Freedom is an invaluable and often romantic notion, but it’s rarely ever truly free. We often must overcome adversity in our world, and even in ourselves, to break our free of our confines and live a genuinely independent life. So in this article, I’m going to provide you with my favorite songs about freedom. Hopefully, you’ll find one or two songs on this list you love just as much as I do.
Songs About Freedom You’ll Love
Let’s kick this section off with the legendary Jimi Hendrix.
Star-Spangled Banner by Jimi Hendrix
There’s electricity and excitement abound pervading the omnipresent aroma of marijuana and mud as concepts of freedom, love, and peace are shared across 300 acres of rolling farmland.
The date is August 18, 1969. The place is Woodstock, NY.
Suddenly, the wailing screams of Hendrix’s guitar pierce the air with a familiar tune– the Star-Spangled Banner. Fans look on, baffled. Young Americans were angry in lieu of the Vietnam War and the draft, which both contributed to a general distrust of the American government. The vibe was anything but patriotic, yet Jimi Hendrix was playing the national anthem live at the historic Woodstock festival.
What made it so great is that Hendrix knew about the controversy. He knew about the conflict and the increasing tension in the United States, and his rendition of the song reflected it.
Slowly, Hendrix’s distorted guitar devolves into a cacophony reminiscent of actual bombs bursting in air. Instead of the familiar singsong melody, it deteriorates into noise to cause a sense of unease among listeners. By doing so, Hendrix encouraged reflection on what America was built upon, and what it had devolved into.
Although controversial at the time and met with criticism, Hendrix’s version remains cemented in history as one of the most interesting and meaningful recreations. Hendrix added rock n’ roll and jazz flavor to the anthem and effectively reclaimed it during a period where nationalism was wavering.
Redemption Song by Bob Marley & The Wailers
“Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery” might very well be the most iconic line ever penned by the late and great Bob Marley. “Redemption Song” is extra special in that it holds the honor of being the last track on Bob Marley’s final album before his death from cancer complications in May 1981.
One of the most striking things about the song is its departure from classic reggae conventions and instruments. Bob Marley delivers a soulful acoustic ballad to deliver his final message of liberating our minds and encouraging free thought.
A campfire classic and essential freedom fighting anthem, “Redemption Song” goes down as one of the best songs about freedom in Bob Marley’s catalog and of all time.
Firebreather by Thrice
Coming off the commercial success of the post-hardcore classic The Artist in the Ambulance and the experimental Vheissu, Thrice was at a point in their career where they were looking to create a legacy work.
They decided to release a set of four albums in the style of the elements– fire, water, air, and earth. This work would become one of their most ambitious and comprehensive works to date.
“Firebreather” was written to embody fire musically. Thrice accomplishes this using bombastic percussion, heavily distorted guitars, and lyrical imagery.
The speaker of the song sings a repeating refrain of “tell me are you free” while tied to the stake awaiting their fate. Our speaker burns to death in the final moments of the song, but they “breathe in fire and know [they’re] free.”
Even though it is the cause of their death, they refused to let anyone or anything rob them of their freedom and their commitment to speak truth.
Free Bird by Lynyrd Skynyrd
“Free Bird” is the quintessential classic rock freedom track. In the song’s narrative, we get the perspective of the vagrant wanderer. He’s forged a strong connection with a woman and wonders how she’d remember him if he were to leave her tomorrow.
How she answers is irrelevant though. He’s got too many places to see. He’s got to be moving on. He’s “as free as a bird now, and this bird you cannot change.”
Despite their feelings for one another, he knows his destiny lies out on the road roaming from place to place. He’s unable to change and settle down, so he moves on to keep chasing the eternal freedom from his nomadic lifestyle.
From the moment the keyboard chords come in along with the staggered strumming of the clean guitar chords and the soulful crooning of singer Ronnie Van Zant, fans know that one of the greatest classic rock ballads is on the horizon. Few instrumentals could hold a candle, or a cigarette lighter, to the wailing leads and thumping rhythms of the outro solo.
“Free Bird” remains one of the most powerful classic rock songs and guitar solos ever written.
Songs About Freedom and Happiness
Let’s begin this section with a Lady Gaga track.
Free Woman by Lady Gaga
“Free Woman” comes in with a Real McCoy style dance beat, subdued at first but building with each measure using layered vocals that highlight Lady Gaga’s range and talent. Add in a building pre-chorus, Gaga’s trademark spoken word refrain, and a high-energy post-chorus bass drop, and we have a certified club classic.
