100 songs that changed history: the full list

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Time Out explores the music that changed the course of world events

Inspired (kind of) by Pete Seeger's quote that 'the right song at the right time can change history', Time Out assembled a panel of musicians, historians and enthusiasts to debate and collate the 100 songs which have had the most significant impact on real-world events – culturally, socially and politically.


Browse the full list below, click on each song to read more and tell us what you think in the comments.


90 - 81


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65 comments
Stew
Stew

I was actually surprised to not see Bruce Springsteen Streets of Philadelphia. At the time, it was unique to see a blue collar icon showing compassion for people suffering from aids. He had a huge influence on the average middle aged americans view of aids, and homosexuality.

Stew
Stew

I was actually surprised to not see Bruce Springsteen Streets of Philadelphia. At the time, it was unique to see a blue collar icon showing compassion for people suffering from aids. He had a huge influence on the average middle aged americans view of aids, and homosexuality.

Ambroise
Ambroise

Hello, I think you forgot "Kraftwerk" in your list. since they basicly invented todays electronical music and also were the base for Grandmaster Flash (who is also in your list).

michael lorentzen
michael lorentzen

By the same reason you have Uriah Heep "Bird of pray" on this list you should have Deep Purple's "Child in time" maybe top 10-20. So many people have witnessed that Child in time helped them open their eyes and minds behind the iron curtain, deep purple were loved all over in the communistic ruled eastern europe. Even Russias former president Dimitry Medvedev confessed that he loved deep purple as a young man and still today.. Deep Purple were as popular as the Beatles in the 1970-80's in Russia and the rest of the eastern european countries thanks to Child in time!

chris
chris

better by you.. better then me is by spooky tooth 1st

Will
Will

No Bob Dylan? Definitely needs more Springsteen also.

Waleed Magdy
Waleed Magdy

Ramy Essam with the 3rd ranking, you are the newst song among top 10 .. thanks Ramy for your song, you are one of our revolution icons .. VIVA EGYPT .. VIVA EGYPTIANS .. we are always making history

Dave Seddon (York)
Dave Seddon (York)

What about Bob Marley? He must appear in the top 100. How can Barny & Friends have had more influence on music and people than Bob Marley?

Dave Seddon (York)
Dave Seddon (York)

What about Bob Marley? He must appear in the top 100. How can Barny & Friends have had more influence on music and people than Bob Marley?

Tia
Tia

I am surprised to not see John Denver. His music had a huge impact on all our lives. To see Justin Bieber and not John Denver is amazing. His singing in China at a time no American was allowed, no music except for political issues and John Denver's Country Roads. His Colorado songs changed Colorado forever. How many of these people have their songs being the States official song? Some people made fun of him, yet, his voice was amazing and his commitment to humanity had no bounds. The environment, hunger, Alaska. What have some of these people contributed that could impact the world in a positive way. He lived to sing. He lived to make a positive differencee. Teenagers must have made this list.

Ianalan
Ianalan

No place for Peter Gabriel "Biko"......seriously?!!

Rupert
Rupert

This seems (I haven't looked for very long) to be a completely ridiculous list. Not only have I never heard of virtually all of the top 20 (I went no further), but the numbers chosen first for Elvis and the Beatles bear no relation to what first brought them to the world's attention. I guess enough others have said what needs to be said, so I'll just add "Me, too !".

Richard M
Richard M

There would appear to have been very little thought put into this compilation. Perhaps the "very little thought" was deliberate and that "thought" was that readers would come back so bemused by the poor quality of the exercise and produce a "definitive" list of songs, through the Comments Section, that DID change the world. Remember, this is NOT a list of the best songs - Therefore the excruciatingly tedious traditional " Happy Birthday To You" party piece should be included as should White Christmas and ANYTHING by Louis Armstrong or Leadbelly from the 20's and 30's. Poor list - Good debate

gary
gary

not a very good list at all.

marilyn
marilyn

Why not Ghost Town (Specials) or Marrakesh Express (crosby Stills Nash Young)?

ART GUMSHOE
ART GUMSHOE

Number 101 A Call To All Loving Arms (Youtube)

jamie
jamie

No place for Marvin Gaye - Whats going on? Travesty

Denny
Denny

This must be a joke list. Like a hoax. No one over 10 would have come up with this list.

Alexandre
Alexandre

Des chansons classées, y a même les dates ! Bonne nuit Alexandre

John Lee Brooker
John Lee Brooker

Many bizzare choices. Did I miss 'The Times They Are A Changing' and 'Mr. Tambourine Man?

Stee
Stee

This list is a joke right - tell me it's a joke - it's April 1st and I've slept through Christmas again!!

DiamondBird
DiamondBird

One that is missing..............."Who's Gonna Take You Home' by Cars. Played in the midway point of the Live Aid in '85 after Bob Geldorf screamed 'Give us yer money!' Played over the original news VT and was apalling and amazing at the same time, But it did the trick.............I've never ever forgotten it.

