Songs have a fantastic way to help us effectively deal with a situation. It’s not surprising that after the terrorist attack in New York at the World Trade Center on 11th September 2001, various artists would compose songs about the day. Below are some of these songs about 9/11:
1. “Grand Central Station” – Mary Carpenter
This terrorist attack did not only affect the people who were in the tower and their loved ones, but most people who saw it as well. This song is based on Mary’s interview about how the attack affected an ironworker and immediately started writing the song, which she finished in 3 days.
As he worked, he left his workstation; he felt as if there were lost souls that wanted to go with him, and they yearned to find rest. Grand Central Station is understandable because it brings out the hopelessness most of us felt as the twin towers came tumbling down.
Grand Central Station is an essential and integral part of the profitable business opportunities in the city. Some people have argued that the trains not only ferry people to and from the hectic city life but they represent an escape. These significances have been aired and heavily modeled into the songs about 9/11.
2. “When The World Stopped Turning” – Alan Jackson
The tragedy is a significant life event and carries many different emotions. In some cases, disaster brings out different emotions from sadness, horror, and even anger. This song is an acknowledgment that it is not always easy to put a specific emotion to bad events, more so when there are many feelings involved.
In the song, we are reassured that other people are as we are, confused about what to feel and that it is okay to have questions without exact answers. When the September 11 attacks happened, people were in different places, doing different things. He attributes these differences to why people had mixed emotions.
The attack caused disbelief for many people who were not at the scene but watched it happen on TV or listened through the radio. The songs about 9/11 bring about a surreal state of mind for people all around America on that day.
The song was first debuted on 7th November 2001 at the annual Country Music Associations awards and won awards, including a Grammy Award for Jackson.
3. “America Rocks” – Monty Milne
There were many conspiracies surrounding what caused the attack and what factors might have contributed to it. There were many theories, and some of them have been discussed in this song. The song’s essence is to show how major historical events, especially assassinations and bombings, need not continue to happen.
As with most songs that touch on sensitive matters, some people have felt that the correlation between 9/11 and other political-related tragedies was not appropriate. The heart of this song is how misfortunes change us.
Despite the intense criticism this song has garnered, people still resonate with it because of how America is portrayed as strong and resilient even in times of unspeakable hurt and terror.
4. “Have You Forgotten” – Darryl Worley
This song has been open to various interpretations and has elicited reactions and controversies over the years. Some news and publications have suggested that this song touches on the connection between then Iraq presidents, Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden, who took credit for the terrorist attack.
The other theories revolve around how the song is about being ready for war and how the government was for it. With many thoughts about the song, the artist maintained that people have been reading too much into the song. He explains that people should take the song’s lyrics at face value. People need to remember what happened on that day as a reference point for future political decisions.
Darryl has a personal connection to songs about 9/11 because he has family members and friends in the military that have done tours in Afghanistan. His qualms were on how quickly the media was downplaying a significant historical tragedy and how everyone seemed to move on hastily after a short while.
5. “Around My Way” – Talib Kweli
Talib’s message with this song was to appreciate the firefighters and police officers who lost their lives as they tried to rescue people after the bombing. He also expresses the anguish and anger that people felt against the perpetrator of the attacks, especially Osama Bin Laden.
The artist shows how Americans were united and sympathized with each other after the attack to give the song a more positive note. The song also tells how frustrated people felt because they could not help and could only stand by and watch in horror and disbelief. This song became engraved in people’s hearts and memories due to the empathy it portrayed for the lives lost.
6. “Empire State of Mind” – Jay-Z ft. Alicia Keys
From the first lyric of this song, it is easy to tell that it speaks to the strength and epic comeback of New York. The song’s message is heavily pegged on how the city bounced back stronger and unabashed despite the attack.
Despite the triumph theme of the song, there is a moment where you can hear the desperate screams. These signify what people in the tower must have felt as they tried to flee without much success. The song ends with a victorious note, which gives hope for better and brighter days for the dwellers and those who lost their loved ones in the attack.
Angela Hunte initially wrote the song. Later, Alicia Keys released a solo remix to the song, citing that she wanted to talk about her connection to New York City.
The song gained momentum as it reminded people of how strong and capable the city was to rise again from the ashes.
7. “On The Transmigration of Souls” – John Adams
This is one of the more hopeful songs about the attack. From the song’s title, you can quickly tell that the composer hoped to provide peace to those left behind by the people who passed on as the buildings fell.
John Adams has explained that the song represents the transition of souls when people pass on. The time that people take as they go through the motions and deal with the heartbreak and sorrow also represents transmission to a better and more healing space.
The emotions behind this song are heavy and widely felt by many people. The instruments did not disappoint to bring the points across.
8. “Sky Is Falling” – Lifehouse
This is a more reminiscent song of how some people seemed to move on faster and get back to their routine after the attack. This piece was written by Jason Wade immediately after the bombing and has been linked heavily to the song.
What echoes throughout this song is the obliviousness of people who are still on the move without paying much significance to tragedies that do not affect them directly. The band cites that some people carried on with their daily work and money making activities even after the towers fell.
9. “Harbour” – Moby ft. Sinead O’Connor
The interesting fact about this song is that it was written in 1984 by Moby when he was just nineteen. However, the vibe and lyrics felt very closely related to the events of 11th September that Sinead recorded the song in London, as she dreaded to fly to New York at the time.
There is a strange and unsettled feeling to this track, which Moby had intended elicit. He speaks about the restlessness people felt after the attack and how the streets were filled with lost souls seeking a way home.
10. “Hole in the Sky” – Juliana Hatfield
Hole in the Sky has a more literal meaning to it. The towers were quite significant buildings, and after they came tumbling down, there was a vacuum left in the skyline. Juliana did express her fears of flying and even being in New York after the attack. This song is relatable because most people felt unsafe in the Big Apple after and had more anxiety and reservations about flying.
Critics have said that the song describes a stage in the grieving process where one is delicate and easily triggered by tragic events even after they happen. This song easily pierces your soul and will bring tears to your eyes as the lyrics leave you feeling deprived and sad.
11. “Makeshift Patriot” – Sage Francis
The media coverage of the attack was also heavily criticized by some people. Here we see the feeling of outright rage and condemnation for how various news platforms decided to air this tragedy. Each verse showcases how callous and unfeeling some of the scenes’ clips were and how they shaped the wrong narrative for people watching it.
Francis wrote this song after visiting Ground Zero after the attack, only to find that five days after the terror attack, he observed the media showcasing the less important details.
The private video clips from the rubble made the song even more popular and further portrayed the lack of objectivity from the media.
As the Head Editor and Writer at Music Grotto, Liam helps write and edit content produced from professional music/media journalists and other contributing writers. He works closely with journalists and other staff to format and publish music content for the Music Grotto website. Liam is also the founding member of Music Grotto and is passionate in disseminating editorial content to its readers.
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