Using music in people’s quest for freedom is as old as time. For these musicians, songs are the best avenue to bring their message across.
Usually, they talk about freedom from oppression, a bad relationship, or general unhappiness. Other times, it’s about people or a place where one feels free.
With so many songs about freedom, it’s hard to pick a few for our list. But here we have 15 of the best songs about freedom. Read on to learn more.
1. “I Want To Break Free” By Queen
Music lovers would be forever grateful to Queen for giving us one of the most iconic songs. This rock band from London released “I Want to Break Free” in 1984 from their album The Works.
In the lyrics, we can see how the singer feels trapped in his relationship. There’s an intense desire to break free from being repressed. He says that he’s had enough of her being self-satisfied that he wants out.
Later in the song, the singer expresses doubt. He has fallen in love with her and can’t imagine living without her in his life. He’s scared to live alone, but he also knows he has to be on his own.
2. “Freedom” By Jon Batiste
Coming up next is a song with “freedom” in the lyrics. Jon Batiste, an American musician, released his album We Are in 2021, containing the happy song “Freedom.”
At its core, the song is all about black power and freedom. Batiste shares how blacks were represented long ago. Blacks cannot be in movies where they are partnered with white people. They cannot even be in a relationship with a white person.
But things have changed since then. In the song, the singer declares he’s “free to live,” and he’s going to have what he deserves “’cause it’s my freedom.”
3. “Freedom! ’90” By George Michael
When you’re as beautiful as George Michael and choose not to put yourself in your music video, you’re relying on the song to stand on its own. “Freedom! ’90” succeeded beautifully.
From his down-tempo 1900 album Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1, “Freedom! ’90” is a continuation of the Wham! tune “Freedom.” The latter was a #1 for Michael’s duo with Andrew Ridgely years prior.
The song is about Michael’s desire to move from the bubble-gum pop hits he’d written and performed with Wham! to the music he really wanted to make. He’d made money and fame and now wanted to make some art. He did so before being taken from us too soon in 2016.
4. “Fly Away” By Lenny Kravitz
The original intention of Lenny Kravitz for “Fly Away” was to release it as a b-side. By then, his album was already with his record company. A friend who heard the song convinced him to include the song in the album. Thank goodness for that person, as the song won Kravitz a Grammy for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance.
Unlike other songs, “Fly Away” was as simple as it could be. Even Kravitz admitted that there was no deep meaning to be analyzed. The song reflects one’s desire to fly away “above the trees” and “to anywhere I please.”
While “freedom” can’t be found anywhere in the song, we usually associate flying with the idea. And if you can fly literally anywhere, then you have freedom.
5. “Freedom” By Rage Against The Machine
The American rock band Rage Against the Machine has been raging for a while now. “Freedom” fits right in, with vocalist Zack De La Roca spitting vitriol about the status quo while Tom Morello works magic on his guitar.
To better understand the song, it’s necessary to see what goes on in the song’s video. It shows the controversial case against Leonard Peltier, the leader of the American Indian Movement. He was imprisoned (many say unjustly) for the deaths of two FBI agents in 1975.
The band has long preached against capitalism and the western world’s unspoken caste system. When De La Roca growls “Freedom” at the song’s ending, he’s calling for it for everyone.
6. “Freedom” By Pharrell Williams
Looking for an inescapable hook? Ironically, a hook from which there is no freedom? Look no further than Pharrell Williams‘ 2015 single “Freedom.”
Not only was it a Top 40 hit (top ten in a few countries), but it also appeared in various media, such as commercials, before Hillary Clinton’s concession speech and the “Despicable Me 3” and ”Now You See Me 2” soundtracks.
Quite simply, this song with “freedom” in the title calls for liberation and peace. It talks of the interconnectedness of all things and how mind and spirit can make us all truly free.
7. “We Shall Be Free” By Garth Brooks
What should have been a slam-dunk #1 hit for Garth Brooks instead became a controversial song. Why? Because certain people got offended by some ideas in the song.
Brooks, with songwriter Stephanie Davis, wrote the song in response to the 1992 riots in Los Angeles. The idea behind the song is that someday, we might all get to live in a world where we are free from barriers like race and class.
But what drew the ire of ultraconservative people was the line, “When we’re free to love anyone we choose.” This essentially supports gay rights, which these people look down upon. As a result, radio stations refused to play the song.
8. “Miss Independent” By Kelly Clarkson
American singer-songwriter Kelly Clarkson worked hard to shed her “American Idol” roots as soon as she won the show’s inaugural season. Part of that effort involved “Miss Independent,” a song that worked on several levels.
