The word “heaven” is used by a range of people to explain a concept, an idea, or a belief. In terms of beliefs, it has religious importance. Some believe in it, some don’t, and I am not going to get into that argument.
For others, it is a way of using a word to describe an emotion or a place they see themselves. So, I’ve decided to take a closer look at some of the best songs about heaven, whatever their meaning or connotation.
- The Word Itself?
- Today’s Use
- We All Have Our Understanding of the Word
- Top 16 Best Songs About Heaven
- Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door by Bob Dylan
- Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel by Tavares
- Heaven For Everyone by Queen
- Heaven Help Us All by Stevie Wonder
- Heaven by Emeli Sande
- Heaven by Bonnie Tyler
- Something Happened on the Way to Heaven by Phil Collins
- Pennies From Heaven by Frank Sinatra
- Heaven Can Wait by Meat Loaf
- Three Steps To Heaven by Eddie Cochran
- Heaven Is Closed by Willie Nelson
- Heaven Is A Place On Earth by Belinda Carlisle
- Heaven by Bryan Adams
- You’ll Never Get to Heaven (If You Break My Heart) by Dionne Warwick
- The Eagle and The Hawk by John Denver
- Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin
- Looking For More Great Songs?
- Best Songs About Heaven – Final Thoughts
The Word Itself?
It came from a derivation of the word “heven” from the 12th century Middle English. Before that, “heofon” was used as a description of a place where “God dwells.”
It can be traced back a bit further to the English heroic poem “Beowulf” in the 8th century, where it is simply used to describe the sky. The word has a long history.
Songwriters will express a wide range of sentiments when using the word heaven. It can be used to express happiness or joy, or even euphoria. There are songs written about heaven where the term is used metaphorically or figuratively to suggest a hidden meaning.
And then, there are different levels of relevance to its use. It can mean just satisfaction or be in harmony with someone.
We All Have Our Understanding of the Word
That applies to songwriters as well. And how they view the word and its meaning will affect how heaven is portrayed lyrically in music.
For example, a Christian writer will portray heaven differently from someone who has no such beliefs. Yet they both use the word. Therefore, as a word and meaning, it goes far beyond just religious contexts.
So, let’s have a look at how some of these songwriters have used Heaven in their music, starting with the classic…
Top 16 Best Songs About Heaven
Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door by Bob Dylan
If anyone is going to write a song that explores the concept of heaven and look at it from a different angle, then it will be Bob Dylan.
He is a master poet, winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2016. The first songwriter to be so endowed. And, as a master songwriter, he is bound to have something to say on the subject.
For A Film
He wrote the song and recorded it in 1973 for the film “Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid,” in which Dylan had a part. The single was released two months after the film.
It was spoken of by some as being a “worldwide” hit, but not really. It reached #14 in the UK and #12 in America. But, success elsewhere was modest except in Australia, where it peaked at #10.
It became a very popular song about heaven and was covered numerous times. The covers, in my opinion, were quite poor and had lost the plot of the song. When you cover a Bob Dylan song, it has to be good. Very few achieve it and get across the mood of the song.
Jimi Hendrix did, however, on “All Along the Watchtower.” But, that is a different list for a different time.
The song itself…
Lyrically, it is quite short, with only two verses referring to the death of a lawman. It was specifically written for the scene in the film.
He had some notable help on the recording. Jim Keltner, once described as one of the best session drummers in America, was one. Also, ex-Byrds guitarist Roger McGuinn.
Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel by Tavares
From Dylan to Disco is not an easy genre jump to make, but here we are. This is a track taken from their 1976 album, Sky High.
It is a song recorded in two parts, both about equal in length. It reached #4 in the UK and #15 in America. Additionally, it was #1 on dedicated Soul and Disco charts. It was re-released again in 1986.
Not much can be said about any literary content. It is unashamedly a commercial track on the back of the disco boom, but that’s fine. It appealed to a wide audience at the time. The connection with Heaven is through a man paying compliments to a young lady and referring to her as an angel.
Heaven For Everyone by Queen
This was written by Roger Taylor, who had been the drummer with Queen. Whether it counts as a Queen track is debatable. The original track was reworked with some additions by Brian May and John Deacon.
There were also some vocal parts recorded by Mercury before his death, adding some extras and released on the Queen album, Made In Heaven. It was also released as a single from that album.
The song reached #32 in the UK and did quite well in some other European countries. However, there was no American release of the single.
