While there are plenty of motivating modern-day songs, there is just something special about the inspirational songs of the 80s. Characterized by nostalgic sounds of rock ‘n’ roll drums, epic electric guitar and a psychedelic synthesizer, so many songs from the 80s are capable of lifting our spirits in our darkest hours.
So, in this article, I’m going to provide you with my absolute favorite inspirational 80s songs of all time. Whether you’re looking for feel good music, or you want to listen to a great song about not giving up in the face of adversity, there’s no doubt you’ll find a song to meet your needs on this list!
I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) by The Proclaimers (1987)
The Proclaimers gifted the world a classic hit when they released “I’m Gonna Be,” a song about a man determined to get the girl in the end. This song is inspirational because it motivates anyone listening to get up and pursue that special someone.
True love and passion don’t come for free; it takes time, effort, and dedication to court someone and win them over. If someone walked a thousand miles just to profess their love for me at my front door, I know I’d be smitten. “I’m Gonna Be” sends this message: don’t just dream about waiting for someone to be dedicated to you; be the kind of person you want as a partner.
The song features keyboards, drums, electric and acoustic guitars, and even a tambourine to create a steady beat that mimics the beat of the footsteps on the thousand-mile journey The Proclaimers sing about.
Watch this performance of “I’m Gonna Be” on Live on Letterman followed by an entertaining interview with the artists.
But I would walk five hundred miles
And I would walk five hundred more
Just to be the man who walked a thousand miles
To fall down at your door
It’s in the Way That You Use It by Eric Clapton (1986)
This motivating song by Eric Clapton incorporates vocals, drums, bass, keyboards, guitar, and synthesizer to create an addicting beat that will have your head nodding and your feet tapping. Aside from having a rhythm that will have listeners hooked, “It’s in the Way That You Use It” contains uplifting lyrics that were written to inspire.
The song can be interpreted in many ways, but I find it to be about what it means when one is faced with an opportunity. When a favorable chance comes your way, it will not enrich your life if you simply watch it pass you by. Like the title of the song suggests, “it’s in the way that you use” this newfound opportunity.
Essentially, Eric Clapton sings about the idea that you get what you put into life, so you might as well give it your all.
Nobody’s right until somebody’s wrong
Nobody’s weak until somebody’s strong
No one gets lucky until luck comes along
Nobody’s lonely until somebody’s gone
We Are The Champions by Queen (1977)
It’s safe to assume that the name of this song speaks for itself. “We Are The Champions” is a victory ballad about the win of a grueling battle. Sheer willpower and determination lace Freddie Mercury’s iconic voice as he sings lyrics about overcoming adversity.
The electric guitar boasts incredible sound in this track, as well. If the actual lyrics aren’t inspirational enough, imagine being able to belt out this song after a hard-fought confrontation of any kind. Being able to deservedly sing the powerful lyrics to this song is motivating in itself!
We are the champions, my friends
And we’ll keep on fighting ‘til the end
We are the champions
We are the champions
No time for losers
‘Cause we are the champions of the world
Where the Streets Have No Name by U2 (1987)
There is something truly special about U2 songs, and “Where the Streets Have No Name” is no exception. The song begins quietly, then builds with sounds from percussion, guitars, and synthesizers, amounting to an epic crescendo into the liberating opening lyrics, “I wanna run.”
The song implements a plethora of metaphors and imagery to set the scene of being out in the open, with the wind blowing and the sun beaming. In a place where the streets have no name, no one can be judged for where they came from.
“Where the Streets Have No Name” inspires listeners to hand themselves over to the universe and travel intrinsically to a place where we are free of judgment and prejudice. No matter how old you are or where you are in life, this song will ignite something special inside you.
I wanna run, I want to hide
I wanna tear down the walls
That hold me inside
I wanna reach out
And touch the flame
Where the streets have no name
Burning Heart by Survivor (1985)
“Burning Heart” by Survivor is the kind of song that plays over a movie montage of brutal training for a climactic event. In fact, this song is known as the theme song of the classic boxing movie “Rocky IV” and entails the storyline of the movie.