For one, she is singing about being an independent, self-sufficient woman. She envisions herself to be free from the need for a man or anything else that might get in her way or drag her down.
The song also hints at her desire to break away from the “Idol” trappings and be her own artist. Now widely considered a national treasure, Clarkson’s efforts paid off mightily.
9. “Redemption Song” By Bob Marley And The Wailers
The 1980 single of Bob Marley and the Wailers, “Redemption Song,” has become one of Marley’s most enduring legacies. It is his contribution to making the world a little better, particularly at a time when he felt he didn’t have long to live.
Oddly, while the song is so identifiably his, it’s unlike anything else he ever recorded. It’s just him singing and playing an acoustic guitar. It’s almost as if Marley was articulating his own freedom from the musical pigeonhole in which he worked.
In the song, Marley calls for his listeners to free themselves from all kinds of slavery. He also implores, “Won’t you help to sing these songs of freedom?” He knew that this song’s message will live long after him.
10. “Free Your Mind” By En Vogue
The 1990s saw an uptick in the chart reign of girl groups. En Vogue was one of the bigger names of the era. They combined R&B, new jack swing, hip-hop, and rock into several hits, the most in-your-face of which was “Free Your Mind.”
It featured all four members taking turns at the lead vocal. The song advocates freedom from racism, sexism, discrimination, and hate in general. It tells people to, well, mind their own business. No one has the right to destroy someone else’s happiness just because they walk, talk, or dress differently.
As a freedom song written in response to the 1992 LA riots, “Free Your Mind” was a worldwide top-ten hit.
11. “I’m Free” By The Rolling Stones
Originally, “I’m Free” was the b-side of the Rolling Stones‘ 1965 song “Get Off of My Cloud.” But “I’m Free” became a hugely popular song and took on a life of its own.
What this song says is that the singer is not afraid of his freedom. He is free to do anything he wants. Not only that. He’s also free from the “lock up” and “debt. He can say he’s free like a butterfly and a bee.
The song has since been covered by artists as diverse as Pitbull and Dua Lipa. Since the song is about being free to do whatever, it’s nice that it has remained free from being stuck in one musical genre.
12. “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free” By Nina Simone
Jazz pianist Billy Taylor wrote “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to be Free” in the 1950s as an instrumental. When pianist and vocalist Nina Simone got a hold of it 15 or so years later, she turned it into a gospel-tinged cry for freedom.
The basic tenet of the song is simple. What would it be like to live in a world where we are free from racism and segregation? These things feel like chains that keep her from speaking out.
It sounds like a feel-good piece of music. But its message of longing is much sadder than the music sounds. As long as there is hate, racism, and injustice, no one will know what freedom feels like.
13. “Freedom” By Beyoncé
Our next song that mentions “freedom” is a number from American singer-songwriter Beyoncé. “Freedom” was released in 2016 from her Lemonade album and is a collaboration with rapper Kendrick Lamar.
“Freedom” has Queen Bey refusing to be cowed and pushing her way into the life she wants for herself. The song touches on the freeing aspects of redemption—whether for yourself or those around you.
The album was a global #1, and “Freedom” has enjoyed great success. It even became the anthem for the George Floyd protests in 2020.
14. “The Sea” By Morcheeba
British electronic band Morcheeba released “The Sea” in 1998 as part of their album, Big Calm. Listening to the song will make you imagine clouds in the sky and a sunny day at the beach.
For many of us, there is that place that will always be special to us. It’s where we feel happy and free. In the song, that special place is “down by the sea.” We find the singer longing for that place where she “lost control here, living free.” It holds a special spot in her heart because here, her worries vanish.
The sea has always been a metaphor for freedom, and Morcheeba uses it to excellent effect in their song.
15. “Free Bird” By Lynyrd Skynyrd
To wrap up our list, we have the bittersweet song “Free Bird” from Lynyrd Skynyrd. It’s too bad the song has become something of a punchline. It overshadowed the fact that it’s got one of the greatest guitar solos of all time.
Lyrics-wise, the song is about a rambling man whose need for freedom supersedes his desire for love. He says goodbye to his lover and looks forward to going to as many places as he can.
Despite his love for her, he is a free bird that she cannot change. He can only beg her not to take their separation badly.
Summing Up Our List Of Freedom Songs
As the songs above showed you, freedom is one of the things people naturally desire. It is part of the human experience.
We can only imagine what it’s like to be absolutely free from things that drag us down. To be free from racism, hate, and all things that cause division. Like you, we envision a world of unity and liberation.
In the meantime, we hope you like our compilation. You are free to choose which ones to listen to or include in your playlist.