33 Of The Best Songs About Life And Living It

Written by Dan Farrant
Last updated

Life is one of the greatest blessings. It is a gift that we must treat with care. Every day is another chance to make something worthwhile in our lives.

Life, as Ferris Bueller once told us, moves pretty fast. The longer you spend living it, the more you realize that there’s a lot you can miss if you’re not paying attention.

Here, we have compiled songs that remind us to smell the roses. To live life to the fullest. Otherwise, it will pass us by. Without further ado, here are 33 of the best songs about life and living it. Enjoy reading!

1. “Don’t Stop Believin’” By Journey

Perhaps the quintessential song about living life, Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” has been an anthem since its 1981 debut. From the band’s seventh album, Escape, the song has appeared on the Billboard charts due to its initial success and its inclusion in various soundtracks.

The idea of continuing to believe in yourself and your dreams is the song’s overarching message. That makes for a pretty good philosophy for living life well. If it works for a city boy from south Detroit, it can work for anyone, right?

So don’t stop chasing your dreams. Take risks. The characters in the song taking “the midnight train anywhere” reflect their belief that something is in store for them out there. They do not know what it is yet. But then, that’s life sometimes. It surprises us when we least expect it.

2. “‘Heroes’” By David Bowie

With his penchant for constantly reinventing himself, David Bowie may be just the guy who lived life well more than anyone else. “‘Heroes’” was the title track from Bowie’s 1977 album, and it’s been a perennial favorite since.

The lyrics tell of taking life as it comes. Not with resignation, but facing what life brings us every day, good or bad. Bowie wrote it after seeing a couple kissing while leaning against the Berlin Wall.

Romance and oppression rolled into one image. And the image goes well with the song’s message: that what we do might not be heroic in a rescuing-people-from-a-burning-building way. But it’s no less heroic to live life despite it all.

3. “Let It Be” By The Beatles

From The Beatles’ final album, “Let It Be” runs along similar lines as “‘Heroes’” in that it’s about facing things head-on.

Paul McCartney’s mother, Mary, died when he was 14. Coincidentally, the song’s lyrics refer to Mother Mary. Some people may interpret that from a religious standpoint. But Paul is probably singing about his mom and losing her.

In addition, The Beatles were falling apart around this time. This gives extra poignancy to the lyrics to just let things be as they will be. We can’t stop things from happening. And we cannot change the past. We just have to let it be.

4. “Over The Rainbow” By Judy Garland

Written specifically for The Wizard of Oz by Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg, “Over the Rainbow” won an Oscar. It became the defining song of Judy Garland’s career.

The song paints a picture of hope and the value of maintaining it in difficult times. Notably, what’s “somewhere over the rainbow” is both unattainable and aspirational. But we live best when we have the promise of something good just over the horizon.

When life is at its most challenging, having something to hope for and look forward to makes things infinitely more endurable.

5. “Beautiful Day” By U2

Up next is a song about living in the moment. U2’s “Beautiful Day,” from the band’s 2000 album All That You Can’t Leave Behind, is another song that shows we face difficulties as we continue living.

If life is going to be hard,  and nothing can stop things from going wrong now and then, why not appreciate the good things, even as life is rough? Can’t we keep the ability to look around and realize that we live in a remarkable time and place?

Hard times spare no one. And that’s not up for debate. What’s open to possibility is how we respond.

6. “What A Wonderful World” By Louis Armstrong

What better example of enjoying life is there than this song and its singer, Louis Armstrong? “What a Wonderful World” is an ode to the world that’s part of our lives.

The simple lyrics are about the beauty of the world and how great life can be. The song encourages us to appreciate all the little things. The trees, red roses, skies, clouds, even a baby’s cry.

We take them for granted because we see them every day. We know the trees and roses and skies are always where they are. But if we stop for a minute and look around us, we have much to be thankful for.