The lyrics seem to suggest that it’s about life as a liberated and free woman who needs no man to validate her worth. Listeners are welcome to that interpretation, but Gaga has revealed that the song is about surviving a sexual assault. It’s about moving past the trauma and casting aside the labels of “victim” or “survivor” in an effort to become “just a person that is free” who went through hard times.
Freedom! ‘90 by George Michael
Featuring an up-tempo beat accented by the tambourine, lively piano chords, and a church choir in the chorus, “Freedom!” is a bop and remains one of George Michael’s most recognizable tunes of all time.
The song takes on a multitude of meanings. George Michael was enjoying his musical career at the time of writing the song, but struggled with his public persona and pressures from the record company. “Freedom!” explored the idea of separating from this identity and reinventing himself.
To reinforce this reinvention, George Michael made the controversial decision to remain almost entirely out of the music video, instead featuring supermodels Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, and Tatjana Patitz as his stand-ins.
When George Michael came out as gay in 1998, the song took on another meaning and become an anthem for the LGBTQ community.
“Freedom!” is living proof that you can endlessly reinvent yourself, reminding us never to be afraid of change or living free.
Since U Been Gone by Kelly Clarkson
Here’s the thing.
Everyone who grew up in the early 2000s could not escape Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone.” At the time, Kelly Clarkson was known exclusively as the first ever winner of American Idol and not the award-winning artist she would become. “Since U Been Gone” was and remains infectiously catchy and showcases everything that led Clarkson from humble beginnings to superstardom.
The song describes a friendship turned romance turned sour. Clarkson’s significant other had their chance and blew it, but she’s finding that it’s all okay. Even though she “fell for that stupid love song” and tried to make things work, she’s very relieved that things are over.
She can breathe for the first time. Now that she’s free from the drama, she gets what she wants, and she couldn’t be happier.
Songs About Freedom and Equality
Let’s begin with a Beyonce track (which also features Kendrick Lamar).
Freedom by Beyonce featuring Kendrick Lamar
Queen Bey teams up with one of the hottest hip-hop artists of our time, Kendrick Lamar, in this anthem for African American empowerment amidst an era of police brutality and systemic racism.
The song comes in with a swanky ‘60s style keyboard and thunderous drum beat that can be felt with every thud. The choral refrain of “freedom, freedom” uses robust vocal harmonies that create an absolute wall of sound, showcasing everything that makes Beyonce one of the greatest singers and performers of all time.
Lyrically, vocally, and musically, the message is clear–no matter what we’re up against, we will overcome. And we will be free.
Fight The Power by Public Enemy
When Spike Lee created the 1989 film Do the Right Thing about racial tension in New York, he needed an anthem. Public Enemy’s Chuck D answered the call and created the classic revolutionary rap tune “Fight the Power” about challenging racial institutions and the powers that be in pursuit of free speech and equality.
It’s a unique mashup of heavy kick, bumping bass, funkiness and a flair that only Flavor Flav was capable of bringing. As Chuck D would put it, “Freedom of speech is freedom of death.” Without struggle and challenging the system, there can be no progress. Without the fight, there can be no true freedom.
Freedom by Rage Against The Machine
Rage Against The Machine’s 1994 eponymous debut turned heads with their fusion of distorted rock guitars, in-your-face vocal delivery, and politically charged lyrics.
“Freedom” is ironically titled, as the song primarily deals with our lack of actual freedom while asked to accept the agenda-driven narratives of the US government, media, and corporations. Rage wants to dispel the illusion and encourage free-thinking radical retaliation against the powers that be.
It’s this kind of militant activism that they became known for, and it’s intricately woven into every hard-rocking riff they’ve written. “Freedom” moves from a mid-tempo distorted guitar jam through the verse, quiet sections with whispered vocals, low bass, and cowbells, to big tempo changes for an ebb and flow that keeps you captivated for the full six-minute song length.
Freedom is an indispensable necessity and the cornerstone of American culture, but it rarely is free and often comes at a cost. Some freedoms must be earned by challenging the powers that be in order to buck the system and create a new, more truly inclusive society.
Other freedoms require us to look inward and dispel preconceptions that keep us stuck in the same tired routines hurt our progression and development.
Use these songs about freedom that were outlined today to inspire you to become a better person, so that you can fight for not just your own personal freedom, but the freedom and well-being of other people as well.
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