40 Best Songs About Change and Transformation

“The only constant in life is change,” said Greek Philosopher Heraclitus over 2000 years ago. It’s true: society is changing. We’re changing. So it’s no surprise that there are so many great songs about change. Here’s our pick of the best.


“The Times They Are-a-Changin” by Bob Dylan

If there’s one undisputed song about change, it has to be the classic The Times They Are-a-Changin by Bob Dylan. The civil rights movement of the 1960s served as inspiration for the writing of this folk anthem for change, but it is about any constructive social change. The song suggests rapid change is happening right now, and you’d “better start swimmin’, or you’ll sink like a stone.” The night after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Dylan opened up his concert with this song.

“Changes” by David Bowie

We know the late, great David Bowie as a superstar with his various incarnations (e.g. Ziggy Stardust, The Thin White Duke). Rewind back to the ’60s, Bowie was a struggling artist who was better known for his novelty songs such as The Laughing Gnome more than anything else. But success needs its fair share of failures, and Bowie kept going despite all the fluffed attempts at finding his groove. His classic 1971 album Hunky Dory was his breakthrough, with the first track ‘Changes’ the opener. The song is deeply autobiographical and gives us a glimpse into how desperate things had become.

“A million dead-end streets and, every time I thought I’d got it made, it seemed the taste was not so sweet”

It’s quite reassuring to know even Bowie had a hard time catching a break. Another central theme of the song is about societal roles changing (much like in Dylan’s track above). Bowie sings, “and these children that you spit on as they try to change their worlds, are immune to your consultations. They’re quite aware of what they’re goin’ through”.

“Imagine” by John Lennon

Lennon’s landmark post-Beatles song Imagine might not instantly spring to mind when you think of songs about change, but when you read the lyrics, it totally is. It’s a call to action to live a different, better life. “Imagine no possessions, it’s easy if you try.” The words were inspired by Yoko Ono’s 1964 book Grapefruit, with surrealist concepts such as “imagine the clouds dripping, dig a hole in your garden to put them in” (incidentally, the same is written on the back of the Imagine album cover). Lennon said the song is “anti-religious, anti-nationalistic, anti-conventional, anti-capitalistic… but because it is sugar-coated, it is accepted.”

“Redemption Song” by Bob Marley

Much of Bob Marley’s phenomenal body of work was about overcoming oppression. None more so than his beautiful Redemption Song. The last single before his untimely death in 1981, it’s one of the best freedom songs ever written with a clear message: “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery. No one but ourselves can free our minds.”

“Man in the Mirror” by Michael Jackson

A socially conscious pop song from the king of pop, Michael Jackson. It’s a cleverly written song about the suffering and cruelty of the world, but it goes deeper than that. The song reminds us the only way you can create a better world is to change yourself first. In the opening verse, it depicts the rich person “As I turn up the collar on my favorite winter coat”. The same person then sees “the kids in the streets, with not enough to eat, who am I to be blind? pretending not to see their needs”.

“What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye

When Marvin Gaye turned political in the ’70s, it was quite a turning point. With the album What’s Going On, and especially the title track, he took it upon himself to challenge the establishment. While people were glued to the TV watching the moon landings, Gaye questioned the validity of spending public money to send men to the moon. “Mindless moonshots, spend it on, the have-nots.” He took on the taxman: “Money, we make it, before we see it, you take it.” He took on war”…” “bills pile up, sky-high, send that boy off, to die.” And law and order: “Crime is increasing, trigger happy policing.” His solution is to embrace love: “We’ve got to find some loving here today.”

“All Things Must Pass” by George Harrison

All Things Must Pass is another great song about change (and indeed one of the best songs about life), where you see George’s Buddhist teachings shine through. He reflects that life is fleeting (“sunrise doesn’t last all morning, a cloudburst doesn’t last all day”) and that nothing lasts forever (“none of life’s strings can last, so I must be on my way and face another day.”) It was written about the death of his mother (which is documented in his biography Dark Horse), but there are also references to relationships going wrong, “Seems my love is up and has left you with no warning, but it’s not always going to be this grey.” It’s hard not to read the end of The Beatles too.

