Through the ages, music has been cited as having many great powers. Music can entertain, enlighten, teach, and unite. It also can pay homage to something or someone who deserves it.
Most people associate music with celebration…
But, it can also be associated with remembrance and tribute. The attacks of September 11 left not only a scar on the United States but on the entire world. Now, more than two decades later, we are still affected by that sad day.
Many artists have decided to lend their talents to the making of tunes that help us to remember, pay tribute, and to heal. These songs take on an extra dimension of meaning due to their association with that fateful day.
Here are some of the most memorable songs about 9/11. They are in no particular order or ranking.
Top 50 Songs About 9/11
God Bless This Mess by Sheryl Crow
This song is not about the day itself. But this track does contain some very true commentary on the war that the United States entered after 9/11.
The song speaks about the lingering pain that was not even properly processed before hundreds of thousands of men started shipping out to the Middle East. Compassion and peacefulness are often virtues in times when anger and pain are easy options.
This track challenges us and asks whether we chose anger and pain over compassion and hope for healing. “The smoke covered the city – And the body count did rise – The president spoke words of comfort – With tears in his eyes – Then he led us as a nation – Into a war all based on lies, oh.”
America by Imagine Dragons
Album: It’s Time
This heartfelt song dedicated to 9/11 comes from the tail end of Imagine Dragons’ seminal album. It is an endearing tribute to the unwilling sacrifices made on the day of 9/11. But also the thousands of willing sacrifices that were made afterward.
The song also speaks to the resilience of Americans in the face of such a great travesty. This track should give some hope to any American who feels empty. And it should also make you proud to be American since you know no matter what, the USA will survive.
Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning) by Alan Jackson
Jackson won his first Grammy with “Where Were You?” It was the lead single from his tenth studio offering and is a mostly apolitical expression of his sincere thoughts. Almost every person I’ve asked can remember where they were and what they were doing when the towers fell.
Simple things often unlock complex emotions. And that’s undoubtedly the case with what has become one of Jackson’s greatest songs ever.
For those who lived through this loss, this song gave a way to move on without ever forgetting. And because of that, it’s one of the most memorable songs about September 11th.
Grand Central Station by Mary Chapin Carpenter
Album: Between Here and Gone
A song with a very humble inspiration from one of Carpenter’s best records. Many of the most profound stories from 911 were not just from survivors and witnesses, but from workers who had to clean up and rebuild afterward.
Someone who has worked at Grand Central told Carpenter of his compulsion to revisit the site. He felt he could somehow help lost souls find their way by helping them take the train. From that interaction, this remarkable tune was born.
9/11 by Wyclef Jean (feat. Mary J. Blige)
Album: The Ecleftic -2 Sides II A Book
The Hip-Hop and R&B world had many responses to the September 11 attacks, some more aggressive than others. This offering by Wyclef and Blige stood out due to its sincerity and message.
Sure, lots of people were angry. And many of them would later become angrier. But, for many, the biggest challenge was dealing with the pain and grief.
This was a task that once may have seemed impossible. However, songs like this one remind folks that they are still here and there’s enough left to keep on living for.
Into the Fire by Bruce Springsteen
Album: The Rising
Firefighters were among the workers who experienced some of the worst horrors in the wake of the September 11th attacks. They had to circumvent debris to reach those who had passed. Although, living souls were also found, which made the grueling work that much nobler and worth continuing.
Bruce wrote this incredible track, as he did many of his others, using the power of story. In this case, it’s told from the perspective of a firefighter’s wife during the events of 9/11.
It’s a track that will always retain its power to inspire remembrance. As a result, it’s often cited as one of the best songs about 9/11.
Sacrificed Sons by Dream Theater
Dream Theater has always been visceral in its sonic imagery. And, with “Sacrificed Sons,” they used audio samples obtained from 9/11 coverage. Needless to say, it makes for a gut-wrenching listen. But it’s also what makes it a stirring musical tribute to the 9/11 attacks.
The song speaks to the senselessness of dying for things like extreme ideologies. The sacrifices made, when weighed up against what has been gained, sometimes seem a waste.
Why? by Jadakiss (feat. Anthony Hamilton)
Album: Kiss of Death
Hip-Hop has always been known for controversial themes and criticism of the “establishment.” This track is no exception. Despite rumors about this song and a certain ex-president’s involvement in the events of 9/11, the track asks some very important questions.
There are close to a hundred questions posed in this song. Many of them have to do with social, economical, and political realities which have been around long before September 11th. When viewed as an inquiry, this track can make you think about things differently for a change.
The Rising by Bruce Springsteen
Album: The Rising
Written as a sort of bookend to the album’s earlier narrative “Into The Fire,” “The Rising” tells the opposite end of the story. The track won Grammy awards for Best Rock Song and Best Male Rock Vocal Performance.
A firefighter needs to climb one of the towers after it has hit and before the collapse. The image of having to ascend into black smoke and fire for an uncertain fate to save folks you don’t even know is a powerful one.
