Sunday, December 19, 2010

Music to Change the World By

(I am indulging my inner do-gooder in this post. Please don't pay it any attention.)

In college, when some fellow students and I were creating what would become the Social Entrepreneurs of Grinnell, I would always joke about an "SEG Mix" of songs that we could listen to for our occasional pub nights. Because SEG is a microfinance organization, I couldn't come up with many songs that spoke to our mission and work of providing small loans to entrepreneurs around the world. The only two I came up with were Michael Jackson's "Heal the World" and "We Are the World."

But, with a few years of perspective and a broader sense of social justice, I'd thought I'd revisit my goal to find the perfect social change playlist. And as a holiday present to you all, dear readers, I'd like to share what I've come up with.  It is by no means exhaustive, so please let me know what you would add, or remove. Some of them are pretty obvious (like the Michael Jackson tracks), but some are more personal and obscure. Listen to it when you are feeling inspired; listen to it when you are felling discouraged. Music has always helped me celebrate the good parts in my life and work through the hard times, and I hope these songs can do the same.

You can listen to the playlist on Grooveshark here

Here's the list of songs, in no particular order:

For What It's Worth, Buffalo Springfield
Chicago, Crosby Stills Nash and Young
If I Had a Hammer, Peter Paul and Mary
Heal The World, Michael Jackson
We are the World, USA for Africa
Man in the Mirror, Michael Jackson
Get By, Talib Kweli
The Message, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five
Sound is Vibration, Atmosphere
What's Goin On, Marvin Gaye
Inner City Blues, Marvin Gaye
Ball of Confusion, the Temptations
Lean on Me, Bill Withers
Chimes of Freedom, Bruce Springsteen
The Times They Are A-Changin', Bob Dylan
One Fine Day, David Byrne
If You Want to Sing Out, Cat Stevens
Peace Train, Cat Stevens
Changes IV, Cat Stevens
A Change is Gonna Come, Sam Cooke

And here's some other songs I would have added if Grooveshark would have let me:

Imagine, John Lennon
Give Peace A Chance, John Lennon
We Shall Overcome, the Freedom Singers

What should I add? What should I remove?

Disclaimer: The postings on this site are my own and do not represent the positions, strategies or opinions of Venture Philanthropy Partners


  1. Alright! I've been waiting on this list for years!

    Some personal additions:
    * Half of Ani Difranco's discography
    * Power and The Glory - Phil Ochs (again, many of his songs could be here)
    * Biko - Peter Gabriel
    * Get up, Stand up - Bob Marley
    and finally, because a simple reading of this chorus is very social justice-y - It's Gen-Y's This little light of mine, really: "I get knocked down, but I get up again, you're never gonna keep me down" - and nobody really knows what the song is about anyway:
    * Tubthumbping - Chumbawumba

  2. Especially given your new Outdated System post, I'd add Life and Debt by the Blue Scholars:
    "Working while we sing the proletariat blues
    on 501(c)3 plantations
    nonprofit sector propped up to kill the movement
    for changes in production relations"
    -Fight the Power by Public Enemy (best heard while viewing the opening credits of Do the Right Thing)
    -Slow Down Gandhi by Sage Francis

    Thanks for the list!