In a world filled with conflict, songs about peace can bring hope and happiness to humanity.
They can also be rockin’ bangers that criticize the status quo and everyone who supports it!
Let’s look at the best songs about peace and what makes them so special.
1. John Mayer – Waiting on the World to Change
Using chord progressions that are often found in blues and soul music, John Mayer penned this song to be a peace anthem for troubled times. It has deep and meaningful lyrics that are even more emotive when performed in Mayer’s rising and falling vocal range. While it addresses serious topics such as political corruption, it’s ultimately a hopeful, uplifting song.
2. Patti Smith – People Have the Power
You might not recognize Patti Smith’s vocals, and that’s okay. She’s a somewhat obscure female singer whose heyday was back in the ’80s. You’ve probably heard her song, though, because it’s been covered by all kinds of socially-conscious artists, including U2 and Bruce Springsteen. It’s a powerful track that’s best delivered at top volume with all of the breath in your lungs: The people have the power!
3. John Lennon – Imagine
“Imagine” is one of the most famous peace songs of all time. With a gentle croon, John Lennon asks listeners to imagine a world without the things that cause division and strife, including war, religion and capitalism. The picture that he paints is a beautiful one, and it’s worth fighting for.
4. Kendrick Lamar – Alright
Kendrick Lamar doesn’t pull punches with his music, and “Alright” is no exception. It’s a raw and hard-hitting rap song about the struggles that he’s faced as an African-American man. The chorus, however, makes it a peace song: Do you hear me, do you feel me? We gon’ be alright. It’s even been adopted as an unofficial anthem for Black Lives Matter.
5. Kenny Chesney – Get Along
Country music is known for its conservative leanings, but in “Get Along,” Kenny Chesney avoids saying anything overly red or blue. Instead, he calls for peace and tolerance from everyone, speaking to the souls of folks who are weary of party lines and are looking for a reminder that everyone is human at the end of the day. We still don’t know what love is but we sure know what it’s not…
6. Jackie DeShannon – Put a Little Love in Your Heart
Think of your fellow man/Lend him a helping hand/Put a little love in your heart. With a warm and friendly message that will put a smile on your face, this song was one of the most popular of old-school musician Jackie DeShannon. You might also be familiar with another one of her tracks…
7. Jackie DeShannon – What the World Needs Now Is Love
You know this song. Everyone knows this song. Few people, however, realize that Jackie DeShannon was its original singer way back in the good old days of 1965. It’s been endlessly covered, remixed and remastered since then, but the first version is still just as awesome as it was five decades ago.
8. Rebelution feat. Lutan Fyah – Good Vibes
When you need a good song for rolling down the car windows and letting the wind whip through your hair, try “Good Vibes.” Not only does it have a funky, beach-ready sound, but its lyrics are a lot deeper than they first appear. They warn against things like hatred and prejudice even as they encourage people to love one another. This is a song that you can toast to with ice-cold beers in the sand.
9. Bruce Springsteen – Land of Hope and Dreams
While this song isn’t explicitly about peace, it has a very peaceful vibe, and it can heal your heart when you’re hurting. It’s about a train that collects lost souls and takes them to a kinder, gentler place: Yeah, leave behind your sorrows/Let this day be the last/Well, tomorrow there’ll be sunshine/And all this darkness past. Bruce Springsteen even calls out people like losers, sinners, wh**es and gamblers to make sure that everyone knows they’re invited.
10. Queen Latifah – U.N.I.T.Y.
Queen Latifah walked so that artists like Cardi B and Nicki Minaj could run. She’s the OG queen of hip-hop, and when you listen to what she’s spitting in this ’90s track, you’ll understand why. She calls out sexism while simultaneously asking all of her sisters to rally behind her to fight the good fight, resulting in a song that celebrates peace while also realizing the necessity of an a** whooping every now and then. Songs about unity are definitely needed in times like these.
11. Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On
Marvin Gaye is best known for smooth love tracks like “Let’s Get It On,” but he could also be serious when the situation required it, like when he witnessed an act of police brutality back in 1971. The end result was “What’s Going On.” You’ve probably heard lots of people attempting to cover it, but no one can do it quite like Marvin.
12. Black Eyed Peas – Where Is the Love?
Written by Justin Timberlake, produced by will.i.am and sung by Fergie, “Where is the Love?” is a star-studded track that absolutely swept the Grammys when it was first released. It was meant to be a post-9/11 song that examined feelings of stress and anxiety, but it came to represent a lot more than that over time.
