There can be little doubt that music has been the source of a range of emotions and desires through the centuries. It has been our source of motivation as well as our entertainment, and it has even created our moods at times.
Some of the greatest songs we have been given motivate and inspire us. And, the songwriters have not been lost on the idea of how much effect it has. Therefore, looking for the best inspirational songs for motivation will be something special.
Music Can Provide Comfort
It can lift us from feeling discouraged and helpless. It might be a few words of a lyric, or it might be a memorable “hook” that does it. And, as we will discover, a few songs that have a great motivating and uplifting chorus.
It Can Provide Inspiration
Sometimes it all just gets a bit too much. You may be trying to achieve something, but as soon as you clear one hurdle, two more appear in front of you. At those times, some music can provide the inspiration to keep going on. An emotional lift is one way of describing it.
We Are What We Eat?
A common enough statement with a lot of truth attached to it. But, you can also say we are what we listen to. Some music brings an association with a lifestyle and even a dress code. Music can be that powerful an influence on us.
And just as it can dictate a lifestyle…
Music can easily create our mood. Have you ever heard a piece of music that has left a profound effect on you? It can be that powerful. It can motivate us, inspire us and encourage us to be better. We are all different, of course, and what inspires and motivates one may not apply to another.
But in this list of uplifting songs, there is bound to be a song for everyone. So, let’s see what might be the best inspirational songs for motivation.
Top 50 Best Inspirational Songs For Motivation
We Are The Champions by Queen
A song that was written by Freddie Mercury with one purpose in mind. To get to the audience so much that it demands their participation.
It was always a popular song with audiences. But, at the two Queen concerts, I went to, it was “Radio Ga Ga’’ and “We Will Rock You” that brought the most audience involvement. However, “Champions” is still one of Queen’s most recognized tracks and is considered a Rock Anthem by some.
As a song…
It is punishing to sing with its highest note at C5. He belted that out at Live Aid in London in 1985 without any problems. But, as his illness took hold, it was excluded from their live shows.
It had great success worldwide and reached #2 in the UK and #4 in America, and had Top 10 success in other countries. It was taken from their 1977 album, News of the World.
Some seem to think the song was a reaction to the band’s struggles in the early days. This isn’t accurate. The predecessor to Queen, the band, Smile, was already doing quite well and had played at the Royal Albert Hall in London.
Original singer and bass player of Smile, Tim Staffell, left to join another band. Mercury, then known as Freddie Bulsara, who was already known to Brian May from their college, stepped in.
All bands have their struggles early on…
But, there was a track record already in place for the new band, which became Queen. Overnight they went from 3 out of 10 to maybe 8 out of 10 because of Freddie. They were on their way.
“We Are The Champions” was a song designed for their fanatical audiences, and I think we can say it worked. As a song that motivates you, it also works well. It is especially relevant to groups of people, as can be seen by all the sports teams that have adopted it.
The Show Must Go On by Queen
While we are looking at songs from Queen, this is a song created to be encouraging that was borne out of tragedy. It was written by Brian May and was the final track on their last album recorded together as a band, Innuendo.
May wrote this song about Freddie Mercury…
It is about his struggles to stay with them, as his illness caused a serious deterioration in his health. He loved singing and performing, which made it even harder for him. He reached a stage where he just couldn’t do it anymore. What was also a strain was that the news of his illness had to be kept a secret. Even though most people in music at the time knew there was something seriously wrong with him.
This song was made as a general statement and used an age-old theater saying. But it helped Freddie in those last days. There were some doubts as to whether he was going to be able to sing it in the studio. His answer when questioned is unrepeatable here, but a few vodkas and he did it.
Just In Time
The single was released in 1991, just six weeks before he died. It reached #16 in the UK and #40 in America. As a motivator, it needs little in the way of explanation. There are times when we get down and think we can’t go on. This song says you must find a way to just carry on.
Heroes by David Bowie
This is a song that uses a story of real-life heroes, rather than the plastic ones that seem to inhabit some people’s consciousness.
It was written by Bowie in collaboration with Brian Eno and released as a single in 1977. It was also included on his album of the same name. That was part of his enormous work, Berlin Trilogy.
An interesting song in some ways…
The music tracks were completed before the lyrics were written. The song uses the love of two people separated by the Berlin Wall, one in the West and one in the East.
The wall was still standing at the time the song was written. It was not torn down until 1989, which signaled the end of the “Iron Curtain.”
The characters are lovers who live on either side of the wall. If their feelings for each other and contacts had been discovered, there would have been serious problems for both. However, they fought their way through that, took the risks, and it worked out.