“Change the World” by Eric Clapton

A close friend and peer of Harrison, Eric Clapton has a great song about change too. Clapton had a really difficult time with his mother, who basically disowned him and when they did finally meet, shunned him. It’s amazing then that he went on to become the legend he is today – it’s one of the reasons that makes him such a legend in my book.

He sing, “If I could be king, even for a day, I’d take you as my queen, I’d have it no other way. “But alas, it’s all out of reach: “I would be the sunlight in your universe, You would think my love was really something good, Baby, if I could change the world.” It’s sad. But one assumes the life of a veteran touring musician makes it hard for him to fall in love.

“Waiting On The World To Change” by John Mayer

John Mayer’s brilliant Waiting On The World To Change is a modern-day protest song about disenfranchised young people and the lack of trust they have in the establishment. “Me and all my friends, we’re all misunderstood, they say we stand for nothing and, there’s no way we ever could”

He criticizes war: “Now if we had the power, to bring our neighbors home from war, they would have never missed a Christmas.” He has a dig at the media: “And when you trust your television, what you get is what you got, cause when they own the information, oh they can bend it all they want.” But he laments that positive change is frustrating, and how it’s hard to beat the system. The good news is “one day our generation is gonna rule the population,” but for now, they just need to wait for the world to change.

“Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac / Dixie Chicks

A song that’s more recently been covered by the Dixie Chicks, Landslide is a Fleetwood Mac song written by vocalist Stevie Nicks.

At the time of writing, Nicks and her partner Lindsay Buckingham had just been dropped by Polydor Records. She wrote the song in a friend’s Colorado home as she looked out across the snow-covered mountains. She’s recorded to have said, “My life truly felt like a landslide in many ways.”

The song tells a story about how messy life can get, and when you question if you can handle it “Can I handle the seasons of my life?.” It’s also the end of the tumultuous relationship she had with Buckingham which is in its final act “But time makes you bolder, even children get older, and I’m getting older, too”

“A Change (Would Do You Good)” by Sheryl Crow

One of the most popular songs about change, A Change (Would Do You Good) juxtaposes a mix of images to highlight the changes needed in their lives. The first verse is about producer Bill Bottrell, who walked out of the session prior to recording. The second verse is reported to be about Madonna “Canine, feline, Jekyll and Hyde, wear your fake fur on the inside.” The final verse about herself “Hello it’s me, I’m not at home, if you’d like to reach me, leave me alone.”

“A Change Is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke

Sam Cooke heard Dylan’s song Blowing in the Wind and thought it was high time the black community produced some protest songs. The result was A Change is Gonna Come, which became an anthem for the American Civil Rights Movement. “I go to the movie, and I go downtown, somebody keep telling me, don’t hang around.” It was later covered by Otis Redding, but many people favor this Sam Cooke version.

“Everybody’s Changing” by Keane

One of the most underrated bands of recent years, Keane electro-pop is in fine fettle here with Everybody’s Changing. There’s a weariness in the lyrics, “trying to make a move just to stay in the game, I try to stay awake and remember my name, everybody’s changing, and I don’t feel the same”

“Everything Has Changed” by Taylor Swift ft. Ed Sheeran

Pop star Taylor Swift allegedly wrote this duet with Ed Sheeran while sitting on a trampoline (for some portions of the song, they were bouncing around!)…however strange that sounds, it worked because they ended up with a pretty good song. It’s a song about the change that happens within you when you meet ‘that certain someone’ for the first time. All of a sudden your entire perspective on the world changes. It’s a song about meeting someone new and wanting to know that person better. You only just met this person “18 hours ago,” and suddenly everything has changed. Know that feeling?

“11:59” by Michael Franti & Spearhead ft. Sonna Rele

Some say Michael Franti is the closest thing we have to a modern-day Bob Marley. His music is quite a bit different from the Upsetter, but his fervent determination to sing about positive social change is very Marley-esque. The multi-talented Franti is a musician, poet, documentarian, and social justice activist all rolled into one. His music is a brilliant mix of hip-hop, funk, rock, reggae, and jazz. In this song, he says “Life’s a cord plugged in, the whole world’s sick” with “philosophies that divide us.” He urges us to come together and make it better “One love, one blood, one heart, one soul, and one drum and only one rhythm.”