7. “Livin’ On Love” By Alan Jackson

Country superstar Alan Jackson had his ninth #1 hit in 1994 with “Livin’ on Love.” Unlike many of his peers, Jackson writes most of his own songs, and he has the sole writing credit on this one.

“Livin’ on Love” is a sweet song about how love makes life better. With someone you love and who loves you, life is worth living. The song says that it’s not the material things that matter. The couple in the song doesn’t have a lot in their name. The woman doesn’t even care about what’s the rave in fashion.

But love is more important. They care more about nurturing it and strengthening their relationship. And it saw them through to old age.

8. “I Will Survive” By Gloria Gaynor

It’s easily the sassiest I’m-going-to-be-just-fine-without-you song with “life” in the lyrics. While Gloria Gaynor knew it would be a hit, who could ever imagine “I Will Survive” would end up in the Library of Congress?

It’s not so much a song about how sad the singer is that she’s been left behind. Sure, the one who wronged her is back, and apparently, he thinks he’s doing her a favor. But that’s where he’s wrong. Because even without him, she knows she’ll be okay. She’s got her life to live ahead of her.

We can argue about when and where girl power began. But this song has to be a pillar of that whole movement.

9. “Edge Of Seventeen” By Stevie Nicks

From her Fleetwood Mac days, people already knew who Stevie Nicks was. But when she released Bella Donna, her debut solo album, and the world heard “Edge of Seventeen,” people still sat up and paid attention. The 1982 single made its way up the charts and became a part of our culture.

Nicks’ uncle John and John Lennon died within a week of each other, and the losses affected her. The dove in the song represents the soul leaving the body. The bird singing “come away” refers to Nicks’ uncle leaving the world behind.

This song tells us one thing that’s a part of life or living: dying. Grief is something that the loved ones left behind must go through. Grieving and living at the same time is a testimony to one’s strength in the face of death.

10. “Imagine” By John Lennon

As best-selling singles of an artist’s career go, one could do worse than “Imagine.” This is John Lennon’s meditation on how nice a utopian world might be.

Lennon sings about a world where we all live together in peace. He wants us to imagine that there is no heaven, countries, and no possessions. Like many things that most of us want, this world that Lennon refers to is unattainable. There are a lot of factors that make it so.

But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work for it. A collective effort of “livin’ for today” or living at the moment definitely draws us closer to that goal.

11. “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” By Kelly Clarkson

After winning the American Idol contest, Kelly Clarkson had some hits. She had enough that by the time she recorded 2012’s Stronger, her fifth studio album, she’d already been on the Billboard charts eight times. And “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” is just another successful hit.

This song is about taking pain or failure, looking for the positive parts, and using it as fuel to live a better life. It tells us to stand tall in the face of challenges.

Like every normal person, Clarkson has had her share of ups and downs as she’s made her way through life. But she seems to live by the message of this song. After all, she’s still a pretty big deal, in addition to having that remarkable voice.

12. “Who Wants To Live Forever” By Queen

Resonating with “Who Wants to Live Forever” isn’t the easiest thing to do. It was written by Queen guitarist Brian May for the soundtrack of the 1986 film Highlander.

In the movie, the protagonist is immortal, and his wife isn’t. As he realizes he’ll have to watch her grow old and die, he’s understandably sad.

In the first part of the song, the singer laments that forever is not for them. Who wants to live forever if they can’t be together anyway? Who wants to love if it will die when one of them dies?

But it’s worth living because he’s with his beloved. Their forever is today, the present time that they can spend together.

13. “It’s My Life” By Bon Jovi

When we talk about songs with “life” in the title, Bon Jovi‘s “It’s My Life” will certainly come to mind. It’s the lead single of their studio album Crush, released in 2000. The song connected the band to a much younger fanbase.

No wonder there, as the song’s message reflects the singer’s desire to seize the moment. He recognizes that his time on earth is limited so he’s determined to make the most of it.

How? By making his own breaks. There’s no place to be weak-hearted if he wants to live the kind of life he envisions. And there’s no better time to start than now.