The song typified a resistance against being oppressed and uses the love of these two people as a symbol.
This is a song for those who feel they are living under some form of restriction. Bowie performed the song in 1987 in front of the Reichstag in Berlin. Two years later, the wall came down. Coincidence?
Fighter by Christina Aguilera
This is a song taken from her album, Stripped, released in 2003. It is probably not an uncommon story for some women working in music and film and even other industries.
It is about a man who takes advantage of a young woman. The woman in question sings the song and turns the tables thanking him for making her a fighter.
She knew that she wanted to write a song that empowers women. After an unhappy childhood and school life where she was picked on, she saw this song, in some ways, as therapy.
A song for those who feel they have been misused or not dealt with respectfully. This could be what you need to recover and motivate yourself to mentally deal with it.
The song has a semi-classical beginning but then takes on a Hard Rock riff. In another world, you could hear Led Zeppelin providing the backing, if not the melody and vocals. It reached #3 in the UK and #20 in America.
Higher & Higher by Jackie Wilson
When you start to compose a list like this, you inevitably start to draw on your own experiences and where music has had an effect. This is one of those songs. It is just so happy; it had to be on this list of the best inspirational songs for motivation.
This is a song that can’t help but make you happy too. It was written by Gary Jackson, Carl Smith, and Raynard Miner and released by Wilson in 1967 on his album, Higher And Higher.
In the mid-60s…
The location of the studios where the songs were recorded often gave a name to the musical style. Detroit for Tamla Motown is an obvious one, the “Detroit Sound.”
This song was recorded in Chicago. At the time, the music that came out of the city was known by some as “Chicago Soul.” James Jamerson played bass on this track. I don’t need to say more than that.
Jamerson was a member of a Motown four-piece session band known as the Funk Brothers. They often took on work elsewhere to supplement the rather poor income Motown paid them. Chicago paid them double what they earned in Detroit. Jackie Wilson got the benefit.
It was first released in America in 1967 and reached #6. Its success generated another release in 1969 to include the UK, where it peaked at #11. It was released again in 1987 in the UK, where it went to #15.
There are a few covers of the song, but Jackie Wilson’s version has always been the best. A great song that is going to lift you up with its feel-good sound.
I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor
It is hardly possible to compose a list of songs to inspire and motivate and not include this one from Gloria Gaynor. There have been plenty of songs created to empower women, but this is still the best of them all. This song was taken from her album, Love Tracks, released in 1978.
It was a huge success reaching #1 in the UK and America and making the Top 10 elsewhere. It became an anthem for women who felt downtrodden. At the same time, it became the most requested song for karaoke.
The song was mainly written by Dino Fekaris after his sacking from Motown as an in-house writer. He had some help from producer Freddie Perren, also an ex-Motown employee. Initially, it was only going to be a B-side, but that soon changed after its initial release and the public’s opinion.
A Song About Recovery
The song is about recovering after the end of a toxic relationship. It has given women the strength to overcome and stand tall in a variety of circumstances, not just in relationships.
Gaynor stated in an interview that when she read the lyrics, she was sure this was going to be a hit record. But, she said she could also see the message was powerful and needed to be said. Of course, being a disco dance favorite helped. And the song was heard just about everywhere you went. It turned out to be one of the most inspirational songs ever recorded.
Lovely Day by Bill Withers
Some songs can just make you feel happy just by listening to them. That can be enough motivation for some to overcome problems and look forward to the days ahead.
The song by Jackie Wilson we looked at was one of those. This track from Bill Withers is another that can do the same. There is still one more to come that does the same.
We’ll get to that, but first, Bill…
This song was first released in 1977. Written by Withers and Skip Scarborough, it rose to #7 in the UK and thirty in America. It was released again in the UK in 1978. It was taken from his album, Menagerie.
The song was noted for Bill Withers’s eighteen-second note that he held at the end. That made it the second-longest note ever held in a recording. Just out of interest, the longest note held was by Morten Harket on the A-Ha song “Summer Moved On,” released in 2000.
If you wake up not feeling so good, then just play this song. It won’t take long before your spirits are lifted.
I’m Still Standing by Elton John
As usual, he wrote this song with Bernie Taupin. It was included on his 1983 album, Too Low for Zero. Since he started to include it in his stage shows, it has become one of his most popular songs. It reached #4 in the UK and #12 in America. And, it went to #1 in Canada.
