Now, here is a subject with a good example of the use of a word that has been corrupted. So what is a “hero”? I don’t want to be a killjoy, but it isn’t some strange individual with a cape or someone who is dressed up like a spider.
It isn’t someone who flies around the world in seconds or saves entire cities from destruction or any of those things. What started as a bit of fun for kids in Marvel comics and the like has taken over some people. And to such an extent, they see some form of extended reality in them.
- Do We Have Heroes Today… Real Ones?
- How Do You Define A Hero?
- We Don’t Need Another Hero (Thunderdome) – Tina Turner
- Wind Beneath My Wings – Bette Midler
- My Hero – Foo Fighters
- Holding Out for a Hero (From “Footloose” Soundtrack) – Bonnie Tyler
- No More Heroes – The Stranglers
- Heroes & Friends – Randy Travis
- Heroes And Villains – The Beach Boys
- The Hurricane – Bob Dylan
- Billy, Don’t Be A Hero – Paper Lace
- Heroes – David Bowie
- Not All Heroes Wear Capes – Owl City
- Working Class Hero – John Lennon
- Looking for Songs With Message?
- Songs About Heroes – Final Thoughts
Do We Have Heroes Today… Real Ones?
Yes, we do, and they often come from the unlikeliest of places. The “real” heroes are just ordinary people. They can be doctors, nurses, firefighters, and even policemen. The men and women who go into the most dangerous of places for us.
They could be our parents too. Even our friends who might help us more than we might ever appreciate.
How Do You Define A Hero?
Well, you don’t need to be running around carrying an assault rifle or any other weapon. We have those, of course, but heroism goes a lot deeper than that. Bravery isn’t measured as we more often than not like to portray it.
Courage doesn’t need to be advertised; it is just there in some people. It isn’t hard to see why there are plenty of songs about heroism.
So, this is a collection of songs about heroes who don’t wear tights or a cape or carry silly gadgets. In other words, the real heroes who just make people’s lives better if they can.
We Don’t Need Another Hero (Thunderdome) – Tina Turner
A clever song written by Terry Britten and Graham Lyle, it is the 1985 single soundtrack to a Mad Max film, but that is irrelevant. The message goes a lot deeper than that. In the movie, it is descriptive of a battle arena, in real life, a totally different meaning.
It has plenty of symbolism and represents the lack of freedoms and the perceived oppression that a certain group of people still suffer. A group of people to whom Tina herself is inextricably linked.
She is saying they don’t need any more ‘heroes’ to save them. They have had enough in the past. They don’t need any new ideologies to get real freedom, and the answer lies within yourself. In that way, everyone becomes the hero.
Wind Beneath My Wings – Bette Midler
Another great work full of symbolism in this song from Bette Midler. It was written by Larry Henley and Jeff Silbar and was voted song of the year for 1990.
This is a song that represents exactly what I was referring to earlier. It is a song symbolic of the hero we never see, the one that makes things happen. Not looking for recognition or reward; they are just there when they are needed.
Henley and Silbar used the vision of the eagle that gets all the glory. But how is it that the eagle can fly? With the wind beneath its wings. Without the wind, the eagle could not do as much. The wind is described beautifully as the unseen hero that works away unnoticed to let others.
My Hero – Foo Fighters
I am not sure that Dave Grohl and I have too many things in common. However, there is something we both agree on. Neither of us has any time for the hero-worship of celebrities. What is a “YouTube Influencer” anyway? Is it someone that people follow because they can’t think for themselves?
This Foo Fighters song does just what it needs to. It is a song about unsung heroes. Those who don’t blow their own trumpet. The ones who aren’t conveniently photographed when they think they have done something of note. The everyday man and woman.
A Clever Video
The video that goes with the song had a clever idea. It shows a young man retrieving items from his burning house. The video ensures that the man’s face is never seen. That offers the implication that real heroes are unseen and often unknown.
Dave might ask the question: what is a musical celebrity? They are just musicians, no more, no less. Certainly not “heroes,” not “real” ones anyway. We would agree on that.
Holding Out for a Hero (From “Footloose” Soundtrack) – Bonnie Tyler
A track recorded for the film Footloose by the Welsh singer, it isn’t too difficult to work out who produced it. Jim Steinman, of course, and he co-wrote it as well. She included it on her sixth studio album.
A powerful song and probably one of the best hero songs. It shares a lot of similarities with a Steinman song, “Stark Raving Love,” from his solo album. Plenty of power and a typical performance from a powerful and much-underrated singer.
No More Heroes – The Stranglers
This is a song from one of what you might call ‘the unknown bands.’ The Stranglers came out of the punk scene in the UK but weren’t really a punk band at all. They were formed in a rather well-to-do Guildford in Surrey and certainly bore the hallmarks of the punk scene.
But their songs were more insightful and well-crafted. They had over 20 UK top 40 singles and also had 19 top 40 albums. Somehow, in the mainstream, they managed to stay under the radar.
This is a typical song of theirs lamenting the fact that all their heroes have gone. Interesting choice of heroes indeed, which includes Leon Trotsky, and Lenny Bruce. But then given the first two an unlikely one in William Shakespeare.
Heroes & Friends – Randy Travis
An American Country song with a difference. This was a big 1990 hit for Randy Travis and moves away from the more recognized Country themes to talk about heroes and friends.
The song says there are just two things that you will always have. You will have your heroes, and you will have your friends. Our heroes show us how to find those things that are for the good inside us. Our friends will be people that will always be there for us.
Heroes And Villains – The Beach Boys
This song came out in 1967 and was at a time when there were plenty of internal heroes and villains inside the Beach Boys. You could write a book about this one, oh sorry, there is one, it is called “Heroes and Villains.”
