Music is powerful. It can touch a heart, mend a relationship, or even spark a revolution. There are songs for the culture that have been cemented in the annals of black history and in the soundtrack of our lives. The depths to which music influences our very being is beyond words. For many, music is infused in every aspect of their daily lives. Its existence is needed and appreciated.
As black people, we have always had songs for the culture that we have used to weather the storms of our circumstances. Whether the songs were old spirituals that spoke of tomorrow’s hope or encouraging messages of unity wafting from our radios, music was something that we could hold on to. We found solace in the songs that reflected on our harsh realities and strength in lyrics that told the truth unapologetically.
For most, music is exactly what we need at different points in life. As a people, blacks has used music and its power for communicating on a deeper level. The impact from these songs were felt across the spectrum of the black experience. Their vibe resonated in our hearts and minds. Here are 5 songs for the culture that convey more than just an infectious melody. They tell our story. They celebrate our triumphs, and they have the transformative ability to invoke unity and change.
Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On?
Anyone who hears Marvin Gaye’s “What’s going on?” will immediately be pulled into the melancholy reality of the lyrics and hypnotic rhythm. The words question all of the ills that were prevalent in society at the time of this recording back in the early 70s. But, as a song for the culture, it makes us take a cold, hard look at our actions in society and our core beliefs. This one will make you think and want to do whatever you can to make a change.
Queen Latifah – U.N.I.T.Y
All hail the Queen who brought us strong lyrics that also serve as a call to action. U.N.I.T.Y is a classic from the 90s that has stood the test of time. Originally written to bring attention to issues that plague women such as misogyny, domestic abuse, and gender inequality, U.N.I.T.Y became a rally cry for bringing the black community together to overcome these negative views of women. But, beyond that message, it just feels tribal and communal in nature when when you say those letters together.
Stevie Wonder – Love’s In Need Of Love Today
We need Stevie Wonder’s hit, “Love’s In Need Of Love Today” today as much as we needed it back in the 70s. From the album, Songs In The Key Of Life, this song just touches the heart. Today, we are seeing a resurgence of the horrific conditions that inspired this song, especially with regard to racism and hate. We need love and we need everybody to send theirs in right away! Yes, Stevie…you sang nothing but truth and this song still resonates and educates.
Bob Marley and The Wailers – One Love/People Get Ready
Spiritual and inspirational, Bob Marley and the Wailers touched the souls of the world with “One Love”. Even now, 50 years later, this is one of the most impactful songs of the culture. It brought more than just a “black message” of love to its listeners. It brought the idea of unity amongst people from different countries, backgrounds, and walks of life. “One Love” is true reggae, and you shouldn’t be surprised if you feel yourself doing some soft stepping dance hall moves when you listen to it. It will just come naturally!
Stop The Violence Movement – Self-Destruction
Today’s topic, self-destruction. Words that lit up our radios, TVs, and most importantly, our minds. The song, “Self-Destruction” was a collaborative effort by the Stop The Violence Movement. “Self-Destruction” was meant to help us all to wake up and denounce the ways that the black community was imploding. This classic featured the biggest hip-hop artists of the time. The message was loud and clear. This song definitely served to raise cultural awareness. It was one of the most powerful songs of the culture at the time and the black community greatly appreciated it. Some might say that we need more music like this. The black community could definitely benefit from more songs for the culture that encourage positivity and less destruction.