It is often thought that Bernie Taupin, who writes Elton’s lyrics, wrote this song about his friend. He knew, of course, of Elton’s struggles with alcohol, his various addictions, and occasional health problems. Some think that the song is a celebration of him still being with us and still working.
That might be a dramatic way of looking at it. Another potential meaning in the song is that Elton’s music has survived various radical genre shifts. He has survived them all and still makes great records.
I Am Still Alive… And Kicking
When people say, as they do about some singers, “What happened to…?” He comes back and says I’m still standing. I am still here. And he most definitely is. It was one of the last songs he recorded with the band that had been with him for years.
The song could be used in many scenarios though not just those two. It could be used to tell a former lover; I am okay; I don’t need you as much as you thought I did. If you need a song to motivate you through difficult times, perhaps through health issues, this is the one.
Upbeat and uptempo, it is defiant and says I will not be beaten. It rocks along with a great message for those that need encouragement. And nearly forty years later, he is “still standing.” That is encouragement if nothing else is.
True Colors by Cyndi Lauper
Written by Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly, this became a huge hit for this often eccentric singer. It was released in 1986 as a track from the album of the same name. It reached #26 in the UK and #12 in America.
The song meant a lot to her because of the death of a friend from HIV/Aids. The song has subsequently been adopted by the LGBT community as a kind of anthem. On the back of that, she opened a refuge for homeless gay, lesbian, transsexual, and bisexual young people. The center was named True Colors.
A Different Motivation
There are times when we need to fulfill the message in this song. The song says that we need to stick up for what we believe. Show our “True Colors,” and not be afraid.
That can sometimes be hard to do. Especially when the issue might not be popular in some social circles. This song encourages you to do that. I think we can safely say that Cyndi Lauper has shown her true colors.
Stronger by Kelly Clarkson
This is a track from her fifth album entitled, Stronger, which was released in 2011. It sold well just about everywhere, reaching #8 in the UK and #1 in America.
The idea behind the song lies in a famous quotation by the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. He said, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” That means if we can overcome something, then if we have to face it again, we are better able to deal with it. “Stronger,” as she says in the lyrics.
A Dance Track?
Another song about self-empowerment that encourages you to be confident and positive. The message is powerful and reassuring. The song is essentially a dance track but with plenty of electronics creating the sounds.
I’m not being cynical here. I quite like Kelly Clarkson’s work. Especially her 2004 album, Breakaway, which I thought was excellent.
However, I get the feeling that someone has sat down and worked out the formulas for a successful empowerment song. Maybe they listened to Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” and used similar elements.
It is a dance track…
That means it will get plenty of airplay time, and it has a good hook with powerful lyrics. You could say it is all there for it to be a success.
But, for those who want to feel confident about themselves, the message in the song is clear. Trust in yourself to overcome, and as you do, you will be better for it.
You’ll Never Walk Alone by Gerry and The Pacemakers
This song goes back to 1945 when Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote it for the musical “Carousel.” It has had an interesting history regarding its meaning.
It has had some famous covers as well. Frank Sinatra recorded it in 1945, as did Judy Garland in the same year. A timely release given the war had just ended and there were too many families missing those that didn’t return. It became synonymous with that experience.
The year was 1963 when Gerry and the Pacemakers released their album, How Do You Like It? They could never have realized what an impact it would have as it was buried away at the end of the album.
At this time, The Beatles had largely left Liverpool. They had bigger fish to fry. However, there were still plenty of the “Mersey sound” bands left. But, Gerry and the Pacemakers were always considered Liverpool’s own. The reason for that is that whilst they did tour, they always came “home.”
They still lived in the city or surrounding areas and resisted the urge for mansions in the leafy London suburbs two hundred miles away. The song became a staple of British, and especially Liverpool’s, culture. It was even adopted by Liverpool football club as their “fan anthem” and is still sung today.
A Different Type of Motivation Song
The single was released at the end of 1963, and it quickly went to #1 in the UK and reached #48 in America.
By going to #1, it meant that their first three singles had all reached #1 in the UK. That was a first in UK music history. Not even The Beatles achieved that.
This isn’t a song addressed to someone who is down and needs picking up. It is a different type of motivational song. It is saying carry on and do what you do, and when you do fall, as you will, I will be there.
I Won’t Back Down by Tom Petty
This was a track recorded and released as the Traveling Wilburys were getting themselves organized. It was the first single from Petty’s album, Full Moon Fever, which featured Jeff Lynne, Ringo, and George Harrison.
It reached #28 in the UK and #12 in America and was the promise of great things to come. The sudden death of Roy Orbison from a heart attack in 1988 meant that the dream of the band started to decline. But as musicians, they left us with some great tracks, and this is one.