Politik by Coldplay
Album: A Rush of Blood To The Head
“Politik” was written on 9/11 and recorded two days later. It is a hard and heavy song inspired by 9/11 that stands out on the album. Not many other Coldplay songs have such a rawness to the sound.
The act of putting those emotions on tape also evoked other feelings for lead singer Chris Martin who said, “Just hit our instruments as loudly as possible and dispensed with the idea of fragility. Not to waste the potential missed opportunity of living in the now.”
We can’t argue with the wisdom of such an argument, nor with the beauty of such a track. It’s a fitting ode to one of the most historic and horrific days in American History.
Exodus Damage by John Vanderslice
Album: Pixel Revolt
Another track with some less-than-favorable commentary and a few strange questions to ask. This time from a different animal but with much the same attitude. Why did things take so long to happen after the hijackings took place? Why wasn’t the world’s most advanced Air Force able to stop an airplane hijacking in one of their major cities?
While the wisdom of beating one’s head about matters like these may be questioned, it’s still valuable to know that it’s there to wonder about.
Around My Way by Talib Kweli (feat. John Legend)
Album: The Beautiful Struggle
This is Talib and John’s tribute to the policemen, firefighters, medical personnel, and everyone else who gave so much during those trying times during and after the attacks. These were figures of calm and order when most people had no idea what to do and were frozen in place. Furthermore, it relates to how this tragedy helped Americans to come together.
The song is not only a testament to horrors that we pray never happen again, but to the resilience of the American spirit to survive this crisis as it did. Talib and John’s message will endure along with the memory of those who will never be forgotten.
Empire State of Mind by Jay-Z (feat. Alicia Keys)
Album: The Blueprint 3
A multi-platinum, Grammy award-winning smash hit that is a celebration of New York. The city where some of the greatest, and one of the saddest things ever occurred. The track contains a few moments of silence for those who were lost during the attacks.
If you’re feeling down, then this track is perfect for getting your mood into much better shape. The Big Apple took a knock, but it’s not going to be eaten that easily. I especially recommend the music video, which was shot at various locations in the greatest city in the world.
I Can’t See New York by Tori Amos
Album: Scarlet’s Walk
Amos’ concept album is a metaphorical representation of a journey undertaken by the character Scarlet (Amos, society, a whole Nation).
The part that sees Scarlet flying over the city of New York during 9/11 was inspired in part by Amos’ own experience of having been in the city on the 11th of September 2001.
Scarlet is unable to view the beautiful city due to all the smoke hanging over it. A line that evokes an image as vivid as it is terrifying.
World Trade Center by 40 Cal.
The Day the World Turned Day-Glo by X-Ray Spex
Have You Forgotten? by Darryl Worley
Towers by Bonobo
Let’s Roll by Neil Young
New York State of Mind by Billy Joel
Love Comes Tumbling by U2
It’s Okay by Eminem
The Ballad of Todd Beamer by The Dreadnoughts
New York Minute by Don Henley
Stuck In A Moment You Can’t Get Out Of by U2
What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love and Understanding by Elvis Costello
Broken by Seether (feat. Amy Lee)
11th September by Subhumans
The Spirit of America by John Philip Sousa
Stars and Stripes of Corruption by Dead Kennedys
I Hope You Dance by Lee Ann Womack
Patriot’s Dream by Arlo Guthrie
The Human Touch by Bruce Springsteen
This is Where I Belong by Bryan Adams
Mourning in America by Sage Francis
America the Beautiful by Ray Charles
In Memoriam by Paul McCartney
Ashes and Fire by Ryan Adams
The Rising Tide by Sunny Day Real Estate
All These Things That I’ve Done by The Killers
September Song by Frank Sinatra
Towers of Faith by Bruce Springsteen
World on Fire by Sarah McLachlan
The Light In Your Eyes by LeAnn Rimes
American Remains by The Highwaymen
Bombs Away by B.O.B
WTC View by The Feelies
Broken Wings by Alter Bridge
The Future Soon by Jonathan Coulton
Have You Seen My Son? by Benjamin Gibbard
Want to Find More Music About Overcoming Adversity?
If so, take a look at our detailed articles on the Best Songs About Not Giving Up, the Best Songs About Heroes, the Best Songs about Fighting, the Best Songs About Soldiers, the Best Songs About Bravery, and the Best American Patriotic Songs for more inspiring song selections.
Also, you’ll need to listen to them. So, check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Headphones for Music, the Best Headphones for Hip-Hop, the Best Headphones For Rock & Metal Music, the Best Wireless Bluetooth Headphones, as well as the Best Headphones Under $200 you can buy in 2023.
Songs About 9/11 – Final Thoughts
The American people endured an unforgettable horror in New York on September the 11th, 2001. They survived that crisis and rose from the ashes. And the fact that the greatest city in the world is still standing and thriving is proof of this.
If you are unable to visit New York, then you could listen to one of these 9/11 songs. They are as solid a monument to the US and NYC as any of the buildings are.
Until next time, always remember, and happy listening.