10 Songs That Captured The Hearts Of Americans After 9/11
via Bon Jovi Live Concerts / Youtube
The wonderful aspect of music lies in its ability to evoke multiple emotions simultaneously—sadness, anger, humor, triumph, or even happiness. It often surpasses the confines of words in expressing the depth of one’s feelings.
In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, it became evident that many individuals had a multitude of sentiments to convey. Music possesses a distinct voice, unparalleled by any other medium, and has the capacity to convey profound messages and ignite crucial conversations.
The songs addressing the tragedy are undeniably potent and emotionally compelling in their significance and message. Here are ten of the most memorable ones:
Living Colour – Flying
This chilling fictional first-person account about someone “flying” from the window to the parking lot is as harrowing as it sounds. New York-based band Living Colour wrote in their 9/11-inspired song “Flying” a stunning opener, “I jumped out the window / To get to the parking-lot. I’m writing this little song / On my way down. Never in my life / Have I felt a heat so hot”.
You can already picture one of the most tragic images during the 9/11 attacks: people jumping from their windows to escape the building. The unbearable heat referred to in the lyrics is about jet fuel burning.
“Flying” is an already emotionally charged song, but during a live performance, recorded in New Jersey on the 8th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, lifted the song to an entirely different level.
Lead vocalist Corey Glover, known for his deeply emotive vocals, delivered a performance that resonated profoundly at a private event showcasing their new album The Chair in the Doorway in 2009.
Glover was so moved that he broke into tears while introducing and performing a song dedicated to his late mother. This raw emotion is evident as well in their rendition of “Flying”, as the band perfectly captured the devastation, even eight years after the events.
“Everyday” – Bon Jovi
One of the most positive songs off Bon Jovi’s album Bounce was about leaving behind the heartaches and instead embracing life to the fullest. Much like several tracks on the 2002 album, this song draws inspiration from the tragic events of September 11, 2001.
The rocker’s proximity to New York inspired him to write about the attacks, naming it “Bounce” as a reference to the city, and the United States as a whole, bouncing back from the tragedy.
In an interview with the online magazine Cosmopolis, Jon Bon Jovi discussed the band’s inclination to focus on the positive aspects of life.
The singer mused: “We’ve always tried to find the optimism, and that’s what been signature for us throughout the years. Even through a darker record like ‘These Days’ we were feeling rather optimistic, even though at the end of the day when people would bring it up and say, ‘God this is a dark record, why are you guys so upset?’”
As the album’s lead single, the song made a notable impact. While it didn’t break into the Hot 100 chart, it secured positions in the Top 40 on three US charts: Mainstream Rock (at No. 31), Mainstream Top 40 (at No. 38), and Adult Top 40 (at No. 36). Furthermore, it achieved impressive international success, reaching #5 in the UK and claiming the #1 spot in both Canada and Spain.
“America” – Imagine Dragons
“America” is the closing track on Imagine Dragons’ 2011 EP It’s Time. Much like many other songs from the EP, “America” later found its place as a bonus track on various editions of the band’s debut album, Night Visions.
Imagine Dragons’ uplifting track serves as a heartfelt tribute to an entire nation. This patriotic ballad encapsulates the resilience and fortitude of the American Spirit, even in the face of adversity and hardship.
Despite expressing their disenchantment with America and its leadership, Imagine Dragons continue to harbor deep affection for the American populace, and they present this inspiring anthem as a testament to that sentiment.
With lyrics like, “Rise to the top of the world / America, America don’t you cry,” they convey a plea for resilience, healing, and unity among the American people. Despite being released a decade after 9/11, “America” embodies a nation that was still in the process of healing from the aftermath of those attacks and striving to come together as one.
“Elevator” – Boxcar Racer ft. Mark Hoppus
Just like the song “Flying” in this list, “Elevator” was a brisk rock composition by Box Car Racer that delves into the last contemplations of an individual who leaped from the Twin Towers on 9/11. The song conveys a sense of urgency and panic, with the song’s characters addressing the situation with a matter-of-fact tone.
In the outro, the band delivers the line “Let’s forget this all, move on” in a dry, unembellished manner. This concluding scene is stark and straightforward, effectively portraying the harsh realities of the tragic event.
If you think this sounds a lot like a Blink-182 track, it is because this short rock song is a Blink-182 song without the branding. You see, Boxcar Racer was a side-project by guitarist Tom Delonge borne out of his frustrations with Blink-182, specifically with bassist Mark Hoppus. Delonge hired Travis Barker’s drumming services, and it became the duo’s brainchild.
After dogging his bandmates about Boxcar Racer, Hoppus was pulled into one of the songs as he lent his vocals as a guest singer for “Elevator”.
In a 2015 Reddit AMA, Hoppus shared: “The whole situation sucked. But I sang on the track because, at the heart of it, Tom and Travis are my friends. I’m sure Tom felt the tension and asked me as an offering. I was glad to have done it, and I was glad that he asked.”