13. The Cranberries – Zombie
“Zombie” is one of the more depressing songs on this list, but it’s such an iconic anti-war and anti-violence song that it’s been remade over and over again to fit contemporary times. The original was written in 1994 about IRA car bombings, but it’s been modified for everything from the U.S. invasion of Iraq to the Black Lives Matter movement.
14. Alicia Keys – We Are Here
Alicia Keys is the auntie that everyone wishes they could have, so when she sings about the need for peace, love and forgiveness, you feel it like it comes from your own family. Our souls were brought together so that we could love each other…
15. Anti-Flag – 911 for Peace
Isn’t everybody tired of the fighting? It’s a plaintive question, but the song is anything but. It’s a rallying cry for activists, civil servants, peace keepers and anyone else who wants to promote tolerance among different communities. When you see someone down, now is the time to pick ’em up/Set our difference aside and never look back!
16. Michael Jackson – Heal the World
You’ve probably heard this song during dozens of commercials and charity drives, but it’s a classic for a reason. Michael Jackson dropped all flashiness to sing directly from the heart about making the world a better place. It’s a bit cheesy in places, but it’s also real, relatable and heartfelt.
17. Grateful Dead – Ripple
Let there be songs to fill the air sings the vocalist of the Grateful Dead in this gentle, peaceful track. Most of the music comes from the soft strumming of an acoustic guitar, and the band harmonizes in the background as they sing about bringing people together with love and affection through the power of music. It’s a classic from the ’70s, but it withstands the test of time even today.
18. Arcade Fire feat. Mavis Staples – I Give You Power
Another great song for activists, “I Give You Power” has very simple and repetitive lyrics that are ideal for marches. You can easily get a crowd riled up with a refrain like I give you power/But I gotta be free. Despite their call to action, however, they’re 100 percent peaceful.
19. The Impressions – People Get Ready
“People Get Ready” is often mistaken for a gospel song, but while it’s true that there are religious references to be found in the lyrics, its message is broad and wide-encompassing enough to be applied to any sort of rally for peace. It was even used by Dr. Martin Luther King during his protests! It has particular resonance for the African-American community, but anyone can appreciate it.
20. Matisyahu – One Day
While many peace songs are openly critical of war, “One Day” takes a milder approach with wistful lyrics that paint a picture of a softer, kinder world. It sings about a day when people love each other and children are free to play without generational conflicts hanging over their heads. It also acknowledges the fatigue that many activists feel while also encouraging them to keep going!
21. War – Why Can’t We Be Friends?
Released in the summer of 1975, “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” is basically a time capsule to funk music. You could even go as far as saying that it’s groovy. While it’s a bit silly at times, it’s also very happy, positive and peaceful, so it’s a good track for a good day.
22. Lenny Kravitz – We Want Peace
As bold as his signature sunglasses, Lenny Kravitz doesn’t just ask for harmony in the track “We Want Peace.” Instead, he demands it. Lyrics like Come on people/It’s time to get together/It’s time for the revolution! play over an addictive beat that will make you want to listen again and again, and every time, the words will sink in a little deeper.
23. The O’Jays – Love Train
Another song that uses a train as a metaphor for letting go of the past and riding into a new day, “Love Train” is a feel-good track for folks around the world. Literally, it asks “people all over the world” to join hands and start a love train. While it wasn’t made with an anti-war message in mind, it’s been repurposed that way many times since its release. Its international lyrics are just too on-point to pass up.
24. Beyonce and Kendrick Lamar – Freedom
The only thing stronger than Beyonce’s vocals is Kendrick Lamar’s lyrics, and they were paired together with amazing effect in the song “Freedom.” Freedom! Freedom! Where are you? The track speaks to the need for kinship among people while also decrying the lack of it in today’s society. You’ll get chills, and then you’ll hit repeat.
25. U2 – One
You can’t talk about social activism without mentioning Bono, especially since he headlined a song like “One.” It tackles serious issues, but it’s ultimately a hopeful song, and it reminds you that you only have one life, one love and one blood. It’s important to spend it meaningfully.
26. John Legend and The Roots – Hang On in There
When the weight of the world is on your shoulders, you can find hope in a simple assurance that you aren’t alone. This is the message spread by “Hang On in There,” which lives up to its name by offering comfort, peace and serenity to anyone who takes the time to listen.
27. Plastic Ono Band – Give Peace a Chance
Last but not least, you’ve almost certainly heard this track before. All we are saying is give peace a chance. Written by Paul McCartney and performed with Yoko Ono, it’s become one of the most famous anti-war songs in history, and its message still resonates today. You can find the original version under the name “Plastic Ono Band.”
These are just a few songs about peace that can act as everything from rallying cries to gentle reassurances for broken-hearted souls. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter who you are or why you’re listening. Peace is a message for everyone.