Towards the pearly gates…
It was the final album Queen released that was recognized as being “them” four years after Mercury’s death. After the album, Innuendo, was finished, Freddie realized that would probably be his last.
He went back into the studio by himself and recorded as many vocal parts and songs as he could. He left instructions to the band to include the parts and finish the songs after he was gone.
“Heaven For Everyone,” appropriately, was one of those tracks. The album was a huge success at #1 in the UK and nine other countries. It reached #58 in America. As a result, it’s recognized as one of the best songs about heaven.
Before it was a Queen song…
The album wasn’t well-received at all and only reached #58 on the UK album chart. It failed to chart at all on the American album chart.
“Heaven for Everyone” is a gentle ballad telling us that we can make our version of heaven here on earth. But, we have to put forth some effort and try.
Heaven Help Us All by Stevie Wonder
In Europe, people were still getting used to the fact that “Little Stevie Wonder” had grown up and lost the “little.” We had all sat back and enjoyed “Uptight (Everything’s Alright).” And then, “I Was Made To Love Her.”
The young kid who had amazed us with talent at a young age had matured. He started to become a polished performer around 1968 with songs like “For Once In My Life.” And then, two big hit records in “My Cherie Amour,” which he co-wrote, and “Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday.”
But, “Heaven Help Us All” was a departure from what was a very Pop-oriented catalog thus far. It was much more of a gospel-type song, a bit earthier than the previous rather “sweet” recordings.
Taking A Closer Look
It is interesting to take a closer look at this song talking about heaven, which at the time, many thought was a less commercial effort. Stevie had started to look at the world around him, as had his writers. None seemed particularly happy with it.
Here we have a song where heaven is used in a pleading way with lyrics like “Heaven help the child who never had a home – Heaven help the girl who walks the street alone – Heaven help the roses if the bombs begin to fall – Heaven help us all.”
Perhaps a forerunner to some of his songs about racial injustice like “Living For The City.” “Little” Stevie had become “Grown up” Stevie with a message to the world. And, although the song didn’t perform as well as the previous songs, only making #29 in the UK, “Big Stevie” had arrived.
Heaven by Emeli Sande
Powerful stuff from one of the best voices you may never have heard of. You will find it hard to believe that such a powerful, assured performance, with such a difficult song to sing, was her first single.
This is a song about life after death and considering what it could mean. She talks about how the bad things she has done in her life might affect what could await her if it is real.
If you haven’t heard the track, or the album, then it might be time to take a listen to one of the best songs about heaven. I don’t think you will be disappointed. The song reached #2 in the UK.
Heaven by Bonnie Tyler
Released in 1977, and if we are honest, not her best-recorded work. It is almost a Country song in the way it is arranged and produced. There are little parts where that gravelly voice comes through, but it’s not the best of songs and doesn’t suit her voice or style.
The song was taken from her second album, Natural Force. The song is about a breakdown in a relationship and how what she saw as her heaven is disappearing.
Something Happened on the Way to Heaven by Phil Collins
This is a song Phil Collins wrote with ex-Genesis guitarist Daryl Stuermer and included on the album…But Seriously from 1989.
It is a typical song and production of this period for him. A very commercial song with a good hook, plenty of brass, and an infectious tempo. It is all there. It reached #15 in the UK and #4 in America. The song was originally written for the film “The War of the Roses.”
In the song, Collins uses the expression of heaven to describe the utopian state he believes his marriage and life are in. But then, something goes wrong, and the relationship begins to fall apart. He asks, “How many times must I say I’m sorry?” Indicating that it was him who screwed up.
Pennies From Heaven by Frank Sinatra
Let’s step back in time a little with this track from Frank Sinatra. This is a song originally written in 1936 by Arthur Johnson and Johnny Burke. The original was sung and released by Bing Crosby with the Georgie Stoll orchestra.
It was included in the film of the same name, of which a DVD is available despite its age. Sinatra recorded this memorable song about heaven twice.
The metaphorical use…
Finding pennies from heaven is symbolic of hope for a better life. A man poor and rather down on his luck finds his happiness in the smaller things of life. However, he still has hope for the future.
A Strange Link
Led Zeppelin used several lines from the song in their ‘Dazed and Confused’ track on Led Zeppelin I at times in live performances.