“Skylines and Turnstiles” – My Chemical Romance
Fans of the popular emo band My Chemical Romance know that vocalist and founder Gerard Way established the band after witnessing the events of the 9/11 attacks. “Skylines and Turnstiles” is the 7th track from their 2002 debut album I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love, credited as the first My Chemical Romance song ever written.
Gerard Way, the band’s lead vocalist, had abandoned his musical aspirations after facing rejection from his first band during his teenage years due to his limited guitar skills. However, by September 2001, his life took a significant turn.
He had secured a stable job designing action figures for the Hoboken-based company Fun House. Nevertheless, the profound impact of the 9/11 tragedy compelled him to reevaluate his priorities.
Way shared in an interview with biographer Tom Bryant (Not the Life It Seems: The True Lives of My Chemical Romance) that he viewed this tragedy as a catalyst for change. “I decided to take it, to say f–k off to the rest of my life and start a band. I just knew that’s what I wanted to do right away.”
The vocalist, who led one of the most enduring careers in the emo rock scene, recalled seeing the attacks: “I didn’t see the planes hit. I did see the buildings go down, from I’d say fairly close. It was like being in a science fiction film or some kind of disaster film – it was exactly that kind of feeling. You didn’t believe it. You felt like you were in Independence Day. It made no sense. Your brain couldn’t process it.”
“Skylines and Turnstiles” was the condensation of Way’s experience (turnstiles refers to a part of the New York subway system).
“Sacrificed Sons” – Dream Theater
“Sacrificed Sons” is the seventh song featured on Dream Theater’s eighth studio album, Octavarium. This song is the second 9/11-inspired song the band wrote, with “Prophets Of War” being the second.
Inspired by the tragic events of September 11th, the song’s introduction sets the tone with a D#/Eb minor chord complemented by actual news excerpts from the initial reporting of the Twin Towers’ destruction. The rest of the composition is rendered in E minor.
This song addresses the sacrifice made by soldiers when they are deployed to war, and it appears that when they compose an anti-war song, it often incorporates an anti-religious element as well.
The lyrics of the song possess a remarkable depth of emotion and power, as the band challenges the notion of the “glory of martyrdom” that some individuals hold dear. Interestingly, although the song centers on the events of 9/11, it was actually penned prior to the occurrence of that tragic event.
“Sacrificed Sons” captures the rage and bewilderment that engulfed many in the aftermath, as everyone’s familiar lives were thrown into disarray. Within the song, vocalist James LaBrie vocalizes the inquiries that resonated with numerous individuals: “Who would wish this on our people? / Will mankind be extinct?”
“Out Of Our Heads” – Sheryl Crow
In this spirited anti-war anthem, American singer-songwriter Sheryl Crow implores those listening to recognize the futility of warfare. She sings, “Someone’s feeding on your anger / Someone’s been whispering in your ear,” emphasizing that falsehoods are being disseminated to the public.
She mourns the tragic loss of young lives to the horrors of war and conflict, contending that misinformation is at play.
In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, the singer earnestly beseeches the “children of Abraham” to set aside their fears and temporarily suspend their emotions, urging them to strive for clarity and a more lucid perspective.
“Out of Our Heads” is a single from Crow’s top-charting 2008 album, Detours.
“Politik” – Coldplay
Chris Martin, the lead vocalist of Coldplay, penned this song on the day of the September 11 attacks in 2001. Reflecting on the tragic event, Martin described it as a stark reminder of human mortality.
Martin reflect on the tragedy and the song it inspired: “I wrote the song on 9/11 and we recorded it on 9/13. We were all, like everyone else I suppose, a little confused and frightened. I get off tour and had a rest for one or two days, but then I get antsy again. I want to write songs and do things ’cause you never know what might happen. You got to live in the moment.”
“Politik” stands out as one of Coldplay’s most powerful tracks, with the band delivering an intense, synchronized performance on their instruments. In 2002, Martin explained to Billboard Magazine that he wanted the song to capture the sense of urgency he felt in the aftermath of 9/11.
“We wanted a song where we just hit our instruments as loudly as possible and dispensed with the idea of fragility,” the vocalist shared.
The unique spelling of the song title with a “k” was suggested by Phil Harvey, Coldplay’s manager. Martin later commented on this choice, stating, “We liked it because it sounds Eastern”.
“Into The Fire” – Bruce Springsteen
In this moving Springsteen composition, the narrative revolves around a firefighter who responds to the call for assistance during the 9/11 attacks, ultimately meeting a tragic end while fulfilling his duty.
Although his family still deeply needs him, they come to understand that his nation required his service in that critical moment, and they draw inspiration from his selfless sacrifice.
The lyrics convey the sentiment, “You gave your love to me and lay your young body down,” reflecting the perspective of the loved ones of the firefighters.
“Into The Fire” was Springsteen’s heartfelt tribute to the 343 firefighters lost in the 9/11 tragedy. It is a track from his album The Rising, which marked his return to music after a seven-year hiatus and his reunion with the E Street band after eighteen years.
The album primarily revolves around Springsteen’s response to the events of 9/11 and resonated strongly with audiences who could relate to his feelings of confusion and grief. The Rising received significant commercial success and earned a Grammy Award for Best Rock Album.