It goes along at a nice steady gentle Rock pace and is easy to listen to. It talks about standing up to adversity in whatever shape it appears. Not an uncommon theme but put across in a slightly different way. “I’ll stand my ground, and I won’t back down.” That is the message of the song.
Here Comes The Sun by The Beatles
Carrying on with George Harrison’s musical involvement, this is a song he wrote in his Beatle days. It is taken from the last album they recorded, Abbey Road.
It is remarkable that, despite all the in-fighting and intrigues in The Beatles, a song about being positive emerged. At one recording session, he had just had enough. One member was always trying to assert control over him and the others, and George just walked out.
This song came from that. The Beatles had been all he had known for nearly all his adult life. And now, it was falling apart in front of his eyes. But, somehow, he sensed that there was still a bright future.
When It’s Over
The inevitable break-up was going to be hard to take. But, he knew it would be better when it was all over. The coldness in their relationships with each other had been going on too long, “Little darling, it’s been a long cold lonely winter – Little darling, it feels like years since it’s been here.”
He goes on to talk about future happiness, “Little darling, the smiles returning to the faces – Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been here.” And finally, he can see the road ahead, “Little darling, I feel that ice is slowly melting – Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been clear.”
The message in this song is very clear. Bad times can befall any of us. But, just bide your time and stay positive, and they will pass. As we know, George was fascinated by the philosophies of the Hindu Vaishnavite religion. “All things must pass” is a common phrase that he would have known about.
Take Your Time
Of all The Beatles songs, this has become the most streamed. There is probably one ex-member who wouldn’t be happy with that. If you think it is taking too long to achieve what you want, then let some time pass, and they will come.
Eye of the Tiger by Survivor
The song was composed by Survivor guitarist Frankie Sullivan and the keyboard player Jim Peterik. It was used as the theme music for the film “Rocky 3” but was a late addition.
Sylvester Stallone wanted to use Queen’s song “Another One Bites The Dust” as the theme music. However, the band refused to let their song be used.
It was a hit record all around the world and reached #1 in both the UK and America. That made it one of the most played songs on the radio. No doubt helping along the film. The message of the song in the lyrics is positive, if a little cheesy. But then, so was the film, so I suppose it works.
Controversies and Lawsuits
Survivor sued various members of the American Republican party for using the song without permission. Some had been using it for three years without an agreement or paying for its use. Settlements in cash and agreements not to use it were later forthcoming.
Not the greatest of the songs musically. But, it does hold a message to face up to opposition when you are confronted with it. And, without question, one of the best inspirational songs for motivation.
Hold On by Wilson Phillips
Put two daughters of Brian Wilson with a daughter of John and Michelle Phillips, and it is only going to be good. Among the three of them, they have quite a pedigree. This is a song taken from their album called Wilson Phillips.
Born out of struggles…
The lyrics were written by Chynna Phillips, who at the time was fighting two battles. There was an abusive relationship to deal with. But not only that, she was locked into a cycle of substance abuse.
The lyrics say it all on this one when there seems no way out, “Hold on for one more day – Things will go your way – Hold on for one more day.”
A song about taking it a day at a time and making it count. Having a daily triumph. The song reached #6 in the UK and #1 in America. It means a lot to some people because it was borne out of real-life experiences.
Tubthumping by Chumbawamba
This is a song that shows the benefits you can receive if you just keep trying. They are a band from the north of England that was “different,” to say the least. They had so many members at different times you could hardly keep track. But then came this after years of trying.
Failure is only failure if you refuse to accept it as that. Then you can rise above it. It went to #1 in the UK and other countries around the world. “I get knocked down but I get up again – You’re never gonna keep me down.”
What is it about? Obviously, it’s about getting up after we have suffered a put-down. But, as the band says, it is about the resilience that ordinary people have. And they do, and it is something to celebrate for all of us.
What A Feeling by Irene Cara
We talked earlier about a song by Jackie Wilson that just made you feel good to hear it. Here is another one. It was taken from “Flashdance,” and it has the feelgood factor in plentiful supply.
Every success we have was one day a small dream that grew. This song is a reminder of that. Great things don’t happen overnight. It often takes time and perseverance, and that is what this song tells you.
While this song puts over the message, it is the chorus that is the real ‘buzz.’ One of those great “hooks” you come across that is just pure joy to hear. And motivates the spirit at the same time.
Ain’t No Mountain High Enough by Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
This was the first collaboration between these two great singers. It was taken from their first album together, United. The single was released in 1967 and reached #19 in America.