The only line in the song to actually reference boxing mentions “freedom up against the ropes,” conveying the all-or-nothing nature of the scenic fight. Full of lyrics about ferocious training and having an impenetrable perseverant attitude, this song inspires listeners to power through anything tough they may be going through because in the end, victory is worth all the blood, sweat, and tears.
In the burning heart just about to burst
There’s a quest for answers, an unquenchable thirst
In the darkest night rising like a spire
In the burning heart the unmistakable fire
Livin’ On a Prayer by Bon Jovi (1986)
What would a list of songs from the eighties be without a little Bon Jovi? What’s more, “Livin’ On a Prayer” is perfect for this list because it is about struggling to make end’s meet yet having big dreams anyway.
Sometimes, when the going gets tough, you have to bank on your own determination until you get to where you want to be. As the song conveys, even when we feel like we have nothing, “we’ve got each other.” Combine these inspiring lyrics with Bon Jovi’s iconic electric guitar sounds, and you have the classic hit, “Livin’ On a Prayer.”
Woah, we’re halfway there
Woah-oh, livin’ on a prayer
Take my hand, we’ll make it, I swear
Woah-oh, livin’ on a prayer
Faith by George Michael (1987)
“Faith” by George Michael is a unique inspirational song in that it motivates listeners to stay strong and “think twice” before they “give their hearts away.” In times of depression and loneliness, it is easy to succumb to superficial desires and fall for someone who simply gives you attention or the bare minimum.
In this song, George Michael encourages us to remain confident individuals, so we can learn how to not get hurt by heartbreak. Despite the seemingly serious nature of the content, this tune is lighthearted and playful, with an acoustic guitar strumming a catchy beat that makes you want to dance. Not to mention, George Michael’s smooth, charming voice will have you singing along with him.
Oh, but I need some time off from that emotion
Time to pick my heart up off the floor
Oh, when that love comes down without devotion
Well it takes a strong man, baby
But I’m showin’ you the door
Man in the Mirror by Michael Jackson (1988)
The King of Pop created an inspirational masterpiece when he wrote “Man in the Mirror.” This song is about wanting to make a significant change in the world and wanting to improve society as a whole.
The lyrics are especially introspective—in order to see change on the outside, change must start from the inside. In a nutshell, the song embodies the saying, “be the change you want to see in the world.”
Aside from regular instruments, “Man in the Mirror” incorporates a choir of voices and hands clapping to the beat. The gospel-sounding choir symbolizes the power of the collective; if a group of people decide to change as individuals, they can come together and change the world.
I’m starting with the man in the mirror
I’m asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself and then make a change
- You Might Also Like: 8 Best Michael Jackson Albums to Own on Vinyl
Dancing in the Dark by Bruce Springsteen (1984)
Uptempo synthesizer riffs, heavy drumbeats, and rock ‘n’ roll guitars collide to make this dance-rock song. “Dancing in the Dark” by Bruce Springsteen is inspirational because he crafted it about the exasperation he felt when trying to write a song and please everyone else but himself. Ironically, the song became a hit, and one of the artist’s most popular songs to date.
In this song, Springsteen sings about his desperate search for inspiration, even if it’s just a spark. Feeling lazy and unmotivated gets old and frustrating, and at some point, we will all get fed up with it and get moving, “even if we’re just dancing in the dark.”
Messages keep getting clearer
Radio’s on, and I’m moving ‘round my place
I check my look in the mirror
I wanna change my clothes, my hair, my face
Never Gonna Give You Up by Rick Astley (1987)
“Never Gonna Give You Up” is a song about what it means to be truly dedicated to someone in a relationship. Its lyrics inspire listeners to be that unique, special someone who strives for commitment that is so hard to find nowadays.
The song features addicting keyboard beats and a catchy tune that will surely get stuck in your head for days. It’s a feel-good song that makes you want to dance, not only because of the rhythm and melody, but also because of the motivating message: be the kind of person who isn’t afraid to express dedication to someone because true commitment is attractive and rare.