14. “Livin’ La Vida Loca” By Ricky Martin

Up next is a song that mentions “life” in Spanish. Ricky Martin‘s “Livin’ la Vida Loca” topped the charts in 1999.

The lyrics find the singer entranced by a wild woman who’s into “superstitions, black cats and voodoo dolls.” He is not turned off, though. If anything, he goes wild and crazy for her. And it sounds like he’s only too willing to live the woman’s crazy life as well.

It’s easy to resonate with the song because, at some point, we have done stupid things for love. We feel that the other person is amazing despite all the risks and madness. What’s a better way of living life to the fullest than that?

15. “Man In The Mirror” By Michael Jackson

The 1988 song “Man in the Mirror” is another in Michael Jackson‘s string of hits. It’s a song about deciding to live life in a way that makes the world a better place. As life-affirming songs go, it’s a more wholesome message than the hedonism in a few other songs on this list.

In the lyrics, the singer admits to having lived selfishly. But all around him, he sees the real situation beyond himself. There are people with no food, no homes, and no money. He’s living a life better than these people.

He eventually chooses to change his ways to make the world better. It’s a sacrificial idea, but a life lived deliberately can be fulfilling and impactful.

16. “Better Get To Livin’” By Dolly Parton

Country music superstar Dolly Parton shares some secrets to living life fully. “Better Get to Livin'” is a pop country gem that we can learn a lot from.

What’s notable about this song is its message that we all have inner strength. We go through difficulties and trials but some people know how to make life more meaningful.

In the song, the secret is living, giving, forgiving, loving, and caring. And if life gets tough, get on your knees and pray. All these have a positive effect on her attitude toward life.

17. “Live And Let Die” By Paul McCartney And Wings

A song from a movie about a secret agent with a license to kill appears on our list of songs about life. Paul McCartney and his wife Linda wrote “Live and Let Die” for the James Bond movie of the same title. The song was performed by Paul McCartney and Wings.

According to the song, not everyone agrees on what a life well lived looks like. But we can all agree that someone’s point of view can change with age. In the beginning, he sings that when you are younger, “live and let live” is your philosophy.

As you make your way through life, experiences can make you change your mind. But what’s the common thread? Living. Plus, this has got to be the rocking-est James Bond theme song of all.

18. “Long Live” By Taylor Swift

We all know how Taylor Swift loves to write songs about her exes. But her 2010 single “Long Live” is not for a boy who broke her heart.

Without knowledge of the song’s background, we can say that the lyrics reminisce about old times. It’s about how great life is and how we can hold on to happiness by keeping the memories of the past alive.

But “Long Live” is a tribute to Swift’s fans and bandmates. Still, it’s about life as she celebrates her triumphs with these people. Though her accomplishments may fade over time, there are memories one can hold on to. And she will forever remember that she enjoyed her life with people who matter.

19. “Runnin’ (Dying To Live)” By 2Pac Ft. The Notorious B.I.G.

Perhaps the most unintentionally sad song on this list, “Runnin’ (Dying to Live),” is built on recordings 2Pac and The Notorious B.I.G. made before their violent, untimely ends.

From 2Pac’s posthumous album Tupac: Resurrection, the song hit the Billboard charts seven years after 2Pac’s 1996 murder. The lyrics question why one is living a certain kind of life. It’s like asking, “Is this the life I want? If not, why am I living it this way?”

Despite its bombastic sounds, it’s an introspective song. It’s made more so in light of the absence of both rappers.

20. “Ramble On” By Led Zeppelin

Though “Ramble On” came early in Led Zeppelin’s career— it was part of 1969’s Led Zeppelin II— the band never played it live. Nevertheless, it’s long been a fan favorite.

The lyrics are inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings books. What the song says is that in search of the right girl, one has to keep going. But in doing so, the singer “got no time for spreadin’ roots” to make way for rambling.