Heaven Can Wait by Meat Loaf
Released in 1977 from the album Bat Out of Hell. The song was written by Jim Steinman. Steinman met Meat Loaf while the latter was working as an actor, and together they produced this album. It has sold more than 43 million copies.
A song that almost wasn’t…
Interestingly, Bat Out Of Hell was rejected by just about every record company because it was moving into new territory they weren’t ready for. It took three years and some help from Bruce Springsteen before it was finally given its chance.
“Heaven Can Wait” is a song that is saying I am not ready to pop off just yet. I have things to do, and I want to do them before that time comes.
He is using the term “heaven” as representative of the end of life rather than for any religious reason or progression. The song was also included on this album, Best Ballads of Meat Loaf.
Three Steps To Heaven by Eddie Cochran
Eddie Cochran was more than just a Rock n Roll icon. He wrote some very good songs that have stayed with us, and this is one of them.
He co-wrote plenty of songs that have become iconic Rock n Roll classics. With Jerry Capehart, he wrote “Summertime Blues” and “C’mon Everybody.” And with his girlfriend, Sharon Sheeley, he wrote “Somethin’ Else.”
Better than Elvis at the time?
Probably. He could play the guitar, and his writing puts him two steps ahead. We will never know how good he could have been.
“Three Steps to Heaven” was released in 1960, the year of his death in a car crash. It went to #1 in the UK posthumously, where he was hugely popular. It failed to chart in America. Buddy Holly’s Crickets played on the track.
A simple, typical early 60s song. It gives instructions on how to find a girl. Lyrically, it is so reminiscent of the time and with heaven being used as a representation of bliss and happiness.
Heaven Is Closed by Willie Nelson
Often a singer to come up with interesting lyrics, “Heaven is Closed” puts forth an interesting concept. He says that heaven is closed and also that hell is overcrowded. On that basis, he wants to stay where he is for the time being.
This is a song that makes you sit down and have a cup of coffee and think about what he’s saying. There are some interesting variations on his theme.
But, he says he isn’t going to get to heaven himself and rules himself out. However, he doesn’t fancy hell, either. It is too full of wicked people. A very clever song lyrically and quite typical of the man.
Heaven Is A Place On Earth by Belinda Carlisle
A huge hit for Belinda Carlisle, it was released in 1987 from her album, Heaven On Earth. It reached #1 in both the UK and America.
She had some serious help on backing vocals…
Michelle Philips from the Mamas and Papas, and daughter, Chynna Philips, who sang with Wilson Phillips. Add on to those two, songwriter Diane Warren. Not a bad lineup.
The song was written by Ellen Shipley and Rick Nowels and became Carlisle’s most successful single. The lyrics talk about creating a piece of heaven here on earth.
She sings about the miracle that is life and how she sees personal happiness as the answer to problems. That is what she wants to create. What the idea of heaven offers everyone.
Heaven by Bryan Adams
Reckless was Bryan Adams’s fourth studio album. It was the album that made people sit up and take notice of this Canadian singer-songwriter. The album came out in 1984 and broke all records, including becoming the first Canadian album to sell more than one million copies in Canada.
“Heaven” was included on the album and was co-written by Adams with another Canadian songwriter Jim Vallance. It was the first track they recorded for Reckless and was composed for the 1983 romantic drama, “A Night in Heaven.” The film didn’t do so well, but the album did.
Back to breaking records…
“Heaven” was one of six singles taken from the album, and all made the Top 15 in America. It reached #38 in the UK and gave him his first #1 in America.
At album meetings, it nearly didn’t get on the album at all. They thought it was out of context with the rest of the songs, which were Rock songs and had a harder edge. Adams changed his mind at the last minute and included it. On reflection a good decision.
The song is about a man singing to his partner and thinking back over the years they have spent together. He is in heaven when he is lying with her in his arms and can’t believe they are still together. An excellent power ballad from one of the voices of the 80s.
You’ll Never Get to Heaven (If You Break My Heart) by Dionne Warwick
From one of the voices of the 80s to possibly the voice of the 60s and 70s, Dionne Warwick. Let’s pause for a little game here. Who wrote this amazing song about heaven? Yes, you guessed it, Burt Bacharach. It seemed whenever you got a great song that she sang, he was usually behind it.
This was released in 1964 from the album, Make Way for Dionne Warwick. It reached #20 in the UK and #24 in America. It had another Bachrach song on the B-side, “A House Is Not a Home.” That song was later released as a single and a big hit in its own right.