“Change” by Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift, now a global superstar, was once signed to a small Nashville label and recorded the song “Change” for a 2008 album to raise funds for Olympic athletes. The song discusses the inevitability of change and the need for strength to endure it. The song concludes with a message of celebration and resilience, emphasizing the importance of remaining true to yourself and emerging stronger from challenges.

“Changing Of The Seasons” by Two Door Cinema Club

This number uses the metaphor of changing seasons to represent the inevitability of change in life. The song’s lyrics convey a message of accepting change and living in the present. The lyrics depict the singer’s realization of moving on from his past relationship, attributing it to the changing seasons.

“Change” by Christina Aguilera

This ballad promotes unity and positive change in the world. The singer expresses a desire for a world filled with hope, authenticity, and love. Despite differences in skin color and upbringing, the song emphasizes that everyone is equal and should be treated as such. Great message.

“You Can’t Change That” by Raydio

Combining funk and R&B, this song is about the singer’s unchangeable feelings for his love interest, asserting that his love is so strong that it cannot be altered by her or her flaws. The song emphasizes that even if she changes her appearance or contact information, his love for her will remain constant.

“Changes” by Justin Bieber

This track was part of Bieber’s ongoing effort to show his maturity and growth from his early image as a cute child star. The song explores the daily fluctuations in mood and energy that everyone experiences. Despite these changes, Bieber expresses a desire to be the best version of himself, not just for his own sake, but also for the people he cares about.

“I Am Changing” by Jennifer Hudson

Broadway’s Dreamgirls requires a performer with a powerful voice, a role filled by Jennifer Hudson in the film version. The tune is about seeking personal growth and transformation, aiming to leave her past mistakes behind and improve her life. The character pleads with her audience for support in her journey of self-improvement.

“Don’t Change” by INXS

Known for their post-punk vibe, this INXS song narrates the story of a person who has successfully moved on from a toxic relationship and found happiness. Hutchence’s lyrics suggest that the singer has rediscovered self-love and has chosen to remain happy regardless of his past partner’s actions.

“Courage To Change” by Sia

Another track about empowerment. It encourages listeners to find the strength to make positive changes in their lives and the world. The song poses the question, “Have I the courage to change today?” and reassures listeners that they are not alone in their efforts to step out of their comfort zones. The song emphasizes unity and strength in fighting for beliefs, asserting that significant change is possible when people come together.

“One Man Can Change The World” by Big Sean Ft. John Legend And Kanye West

Rapper Big Sean, in collaboration with John Legend and Kanye West, released “One Man Can Change the World” to emphasize the power of individual actions in making a positive impact. The song suggests that change is not brought about by one significant action but by small daily acts of kindness. The song encourages listeners to realize their potential to create change, which can inspire others to do the same.

Recommended: Our list of songs about kindness and compassion.

“We Never Change” by Coldplay

This early Coldplay track explores the difficulty of maintaining authenticity and avoiding destructive habits. It also highlights the challenge of living a simple life and focusing on the important things like maintaining good friendships.

“Change” by Tears For Fears

A track that explores the negative aspects of change, particularly in the context of relationships. The song communicates the difficulty of maintaining a relationship as people inevitably change over time. It highlights how long-term relationships can fall into routines, lose their spark, and undergo changes that are often unavoidable.

“Changes” by 2pac

Incorporating a sample from Bruce Hornsby and the Range’s “The Way It Is”, this song addresses issues such as racism, poverty, and police brutality, calling for societal change. Released two years after his death, “Changes” became an anthem for oppressed or disenfranchised people.

“Peace Train” by Yusuf/Cat Stevens

Cat Stevens’ music often explores the wonders of the world and themes of peace and unity. His songs convey an optimistic outlook, suggesting that peace is imminent. He expresses a dream of a united world and holds a belief that this vision will someday be realized.

