Can we learn how to live our best lives through rock’n’roll songs? You bet your ass we can. Here are some vintage rock tunes that inspire with their profound, wise and groovy messages…
Growing up, music was my therapy. I took the words of rock stars and folk singers as instructions on how to live a great, creative and electric life. There were lots of unhealthy messages I picked up about sex, drugs and rock’n’roll being the keys to life’s purpose, but the older I got, the more I could reflect on the tragic and often fleeting lives of these rockstars, and how the ones who survived and thrived eventually developed a different perspective on things.
Knowing what I know now as a mental health practitioner, I can recognise that there are plenty of great messages in rock’n’roll – you just gotta be creative enough to look at things a little differently. Check out some of my favourite life lessons, as told by vintage rock songs below – or chuck on the accompanying Spotify playlist and rock out.
1. Turn, Turn, Turn – The Byrds
A timely reminder that life is not all one thing or the other, but a moveable feast, full of ups and downs, highs and lows, beauty and terror. Everything has it’s time and nothing lasts forever.
A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep
2. My Life – Billy Joel
There are people in our lives who try to get their fingers all up in our business. Often they love us and want what’s best for us, but their need to control and micromanage all our decisions and life-choices make it hard for us to live authentically and discover ourselves. We need to set boundaries with these people, and help them understand that we’ve got this – and even if we don’t quite “got this”, it’s our responsibility to own, learn and grow from our mistakes.
I don’t need you to worry for me ’cause I’m alright.
I don’t want you to tell me it’s time to come home.
I don’t care what you say anymore this is my life.
Go ahead with your own life leave me alone!
3. Hip to be Square – Huey Lewis & the News
You’ve gotta have a lot of balls to strut onto the rock’n’roll scene and champion the importance of taking care of yourself. But Huey reminds us that sometimes, when you can’t “take the punishment” of living fast and loose, you’ve gotta bring it back to basics.
I’m working out ‘most everyday and watching what I eat…
4. Both Sides Now – Joni Mitchell
Wisdom means understanding the complexity of things, and that life isn’t rigid and black & white. This beautiful song is a fantastic reminder to honour our humility, acknowledge the limits of our knowledge, and accept that somethings can be both one thing as well as the opposite.
I’ve looked at life from both sides now,
From win and lose, and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all
5. I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That) – Meat Loaf
Boundaries are important in relationships. Love can feel so real, and good and juicy but if we don’t set boundaries in it, we run the risk of losing ourselves and and losing our respect for the other person. While it’s important to be flexible, knowing our values and our non-negotiables can help us honour ourselves and our needs when in partnership with another person.
Oh I would do anything for love,
But I won’t do that.
6. Across the Universe – The Beatles
A song that speaks to the power of presence, mindfulness and how tapping into our deeper wisdom and strength allows us to be resilient in the face of life’s challenges.
Nothing’s gonna change my world,
Nothing’s gonna change my world
7. Changes – David Bowie
Nothing stays the same. Accepting change as an inevitable part of life allows us to relinquish some of our perceived control over everything and just go with the flow…
I watch the ripples change their size
But never leave the stream of warm impermanence
8. End of the Line – Traveling Wilburys
We all yearn for that quiet sense of confidence and strength – that reminds us that, even when we feel like we don’t fit in, or when we’re isolated or lonely, or when life isn’t going great, that everything will still be “all right”. It’s a mark of resilience and we can build on it by reflecting on all the tough stuff we have overcome, and all the ways we have stayed true to ourselves in the face of great pressure or influence.
Don’t have to be ashamed of the car I drive,
I’m just glad to be here, happy to be alive.
It don’t matter if you’re by my side,
9. I’m Still Standing – Elton John
A resilience ANTHEM that serves as an epic reminder of our inner strength, our curiosity and playfulness, and how we can heal and grow beyond hardship and past relationships that we once thought we would never get over.
Don’t you know I’m still standing better than I ever did.
Looking like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid!
10. I Won’t Back Down – Tom Petty
This song speaks to the importance of knowing your values, recognising what’s important to you, and not wavering when things get tough.
Well I know what’s right, I got just one life
In a world that keeps on pushin’ me around
But I’ll stand my ground
…and I won’t back down
11. It’s Too Late – Carole King
Sometimes, relationships have an end point. Some things just aren’t meant to last forever and that’s okay. It can be scary and uncomfortable to confront endings of things that were once beautiful, but it’s an important step towards learning, healing and moving on.
It used to be so easy, livin’ here with you
You were light and breezy, an’ I knew just what to do
Now you look so unhappy, and I feel like a fool
12. Dancing In the Dark – Bruce Springsteen
Anyone who’s ever battled with depression knows the feeling of being so low that everything is difficult and seems pointless. Sometimes, we have to acknowledge when we need help, and also recognise that sometimes doing hard things that are good for us feel silly and small at first. And they can also feel like they’re not doing a damned bit of good either. But if we trust in the process and keep taking those small things, we can make some amazing positive changes.
I ain’t nothin’ but tired.
Man, I’m just tired and bored with myself –
Hey there, baby, I could use just a little help