This song, though, is a simple enough message using heaven as a kind of gentle punishment. If you let me down, don’t expect to go there, is what she is saying. A great song from a great voice and a lovely lady.
The Eagle and The Hawk by John Denver
John Denver was often thought of by some as just a Country & Western singer who wrote songs about his “Grandma’s Feather Bed.” But that wasn’t really the case.
He did his Country stuff, but he excelled at ballads and songs in other genres with plenty of meaning. One of his most famous songs, of course, was from that field of work. A love song to his then-wife, “Annie’s Song.”
But, there was also a very serious side to Denver, his philosophy on life’s purpose and how we should be. This is no better demonstrated in “The Eagle and the Hawk.” For me, the finest song he ever wrote. It was included in his album, Aerie, released in 1971.
More Than Just A Great Song
The song is outstanding, but there are two elements worth considering. Firstly, the song’s structure as he uses the orchestra to build to its climax at the end.
His guitar is the dominant force in the early stages. But then, the orchestra takes over for an unexpected finale. The tension builds slowly as it reaches its climactic close.
A Different Side To The Public Persona
And secondly, the lyrics portray a different side of him as well. The imagery of the eagle he uses as a symbol for the great things the American public thinks their country has done.
The hawk, with “blood on its feathers,” is a symbol that represents the innocents who America has caused to suffer. No quiet Country Boy lyrics there.
He implores us to “reach for the heavens” to fulfill our potential. And that is why this song is here. Using heaven, not necessarily in the spiritual sense, but as a goal to achieve in our development as human beings.
A Sad Postscript
The song was part of a documentary about the beauty of the flight of these birds. Part of that documentary demonstrated Denver’s skills as a pilot as he soared as the birds did. The tragic flying accident that killed him prevented it from being aired, and it is still in the archives.
Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin
Given the subject matter, I suppose there would have been a few raised eyebrows if I hadn’t finished a list of the best songs about heaven with this. It was released in 1971 and was included on their album, Led Zeppelin IV.
It is an interesting track in that it was one of the most requested songs on the radio and digitally on both sides of the Atlantic. However, it was never released as a single.
It has reached almost cult status and is generally thought of as being one of the Top 5 Rock songs of all time. Not bad for a band that only a few years before were playing to a couple of hundred people jammed into a pub in West London.
There usually is, according to people who spend all day looking for obscure meanings. But I don’t think there are any dark Satanic messages here. It was written while Page and Plant were locked away in Bron-Y-Aur in mountainous North Wales. A land of wizards and witches, we are told.
The song does include a reference to the ‘May Queen,’ which could have something to do with Aleister Crowley’s poem about the burning of witches and witchcraft in general. Crowley was considered to have been a witch as he once said to a friend that he “refused to kneel before the High Priestess.”
All these things are side-issues and detract from the power of the song. Page wrote the original theme about a woman who had everything and yet wasn’t happy and wanted more. “There’s a lady who’s sure all that glitters is gold – And she’s buying a stairway to Heaven.”
In other words, she thinks she can buy her lasting happiness. Her heaven is portrayed as materialistic and not what we should be striving for. But, the song moved on a little from that simple theme.
The song is about us improving as people, but the terminology is buried in myth and legend. Not surprising considering their surroundings at the time.
We can all put forward our thoughts…
But, there is one thing we can all agree on. Its three separate parts join up to make one of the greatest Rock songs ever recorded. We can also agree it’s one of the most successful songs about heaven.
Looking For More Great Songs?
We can help with that. Find out our thoughts on the Best Songs About Magic, the Best Songs About Clouds, the Best Songs About Dreams, the Best Songs About Life, the Best Funeral Songs, and the Best Songs About Having A Baby for more incredible song selections.
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Best Songs About Heaven – Final Thoughts
The word “heaven” is emotive. It can mean different things to different people. And, it can be the cause of problems at times, but we won’t go there. As we can see from these songs, it is a word that can be used in a variety of ways.
But, one emotion it does seem to create is the desire for something better. Whether that is a religious belief or not, we seem to always be hoping for something.
Nothing wrong with that…
As John Denver wrote in his song “The Eagle and the Hawk,” included in this list, “Reach For The Heavens – And Hope For The Future – And All That We Can Be – Not What We Are.”
Whether you believe in the concept of physical heaven or not, if the idea of the expression is hope, then that can only be a good thing.
Until next time, happy listening.