Terry
Terry

as an ageing Mod (1st time around in the 60s) I am delighted to see some notable soul songs here particularly Sam Cooke : this song still makes me cry and puts a lot of "modern" songs into perspective (I heard the new solo single by Nicola Roberts from Girls Aloud yesterday : dire, the lines of the lyrics don't even scan - how lazy is that?) it also says something that people appear on shows like X Factor and announce that they are going to sing To Love Somebody by Michael Bolton - what ? you don't even know who originally wrote it ? Again, lazy the point I am trying to make is that stuff like that and some of the comments people have made on these pages indicate a laziness about musical knowledge/history that irks me - what's the point in just saying the list is "crap" ? I don't always agree with the TO Music Section and sometimes their reviews baffle me (but I am 58) with the language they use (Italo disco ? means nothing to me) but you can see that some thought has gone into this and for that they should be acknowledged and not just dismissed with throwaway comments

George
George

#72 is a purely barbaric song that should never have been in the discussion. What a joke.

Alan
Alan

good of the TO Music Section to give us mere mortals permission to disagree with their version of history - it's not as if any of them remotely compare to Nick Kent, Charles Shaar Murray, Lester Bangs, Ian MacDonald or Pete Erskine, let's face it, and jazz/blues are significant in their absence - some of the more contemporary choices would not exist without such obvious sources as the old "Delta" blues singers - ignoring them is like Page/Plant giving themselves the writing credit for Whole Lotta Love when it's ripped off wholesale from Muddy Waters (a common practice by rock groups in those days)

Alain
Alain

Learn a second langage (spanish, chinese, russian, teke, anything ...), it wil change your world more surely than any of those songs.

Alain
Alain

I understand what "change the world" means: change the thing I'm watching on MTV...

Julie
Julie

As many have said this is a very poor list. The only songs on here which made a difference to life as we know it are Stevie Wonder's Happy Birthday, Band Aid's Feed the World and The Specials Free Nelson Mandela. The rest is just packing.

Ron
Ron

Impressed you included a couple Classical pieces - but what about Mozart, Haydn, Bach, Handel, all of whom had indelible influence on the music that followed? What about Jazz - admittedly not a universally popular genre, but definitely took music in new directions, and still is! Although I do like some of your selections, topp 100 its definitely not!

Dennis
Dennis

I might have put about 10% of this list in the top 100

Amy
Amy

This shouldn't even be on here, absolutely ridiculous.

Sarah
Sarah

This is for Martin..... 'Give peace a chance' is on the list - number 32.........

Jonathon
Jonathon

why would juston beiber be on a list of songs that changed history? this list may have been the worst idea in the long, sad history of bad ideas

Dave
Dave

this is by far the worst list i have ever seen in the history of lists

bless
bless

no NIRVANA? Smells like Teen spirit? none?

Martin
Martin

Missing: The times are a'changing - Bob Dylan I shot the sheriff - Bob Marley Give peace a change - John Lennon I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-To-Die Rag - Country Joe & the Fish Move on up - Curtis Mayfield War - Edwin Star / Temptations Street fighting man - Rolling Stones

Rob van Doesburg
Rob van Doesburg

What a load of bollocks this list is, very 2011 and very english too. about 50% of the songs nobody has ever heard of. And did Beethovens 9th change the world (and what or wich world?) If you want a real list do a good survey.

Matt
Matt

I do wish, if people are going to contribute to this kind of discussion online, that they would offer something a bit more constructive than "what a load of crap" or "pretentious" type comments . . . . . for myself, if the mere mention of Better By You Better Than Me (No 47) and the reference to Spooky Tooth prompts only 1 person to check out the original and buy their (Spooky Tooth) 2nd album Spooky Two, I will be happy !

Alain
Alain

Amazing, 95 out of 100 are english songs ... that is very far from the ratio of english speaking people in the world ! Sure the chinese don't sing, neither the russian ... and so on. When will you guys open your eyes and see there a whole world outside the door ?

Bill Phell
Bill Phell

It is frankly an odd list even by the standard of the phenomenon of ridiculous lists. Biko by Peter Gabriel was instrumental in raising awareness of the South African struggle for freedom. Not in your list at all.

Matt
Matt

who the hell came up with this list?! They are a fool and completly biased towards shitty urban tracks that did nothing but incite hatred for the police. Completly stupid list and a waste of my time.

Tristan
Tristan

I can't believe "Big Yellow Taxi" or "Woodsock" aren't on there seeing as they were definitive songs for the hippie movement and for Generation X as a whole, whereas "Wannabe" is! And why Aretha's "Think" and not "Respect"?

Caroline
Caroline

I must agree with Pierre below... I've only looked through the top 50, but only 10 of those are related to the changing of history in countries other than the USA or Britain... And even of THOSE, two or three are by British or American artists. This is for the most part a list of songs which changed 'Anglo-Saxon culture', not 'history'.

Chris
Chris

I fail to understand why, given the political context of this list, there is nothing by Paul Robeson ? A musical/acting/political heavyweight who presaged some of these allegedly "militant" black acts on the list by decades, was put under surveillance by the CIA, spoke up for black civil rights before the parents of NWA were born : one can only assume the oh-so-knowledgeable TO music section & panel of "experts" have never heard of him

Pa
Pa

Checa.