Our favourite songs of freedom


It might be something to do with our P5 Wireless headphones, but the drawing in of the evenings has us feeling like we need adventure. So here are some favourite songs that conjure a sense of freedom: freedom to dance, freedom from oppression or freedom to hit the road. At the very least, this playlist should improve your commute and, should the urge to punch the air take you, there won’t be any wires to restrain you. Our only advice is that you should listen loud.

Young Hearts run free – Candi Staton
A disco classic conjuring up images of hot pants, roller skates and hedonism, Candi Staton’s autobiographical hit was really about fleeing an abusive relationship. The vocals were recorded live in one take and the instrumentation sounds like one big party. When the backing was recorded, the musicians didn’t know what the lyrics were and it’s that juxtaposition that makes this a cut above.

Me and Bobby McGee – Janis Joplin
Janis Joplin’s career-defining vocal performance is full of passion and grit on this Kris Kristofferson penned-song. A story of two drifters making their way across the American South one hot, dusty summer, the song combines the romantic ideals of personal freedom and free-spirited road trips: “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” The track comes to an exhilarating, clamorous finish as the Full Tilt Boogie Band more than live up to their name.

A Change is gonna come – Sam Cooke
Cooke’s impassioned anthem of the civil rights movement can still make the hairs on your neck stand up, 52 years after its release. Melding gospel, blues, and protest, Cooke delivers a flawless vocal full of urgency and hope. Its importance was acknowledged by Obama on his election: “It’s been a long time coming but tonight… change has come to America.”

Fanfare for the common man – Aaron Copeland
Written for those both fighting in WWII and those left at home, this hugely influential piece of music has been used in many soundtracks and state events. Perhaps most apt, US astronauts heard it first thing in the morning as they woke in space. An exhilarating, almost overwhelming, piece of music, it makes you feel invincible.

Ornithology – Charlie Parker
In a career of barely 20 years, he died at 34, Charlie Parker changed the way jazz sounded forever, pioneering the feverishly exciting sound known as bebop. His nickname “Bird” testifies to the intoxicating freedom of his melodies, and the darting, soaring quality of his playing. It’s impossible to underestimate his importance. Bird Lives.

Almost cut my hair – CSN&Y
From the snaking guitar lines opening the song to Crosby’s MASSIVE vocals, this is an anthem of rebellion and personal freedom. A reflection of the post-Woodstock generation, it popularised the phrase ‘letting my freak flag fly’. The musical interaction between Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young has never been bettered, and this is Crosby’s finest ever vocal.

Rumpus – Karen 0 and The Kids
Taken from the soundtrack of Where the Wild Things Are, the film of one of the most poignant evocations of freedom ever committed to paper, Rumpus is two and half minutes of infectious tribal festivity. Air-punching backing yelps from a group of kids creates a sense of irresistibly playful empowerment. Let the wild rumpus start!

You Don’t own me – Lesley Gore
Adventurous in arrangement, structure and lyrical content, Lesley Gore’s defiant vocals made this feminist plea a hit in 1964. Quincy Jones’ melodramatic orchestrations sweep the listener along as Gore delivers her message of emancipation that’s sadly still relevant today.

Fight the power – Public Enemy
Originally written for Spike Lee’s groundbreaking movie Do The Right Thing, Fight the Power is a triumphant mash-up of civil rights exhortations, James Brown samples, Branford Marsalis’ on saxophone and Chuck D’s unforgettable lyrics, most famously: “Elvis was a hero to most / but he never meant s*** to me.”

Shutdown – Skepta
Angry and articulate, Skepta’s menacing single from the Mercury-winning Konnichiwa album spells out where he’s going and what he’s up against including, what sounds like, an audio rip of a sadly misguided BBC viewer. Released on his own label after leaving Island Records, his message is clear, do it yourself, remain independent, find freedom.

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