It’s no secret the kind of “rambling” that rock stars do. Where there is an opportunity to play and reach wider audiences, they have to be there. It’s a hard life, but they’re doing what they love. No matter how hard life might be, it’s the life they’ve chosen.

21. “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” By Bobby McFerrin

Few people had heard of Bobby McFerrin in 1988, even though “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” came from his fourth album. By year’s end, though, nearly every person alive had heard the song.

It’s such a simple message that it borders on being simplistic: life gets tough. So what? Choose to be happy. Because when you worry, you double the trouble. When you worry, you frown, and that also affects the people who see you.

The sentiment resonated with people. It even knocked Guns ‘n’ Roses’ “Sweet Child O’ Mine” from the number one spot. Don’t worry, Axl. Be happy.

22. “Here Comes The Sun” By The Beatles

For The Beatles’ 1969 Abbey Road recording sessions, George Harrison wrote: “Here Comes the Sun.” This song would become universally loved despite not charting until 2010.

Harrison wrote it in a fit of frustration with the band and his role in it. He was skipping out on a recording day by hanging out at Eric Clapton’s house when the song came to him.

It’s another song with the message that whatever life throws stuff at you, the sun always comes up. The sun in the song refers to good days, opportunities, and hope.

23. “Bless The Broken Road” By Rascal Flatts

While country acts Rascal Flatts wasn’t the first group to record “Bless the Broken Road,” they certainly had the biggest hit with it in 2004. It reached #1 and earned the band a Grammy.

True love is always part of life, and its pursuit is not always easy. We make mistakes sometimes. The twist is that there is always a plan in place. All the “broken roads” lead him to the place in life where he meets his one true love.

“Bless the Broken Road” is a song about having faith that there’s a method to the madness of life. If we can just hold on, great things are ahead for us.

24. “The Show Must Go On” By Queen

The last Queen album released while Freddie Mercury still lived was Innuendo. The last track on it was “The Show Must Go On.”

Mercury has been dead for more than three decades, but this song still hurts. It’s about his struggle with AIDS at a time when no one knew he was sick, but anyone with eyes could see he was ill. He continued being the force of nature that he was.

The song is about living despite the loss. Mercury blesses the band in the song: My life is almost done, but you guys have to keep going. Do it for me, boys.

25. “Living For The City” By Stevie Wonder

When “Living for the City” came out as a single in 1973 (and went to #1 and won two Grammys), it was another brick in the wall establishing Stevie Wonder as a national treasure.

The lyrics describe a black man living through the Civil Rights era. This wasn’t exactly the best of times for black people. As shown in the song, the man and his family encounter prejudice and discrimination every which way.

While the lyrics paint a bleak picture, they depict people of dignity who make the best of life. The song ends with a plea to the listeners to “make a better tomorrow.”

26. “One Of The Living” By Tina Turner

Our next song, “One of the Living,” was part of the Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome soundtrack. Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll Tina Turner performed the song, which won a Grammy for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance.

The song’s message revolves around survival. Someone somewhere is starving. Another person in another place has no home when it rains or when it’s too hot outside. Other people go through unspeakable hardships to the point that “the living would envy the dead.”

But, the song continues, the living is survivors. There is no time to give up. Sometimes, we must fight. And no matter how hard it gets, the fact that we’re still alive means we’re victorious.

27. “Livin’ On The Edge” By Aerosmith

One of those bands that have seen a lot is Aerosmith. They tasted huge success and endured the lows of rehab and band infighting. When Get a Grip came out in 1993, the group’s star began rising again. “Livin’ On the Edge” held the #1 spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart for more than two months.

In the song, we find the singer lamenting about “something wrong in the world.” People are not seeing eye-to-eye, there is a lot of misunderstanding going on, and it’s easy to judge other people.

The band’s fans embraced the song’s message. That is, not all is well in the world. Unfortunately, people are too stubborn to change.

28. “I Lived” By OneRepublic

One of the most defining moments of life is realizing that you have lived it the way you wanted. This is the message behind OneRepublic‘s 2013 single “I Lived.”

