showcasing the utmost vocal prowess and musicianship on the first two verses. Lyrically, the text is incredibly thoughtful – eloquent and pitch-perfect. On the chorus, she combines forces with Gill, exhibiting vocal chemistry nothing short of awe-inspiring. Gill earns the best verse, citing the hate occurring in Selma, JFK’s assassination, and the September 11 attacks. Ultimately, the message is that “Love’s gonna conquer all.”
3. Eric Church, “Why Not Me”
Tragedy: Las Vegas Mass Shooting
Another song for times such as these. Maren Morris wasn’t the only country musician who used the music to reflect on the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. A tearful Eric Church wrote and performed a song dedicated to the shooting victims at Grand Ole Opry. Throughout the course of “Why Not Me,” he asks why innocent lives had to be shed – “…Why the wicked / Gets to prey on the best of us.” He sums up the sentiment best on the chorus:
“And when the morning sun hit the mountain / And a glorious still calmed the breeze / I asked the God of all knowing wisdom / Why you and why not me?”
4. Flyleaf, “Cassie”
Album: Flyleaf, 2007 | Tragedy: Columbine High School Massacre
Previous Appearance: 17 Songs in the Aftermath of Columbine | Playlist
Following the Columbine Massacre of 1999, America was unsettled, expectedly. There was debate about gun control. Also, there were questions about what influenced Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, two teens, to commit mass murder. There are plenty of songs that depict the mindset of the perpetrators as well as the events. However, there are some more thoughtful songs that focus on faith.
“The question was asked in order / To save her life or take it / The answer ‘No’ to avoid death / The answer ‘Yes’ would make it.”
Rock band Flyleaf go in a different direction with their response to Columbine. Their song, “Cassie,” was written about a Columbine victim, Cassie Bernall. Cassie was famously known for her unapologetic Christian beliefs. Essentially, she had the opportunity to denounce God in order to save her life. Instead, she held strong to her beliefs, and was ultimately killed.
“‘Do you believe in God?’ / Written on the bullet / Say ‘Yes’ to pull the trigger / ‘Do you believe in God?’ / Written on the bullet / And Cassie pulled the trigger.”
“She answered him knowing what would happen…”
5. Michael W. Smith, “This is Your Time”
Album: This Is Your Time, 1999 | Tragedy: Columbine High School Massacre
Previous Appearance: 17 Songs in the Aftermath of Columbine | Playlist
“This Is Your Time,” the title track from a 1999 album by renowned CCM singer/songwriter Michael W. Smith, was also inspired by Cassie Bernall. According to Smith, “This Is Your Time” “…Is a challenge for us all to recognize through Cassie’s life, that now is our time to stand up and live life unabashedly for God.”
“This was her time, this was her dance / She lived every moment, left nothing to chance / She swam in the sea, drank of the deep / Embraced the mystery of all she could be.”
“What if tomorrow and what if today / Faced with the question oh, what would you say?”
6. R. Kelly, “Rise Up”
Album: Double Up, 2007 | Tragedy: Virginia Tech Massacre
Previous Appearance: 10 Songs About Mass Murderers | Playlist
R. Kelly doesn’t mention Virginia Tech Massacre perpetrator Seung-Hui Cho anywhere in “Rise up.” Like the aforementioned songs related to school shooting, this is refreshing because it focuses on the victims and moving forward. Often, serial killers and mass shooters become famous after their crimes, which is disgusting. But guess what – we’re all guilty of letting it happen.
“Rise Up” is an uplifting, inspirational song that was penned and dedicated to the victims of the 2007 school shooting. This beautiful song is about finding strength – moving forward despite the pain, the devastation, and loss.
“And we will cry together / And we’ll fight this together / And we’ll be strong together / Stand together, pray together / Rise up, when you feel you can’t go on / Rise up, when all of your hope is gone / Rise up, when you’re weak and you can’t be strong / Rise, rise up.”
7. Randy Newman, “Louisiana 1927”
Album: Good Old Boys, 1974 | Tragedies: Great Mississippi Flood of 1927; Hurricane Katrina
“Louisiana 1927” follows the earliest devastating event on this list – the 1927 Mississippi River Flood. Interestingly, the flood, which affected Louisiana dramatically, has been the source of several songs in its aftermath. Randy Newman wouldn’t write and perform the classic until 1974 on Good Old Boys. In some respects, “Louisiana 1927” is also an exception to this playlist. Why? Following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Newman classic earned renewed popularity.
“The river rose all day – the river rose all night / Some people got lost in the flood / Some people got away alright / The river has busted through clear down to Plaquemine / Six feet of water in the streets of Evangeline.”
“President Coolidge come down in a railroad train / With a little fat man with a notepad in his hand / President say, ‘Little Fat Man, ain’t it a shame / What the river has done to this poor cracker’s land.’”
8. Aaron Neville, “Louisiana 1927”
Album: Warm Your Heart, 1991 | Tragedies: Great Mississippi Flood of 1927; Hurricane Katrina
It should be noted that there’s a famous cover of the previously mentioned Randy Newman classic “Louisiana 1927.” The cover is by veteran New Orleans R&B musician Aaron Neville. Arguably, for some, the Neville cover from Warm Your Heart (1991) has become the definitive version. Regardless, it’s the beautiful lyrics that emotion that stands out, regardless who happens to be singing it.
“Louisiana, Louisiana / They’re tryin’ to wash us away / They’re tryin’ to wash us away.”
9. Led Zeppelin, “When the Levee Breaks”
Album: Led Zeppelin IV, 1971 | Tragedy: Great Mississippi Flood of 1927
“Louisiana 1927” wasn’t the only song written about the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. Years before Randy Newman would pen a classic, a famous blues song arrived back in 1929. That blues gem was “When the Levee Breaks.” While the 1929 song is a classic in its own right, the definitive version comes courtesy of Led Zeppelin. Don’t get it twisted either – Robert Plant and company make ‘When the Levee Breaks” their own. That’s why it’s an undisputed classic.
“It keeps on raining / Levee’s going to break / If it keeps on raining / The levee’s going to break / When the levee breaks / Have no place to stay.”
Compared to the other songs on this list, the positivity factor is missing. However, it’s a way to channel fear and pain at least. That’s what the blues are all about, right?
10. P.O.D., “Alive”
Album: Satellite, 2001 | Tragedy: September 11 Terror Attacks
P.O.D. earn the clearest exception on this list of songs written in the aftermath of tragedy. “Alive” was actually written before the tragedy, which happened to be the September 11 Terror Attacks. However, as is the case in many tragedies, various songs become anthems. That’s what happened with “Alive”, which thrives off its spirituality. Furthermore, Satellite was released on September 11, 2011, while “Alive” was already in rotation. From the start, the lyrics are chocked full of positive vibes.
“Every day is a new day / I’m thankful for every breath I take / I won’t take it for granted / So I learn from my mistakes.”
The chorus is the selling point of course:
“I, I feel so alive / For the very first time / And I can’t deny you / I feel so alive / And I, I feel so alive (so alive) / For the very first time / And I think I can fly.”