Recommended: Our pick of amazing Yusuf/Cat Stevens tracks.

“Change” by Tracy Chapman

This song discusses the need for social and political change, asking listeners to consider what they would do differently if they knew they were going to die. It challenges listeners to step out of their comfort zones and consider making changes, even when the outcome is uncertain.

Recommended: Our list of Tracy Chapman classics.

“Change” by Blind Melon

A tune that discusses personal transformation and the search for life’s meaning. The lyrics encourage listeners to embrace change and take risks, despite the inevitable challenges, and to remain positive even in difficult times. The song was written by the band’s late frontman, Shannon Hoon, about the necessity of making pivotal changes when life’s circumstances demand it.

“Seasons Change” by Exposé

This one uses the changing of seasons as a metaphor for personal growth and transformation. Rather unfashionably it’s not about breakups or crushes, but rather about growing old with a loved one and making sacrifices for them. Fancy that!

“I Can Change” by LCD Soundsystem

Telling the story of a man in a failing relationship who’s in denial about the impending breakup and promises to change to keep his partner. The title and chorus of the song reflect his desire for redemption and transformation in order to save the relationship.

“Yes I’m Changing” by Tame Impala

Serving as a reflection on personal growth, the singer’s statement “Yes, I’m changing” signifies a process of transformation. The singer encourages listeners to embrace change and improve themselves, suggesting they simply need to “arise and walk.”

“Changes” by Black Sabbath

The singer’s regret over cheating on his lover (which led to their breakup) is palpable here. Despite his remorse and loneliness, he acknowledges that no amount of tears can undo his actions or bring her back.

“That’s How You Change The World” by The Newsboys

This upbeat Christian rock number contains powerful lyrics about the transformative power of love, faith, and service. The band encourages listeners to show kindness, use their unique talents, and spread love and positivity to make the world a better place. Here, here.

“Wind Of Change” by Scorpions

This classic song is reflective and optimistic, addressing the end of the Cold War and the changing political landscape of Europe in the early 1990s. The lyrics, which reference the Moskva River and Gorky Park in Russia, express hope for unity and positive change in the world.

“Changes” by Ziggy Marley feat. Daniel Marley

Here the Marley family sings about the need for societal transformation in the face of injustice and greed. The lyrics urge ordinary people to make positive changes, despite the challenges that may hinder such progress. Marley criticizes the modern focus on money and suggests that unity is what we need.

“Life Changes” by Thomas Rhett

This Thomas Rhett number reflects on his past, his love life, and his family, and discusses his transition from a college student to a country music star. The song also highlights significant events in his life, like his marriage and adoption of a daughter, and expresses his acceptance and appreciation of these changes.

“Today I’m Gonna Try And Change The World” by Johnny Reid

Here’s a country pop song by Scottish-Canadian artist Johnny Reid, with a message of optimism and a reaffirmation that individual actions can make a difference. The title is a declaration of intent, emphasizing that even small actions can have a significant impact. The song encourages listeners to live in the present and take steps to create positive change in their lives and the world.

“Some People Change” by Montgomery Gentry

This song by American country music duo Montgomery Gentry tells the story of two characters, a man who overcomes inherited racist beliefs and a woman who decides to quit alcohol for a better life. The song suggests that any change that comes our way needs to be initiated by us.

Honorable Mentions:

  • “Break Away” by The Beach Boys
  • “Change” by Faith Evans
  • “One Way Ticket” by Carrie Underwood
  • “Since U Been Gone” by Kelly Clarkson
  • “Burning Gold” by Christina Perri
  • “With My Own Two Hands” by Ben Harper
  • “New York Minute” – Don Henley

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About Ged Richardson

Ged Richardson is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of ZingInstruments.com. He has been featured in Entrepreneur, PremierGuitar, Hallmark, Wanderlust, CreativeLive, and other major publications. As an avid music fan, he spends his time researching and writing about new and old music, as well as testing and reviewing music-related products. He's played guitar in various bands, from rock to gypsy jazz. Be sure to check out his YouTube channel, where he geeks out about his favorite bands.

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