In the lyrics, the singer encourages someone close to him, possibly a lover or a friend, to own every second they are given. He wishes that they give their all when they fall in love, or that they don’t fear when they take the jump.

Essentially, it’s all about living life to the fullest, seizing the moment, and taking risks. Life may not be perfect, with all its ups and downs, but what matters is experiencing both the good days and the bad.

29. “I Believe I Can Fly” By R. Kelly

Our next song, R. Kelly‘s “I Believe I Can Fly,” was released in 1996 but carries a timeless message of believing in yourself.

The song reflects the idea that if you believe you can make your dreams come true, then you have the ability to control your life and destiny. How strongly you believe in yourself will be put to the test when the going gets rough and when things seem to fall apart.

The phrase “I believe I can fly” is an expression of confidence in your abilities and potential. There are no limits to what you can achieve when you put your mind to it.

30. “Time Of Our Lives” By Pitbull Ft. Ne-Yo

One of the best collaborations in music is Pitbull and Ne-Yo in their 2014 song “Time of Our Lives.” At its core, the song is about celebrating every moment you are alive.

That may not be easy sometimes, particularly if you know you can’t pay your rent on time. And even when you work hard, as the narrator does, the money is still not enough.

The song encourages listeners to enjoy living in the moment and appreciating valuable relationships. It’s about finding happiness despite the hardships of life, as exemplified by the lyrics about having difficulty paying the rent but still finding reasons to enjoy life.

31. “In The End” By Linkin Park

Life is a balance of good and bad experiences that come our way. But Linkin Park‘s “In the End” seems to be about the bad side of things. It speaks to the experience of investing time, emotions, and effort into something or someone. Only to realize that it’s all for nothing in the end.

This can refer to a failed relationship, an unfulfilled personal goal, or any endeavor in life that didn’t turn out as we expected. Thus, we end up with disappointment and despair.

These emotions encapsulate the feeling of doing everything you can and getting far. However, we realize in the end that it doesn’t matter because the desired outcome wasn’t achieved.

32. “Just Fine” By Mary J. Blige

What’s good about Mary J. Blige‘s “Just Fine” is its celebration of self-love, resilience, and finding joy in living. It underscores optimism and is a reminder of the importance of feeling good about oneself.

The lyrics convey a message about not allowing anything to get in the way of enjoying life. The singer acknowledges that life is hard sometimes and that you’ll experience things that will hurt you.

But she is not going to let these ruin her day. She loves her life, she loves what she sees in the mirror when she walks by, and she is not going to change anything because her life is “just fine.”

33. “Living In The Moment” By Jason Mraz

For the last song on the list, we give you Jason Mraz‘s beautiful song, “Living in the Moment.” As the title suggests, it’s about embracing the present and letting go of past regrets and future anxieties.

The singer reflects on the human tendency to set traps for themselves. In other words, they worry about things beyond their control. But he is not about to do the same, acknowledging that worrying will only keep him from living and enjoying life as it unfolds.

The song further supports the idea of mindfulness and presence. We cannot change something that has already happened, in the same way that we cannot control future events. But we can focus on the here and now.

Summing Up Our List Of Life Songs

What’s more life-affirming than music? Nothing, that’s what. The songs above show us a few different versions of what makes a good life. Many of them show us that how we approach life determines how good things go.

But despite the challenges, life is worth living for. We have dreams to chase, families to come home to and love, and all the things that make life exciting and meaningful.

So we hope these songs encourage you to appreciate life more. In the words of Lord Tennyson, drink life to the lees. Cheers to that!

Photo of author

Dan Farrant, the founder of Hello Music Theory, has been teaching music for over 15 years, helping hundreds of thousands of students unlock the joy of music. He graduated from The Royal Academy of Music in 2012 and then launched Hello Music Theory in 2014. He plays the guitar, piano, bass guitar and double bass and loves teaching music theory.