And we get it—this song has become the butt of jokes due to being a bizarre internet meme for years. But, if you listen to the lyrics, it’s definitely worthy of being on any inspirational 80s songs countdown.
Never gonna give you up
Never gonna let you down
Never gonna run around and desert you
Never gonna make you cry
Never gonna say goodbye
Never gonna tell a lie and hurt you
I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor (1978)
The reason why this song is inspirational can easily be deduced from the title. The disco hit “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor is such an iconic song that there is no doubt you have heard it at least once in your life.
The song is about rebuilding strength and confidence after experiencing the heartbreak of a once-valued partner walking away from the relationship. However, this song is special because the message doesn’t stop there; Gloria Gaynor sings about how this partner has come crawling back to her, but it’s too late. She is stronger than ever before now, and will never stoop to his level again.
Her powerful voice, accompanied by keyboards, bass, and percussion, exudes the confidence she inspires us all to have.
Go on now, go, walk out the door
Just turn around now, ‘cause you’re not welcome anymore
Weren’t you the one to tried to hurt me with goodbye?
Did you think I’d crumble?
Did you think I’d lay down and die?
Juke Box Hero by Foreigner
“Juke Box Hero” by Foreigner tells the story of a boy who goes from being unable to obtain a ticket to a sold-out rock ‘n’ roll concert to being a man who ends up as the rockstar himself. The first verse of the song paints a bleak picture of a miserable boy listening to the sounds of a concert he isn’t at while standing in the rain.
As the song progresses, the lyrics indicate the passing of time; the boy is now a man, and he is the one backstage having just performed his own sold-out concert. This inspirational story is accentuated by electric guitar and heavy drums, eliciting fist-pumping and singing along.
Here is an interview from Rolling Stone with Mick Jones and Lou Gramm of Foreigner, where they discuss their reunion and possibilities for the future of the rock band.
So he started rocking
He is never going to stop
Got to keep on rocking
Someday he’s going to make it to the top
Hit Me With Your Best Shot by Pat Benatar (1980)
“Hit Me With Your Best Shot” is a direct challenge to anyone who foolishly dares to hurt the listener in any way. The song might technically be about an ex-lover, but the lyrics apply to anyone facing provocation.
Pat Benatar encourages her opposition to give it their all if they’re going to try to hurt her, because there is nothing that will dampen her spirit. Listeners of all ages will be inspired by powerfully motivating lyrics and catchy staccato electric guitar beats on this song.
You come on with it, come on, you don’t fight fair
That’s okay, see if I care
Knock me down, it’s all in vain
I get right back on my feet again
I Want to Break Free by Queen (1984)
Most songs about breakups focus on sadness or bitterness, but “I Want to Break Free” by Queen is unique because of its inspirational, confident tone. The song is about wanting to “break free” from a constraining situation or relationship. This is proven by the fact that the music video features Freddie Mercury, who plays a housewife, desperately wanting to escape her boring, constricting life.
The synthesizer, drums, and guitars in the song combine to compose a joyous melody that will inspire listeners to sing along as well as escape their own limiting situations.
I want to break free
I want to break free
I want to break free from your lies
You’re so self-satisfied, I don’t need you
I’ve got to break free
God knows, God knows I want to break free
My Life by Billy Joel (1978)
“My Life” by Billy Joel is a song that juxtaposes vindictive lyrics with a quick tempo and a catchy beat, making it entertaining to hear and sing along to. The song tells the stories of a few individuals who embark on a journey of self-discovery.
The people in the song had their set ways of life that were heavily influenced by others, and they all end up taking a different path, despite what everyone else has to say about it. To listeners, this translates to an inspirational message: live your own life and create your own happiness because in the end, the opinions of everyone else don’t matter.
I don’t need you to worry for me ‘cause I’m alright
I don’t want you to tell me it’s time to come home
I don’t care what you say anymore, this is my life
Go ahead with your own life, leave me alone
Amanda by Boston (1986)
Are you looking for the motivation to finally confess your love for that special someone? “Amanda” by Boston will certainly do the trick. Expressed through the emotional strumming of the acoustic guitar, the message of this song is that tomorrow is not guaranteed, so we might as well be honest about our feelings and say what we want to say before it’s too late.