It was four years before Pete Townshend had his struggles with his “Lifehouse” project. Something that was ditched and became the album Who’s Next. “Heroes and Villains” first saw the light of day as part of another aborted attempt at a project.
Brian Wilson, this time was struggling with his project he called “Smile.” Just like Townshend years later, the project was ditched and became an album called Smiley Smile.
The Brains Behind The Surf…
They all contributed in their own way, of course. But, Brian Wilson had always been the brains behind the Beach Boys. Of course, some members resented that. But you only have to look at his musical contributions as a writer, arranger, and producer.
At the time of this song, Wilson was going through a nervous breakdown. He heard voices in his head and called them his heroes and villains. It is a song that rambles through early California history. Taking in the Spanish, the Mexicans, and the Native American tribes that have inhabited the place.
It was a song where there were so many discarded takes that you could probably have completed an album. It was a time when he was very unsettled as to what he was doing. But his heroes and villains somehow helped to keep him sane, despite everything else.
The Hurricane – Bob Dylan
Of course, most of us know the story of Reuben ‘Hurricane’ Carter, jailed for nearly 20 years for a murder he didn’t commit. Acknowledged now as racially motivated corruption of an alleged justice system.
Dylan was just one of those who started to get things done for him. And this song was a driving force to push for justice. Making it one of the great songs about heroes and certainly one of the best songs about injustice and heroes.
Dylan acknowledges that Carter was one of his heroes in life. Wondering how a man could stay true to himself in the face of such bigotry.
It Took Another Ten Years
“The Hurricane” and the album Desire came out in 1976. A full ten years before Carter was released in 1986.
This is Dylan at his accusing best. Ripping it out of a system that was stacked against justice from the beginning. Easy to see why Dylan views Carter as a hero.
Billy, Don’t Be A Hero – Paper Lace
Back in time now to the 70s, with a song that sounds a bit cheesy but has another side to it. This song is often associated more with Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods in the US.
But, it was originally recorded some months before by Paper Lace in 1974 and became their first UK hit. It was written by Mitch Murray and Peter Callender, two British songwriters.
I knew the band quite well, having worked with them on several occasions. And while on this track, they sounded a bit cheesy, they were a lot better than that as a band. Given the right songs, they would have gone further. But this was a 1974 release, and we all know what that means.
Vietnam was drawing to its sorry conclusion, and it was thought it was about that. It wasn’t. The war is not identified in the lyrics because it applies to all wars. The band was told to wear American Civil war uniforms for TV on Top of the Pops, despite their complaints. It wasn’t about that either.
A Common Tale
An all too common story of a mother, wife, or lover waving off a young man who thinks he is going to be a hero. One day she gets the letter saying he has been killed. She throws it away. Another life needlessly wasted. Another hero is gone.
Heroes – David Bowie
This is a 1977 single release by David Bowie and was included on his 1986 album Labyrinth. It was later used in the film “Lost In Translation” in 2003.
Bowie co-wrote the song with Brian Eno during a period synonymous with the Cold War. It is a song that uses the love of two people as a symbol of resistance against oppression. It has true to life meaning with the ‘Bowie inner circle,’ but we won’t go into that.
With each decade that passed, Bowie seemed to be able to transform himself into something else. A ‘musical chameleon’ if you like. This was a big record from one of those phases.
Not All Heroes Wear Capes – Owl City
Yes, my sentiments exactly. I would go a stage further and say none of them do. This is a song with a different subject matter and just had to be included.
It is about a hero that many of us have had in our lives. Someone we respect and look up to. Who is always there, no matter what. And someone who gives us guidance and strength. And someone who provides for us as we grow before we take on the mantle and return the gift they gave.
The message of this song about everyday heroes is summed up in two great lines. “Some folks don’t believe in heroes, Cause they haven’t met my dad.”
Working Class Hero – John Lennon
It is well-documented that John Lennon had a difficult childhood. A merchant seaman father that was rarely there, and a working-class mother who was also hardly around. He was raised by Aunt Mimi, who was not working-class but quite comfortably off.
So this ideal “working-class hero” label, the poor misguided soul that romantics try to apply to John, didn’t fully exist. He had his tough times, so did a lot of people in that period. But it wasn’t as hard as some try to make out.
What the observers fail to acknowledge is that he grew up in post-war Liverpool. It was what you might call ‘rough’ and ‘poor’ at that time, as were a lot of other places. Some of it still is. A lot of the people that write this stuff have never even been to Liverpool. How would they know?
Not really; it is just John demonstrating general contempt for the system. A system that he was fortunate enough to bypass but that others have to try and survive in. A system that expects you to know your place and stay there.
He never considered himself a hero at all, so how could it be autobiographical. However, it remains a testament to the great man and worthy of its place as the last song on this list of songs about heroes.
Are there working-class heroes? Plenty of them. Toiling away in their everyday lives. Scratching out an existence for them and their families. Doing some good wherever and whenever they can. And not one of them wears a cape.
Looking for Songs With Message?
We can help with that. Take a look at our detailed articles on the Best Songs about Fighting, the Best Songs About Walking, the Best Songs About Change, the Best Songs About Dreams, the Best Songs About Friendship, and the Best Songs about Friday for more great song ideas.
You need to listen to these songs. Check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Headphones for Music, the Most Comfortable Headphones, the Best Sound Quality Earbuds, the Best Noise Isolating Earbuds, the Loudest Portable Bluetooth Speakers, and the Best Tailgate Speakers you can buy in 2023.
Songs About Heroes – Final Thoughts
Heroism can be measured in a variety of ways. But it is always about giving and not taking. And self-appreciation has no part in it.
As we can see, songwriters have expressed the value of it in many ways, all of them are valid. Who has made a difference in your life? Maybe they are your hero.