There is a strong message in this song that resonates with people in different ways. It can be associated with being separated from a loved one. But, it is also about not letting things hold you back.
To believe that nothing can stop you, despite any opposition you may face, is often half the battle. That is one message you can take from this song that is inspiring and motivates you to see it through.
Look On The Bright Side Of Life by Monty Python
We have been looking at some serious subjects, but it never hurts to have a laugh and a smile. This is taken from Monty Python’s “The Life of Brian.” The lunacy of all this still resonates today and still makes us laugh. Sometimes that is all we need.
But, inside all this lunacy is a serious message on how to live our lives. Accept that things will sometimes go wrong. But, always look at the positives around you.
Don’t Give Up by Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush
And so, to the very last and my favorite of the best inspirational songs for motivation I have looked at. Put the undoubted songwriting and performing skills of Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush together, and you are going to get something special.
And, when you get a song that gets such a public testimony of how it has helped them, it becomes even more important.
The importance of this song in changing someone’s life for the better came from none than Elton John. He said that listening to this song saved his life and helped him get off the booze which was killing him.
That is what these songs are for. To make a difference when there seems no hope and motivate anyone to succeed. And succeeding not in a financial way but in a personal way. A way that makes you better, or in Elton’s case, literally saves you.
The song was recorded as a duet with Kate Bush for Gabriel’s album, So, released in 1986. It was also issued as a single in the same year and reached #9 in the UK and #72 in America.
An Interesting Song Construction
He sings about how he was brought up to be a winner and that he never thought he could lose. When he did, as we all do, it came as a shock. It is a very good song that suddenly turns into a great one with Kate’s sudden introduction. She says he mustn’t give up.
“I am a man whose dreams have all deserted – I’ve changed my face, I’ve changed my name – But no one wants you when you lose.”
She reminds him, “Don’t give up ’cause you have friends – Don’t give up, you’re not beaten yet -Don’t give up, I know you can make it good.” And finally, perhaps the most important lines ever uttered in a song that is offering encouragement, “Don’t give up now, we’re proud of who you are.”
Like many Peter Gabriel compositions…
It can have that ethereal sound. This time it was created by the brilliant use of percussion. An excellent song that is going to help anyone who needs to be reminded of how important they are to others.
All You Need is Love by The Beatles
Beautiful Day by U2
Brave by Sara Bareilles
Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now by McFadden & Whitehead
You Can Call Me Al by Paul Simon
I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me) by Whitney Houston
Walking on Sunshine by Katrina and The Waves
One Moment in Time by Whitney Houston
Survivor by Destiny’s Child
I Believe I Can Fly by R. Kelly
Beautiful by Christina Aguilera
Don’t Worry Be Happy by Bobby McFerrin
Hold On by Alabama Shakes
Feeling Good by Nina Simone
Greatest Love Of All by Whitney Houston
Hall of Fame by The Script (feat. Will.I.Am)
Don’t Stop Me Now by Queen
Eye of the Beholder by Metallica
My Way by Frank Sinatra
Unstoppable by Sia
Can’t Hold Us by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (feat. Ray Dalton)
Don’t Give Up On Me by Andy Grammer
I’m Every Woman by Whitney Houston
Shake It Off by Taylor Swift
Don’t Stop by Fleetwood Mac
I’m A Believer by The Monkees
Rise Up by Andra Day
Hold My Hand by Hootie & The Blowfish
Titanium by David Guetta (feat. Sia)
Survivor by Destiny’s Child
Want to Discover More Incredible Songs?
Well, then take a look at our detailed articles on the Best Songs About Change, the Best Songs About Heroes, the Best Songs About Hope, the Best Songs About Not Giving Up, and the Best Songs About Winning, Celebration, Victory, and Success for awesome song selections.
Of course, you’ll want to hear those tunes. So, check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Headphones for Music, the Most Comfortable Headphones, the Best Wireless Bluetooth Headphones, the Best Sound Quality Earbuds, and the Best Bass Earbuds you can buy in 2023.
Best Inspirational Songs For Motivation – Final Thoughts
Can music lift the gloom? I think it can. It can make you feel happy, or feel better about yourself. It can show you that things are going to get better, and it can offer encouragement when all seems lost. And, it could save a life, as happened with this last song we looked at.
We are lucky that we have so many talented writers and singers that can draw these emotions from us. And some of them can do this because they have gone through it themselves. There are times when everyone needs some positivity around them. And there is plenty of positivity and inspiration to motivate you on this list.
Until next time, happy listening.