The meaning of the song was well-received at the time it was released, made obvious by the fact that it went on to be Boston’s only number one hit when it entered the Billboard Hot 100 in September of 1986.
I’m going to take you by surprise and make you realize Amanda
I’m going to tell you right away, I can’t wait another day Amanda
I’m going to say it like a man and make you understand Amanda
I love you
You’re the Inspiration by Chicago (1984)
What’s more inspirational than a song with “inspiration” in the title? Another ballad professing love to someone, “You’re the Inspiration” is touching because it isn’t simply about love; it’s about expressing true dedication to someone.
The flourishing sounds of percussion, bass guitar, trumpet, violin, trombone, and other string instruments convey the monumental nature of the epic meaning of the song. To love someone is one thing, but to be inspired by them day in and day out is a new level of admiration. And we should all be inspired to feel this way about our partner.
You’re the meaning in my life
You’re the inspiration
You bring feeling to my life
You’re the inspiration
Jump by Van Halen (1983)
“Jump” by Van Halen will have listeners jumping for joy when they hear the iconic synthesizer beats in the introduction of the song. This hit uses the action of jumping as a metaphor for going ahead and jumping at any opportunity that comes your way.
We have all faced adversity at some point, and we are bound to face it countless times for the rest of our lives, so we might as well “jump” in when we get the chance to do something great for ourselves.
As the song relays, “you won’t know until you begin,” and isn’t that the truth? You will never know how good or bad something is for you until you try it out. If you end up finding failure, well, at least you will learn from it. But, if you succeed, who knows where that opportunity will take you?
I get up, and nothing gets me down
You got it tough, I’ve seen the toughest around
And I know, baby, just how you feel
You gotta roll with the punches to get to what’s real
Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now by Starship (1987)
“Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” by Starship is a powerful love ballad that frames two people in love as taking on the world together, which is how we all should view our relationships with others. The opinions of other people simply do not matter; what matters in the end is our happiness and ability to tell ourselves that we have no regrets.
Starship vocalists Mickey Thomas and Grace Slick take turns serenading verses to each other, reflecting the inspirational meaning of the song: “nothing’s gonna stop us” from living our lives dedicated to each other and our happiness. The unique melody of this song is created by instruments such as guitar synthesizer, synth bass, drums, guitar, and keyboards, creating a whirlwind of sound representative of the whirlwind of emotions that entails being in a loving relationship.
Let ‘em say we’re crazy, I don’t care ‘bout that
Put your hand in my hand
Baby, don’t ever look back
Let the world around us just fall apart
Baby, we can make it if we’re heart to heart
Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey (1981)
If there is one song from the 80s that belongs on a list of inspirational songs, it’s this one. To end this list, we have “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey, a song that most of the population has probably belted the lyrics to at least once.
The reason the song is inspirational is obvious from the title; it conveys to listeners that despite your origins or the hardships you face in life, never stop believing in yourself and all the world has to offer.
In this article from NPR, writer Roben Farzad discusses how “Don’t Stop Believin’” has truly become an American Anthem.
Workin’ hard to get my fill
Everybody wants a thrill
Payin’ anything to roll the dice
Just one more time
Don’t get me wrong; there are songs from every decade that are meaningful and motivating, but I will always be an 80s music lover. The 80s were a decade of revolution, both musically and otherwise, and the power of that revolution is evident in the music that was created during that time.
The combination of electric guitar, epic drums, and groovy synthesizer is unlike any other composition of music from decades before and after the eighties. So, if you’re feeling a little down in the dumps, and want to lift your spirits while also discovering classic music that will go down in history, this list of inspirational 80s songs is perfect for you.
You Might Also Like:
- Songs About Greed
- Songs About Being 17
- Songs About Believing in Yourself
- Songs About Losing Someone to Addiction
- Songs About Empathy
- Songs About Fighting Back
- Songs About Body Parts
- Songs About Sex
- Bands with Colors in Their Name