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Best Songs About Peace: 10 Instant Calmers For A More Loving World
List & Guides

Best Songs About Peace: 10 Instant Calmers For A More Loving World

From peacenik protest anthems to sweet soul music, the best songs about peace continue to inspire unity and harmony.

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Depending on the situation, “peace” can refer to the cessation of violence on the world’s stage or to relaxation in the more personal sense, but whichever definition you prefer, it’s something everything can benefit from in this increasingly precarious age. Every 21 September, International Day Of Peace offers a necessary reminder that we all need to strive for a kinder world, but these ten best songs about peace are guaranteed to inspire unity and harmony all year round.

Best Songs About Peace: 10 Instant Calmers For A More Loving World

10: XTC: Melt The Guns (1982)

Though never overtly political, UK new-wave luminaries XTC wrote a bunch of extremely well-observed songs about the state of the world during the Cold War-obsessed early 80s. This social commentary arguably found its apogee on the band’s excellent 1982 double-album, English Settlement, which condemned racism on the strident No Thugs In Our House and reflected XTC’s pacifist stance on Melt The Guns. Reputedly inspired by John Lennon’s murder, the quirky but impassioned latter song also offered a wider an indictment of trigger-happy US foreign policy and a call for gun control (“Melt the guns and never more to fire them”) – issues which remain every bit as topical in today’s political climate.

9: Ramones: Planet Earth 1988 (1984)

Noo Yoik punks Ramones are hardly the obvious go-to band when thinking of the best songs about peace and goodwill to all men, yet some of the best Ramones songs of the mid-80s reflected a growing social consciousness among the group. Joey and Dee Dee Ramone, especially, evidenced this on tracks such as I’m Not Afraid Of Life and the blazing Bonzo Goes To Bitburg, though it was the underrated Richie Ramone who penned the lyrics for the Too Tough To Die highlight, Planet Earth 1988: a song which railed against jails “… filled to the max/Discrimination against the Blacks” and climaxed with the sincere kiss-off line, “I pray for peace more than anything.”

8: Bob Dylan: Man Of Peace (1983)

Bob Dylan originally recorded Man Of Peace For 1983’s Mark Knopfler-produced Infidels, a record which saw him return to secular music after the slew of Christian-leaning albums, including Slow Train Coming and Saved, which he released in the late 70s and early 80s.

Though often dealing with more universal themes of love and loss, Infidels’ songs revealed that Dylan still had a penchant for biblical references and religious imagery, not least on Man Of Peace, which was full of classic lines (“Could be the Führer/Could be the local priest/ You know sometimes Satan comes as a man of peace”) and examined the idea that Satan – or evil more generally – may disguise himself to mislead humanity. Dylan also performed the song several times with Grateful Dead during their high-profile co-headlining tour of 1987.

7: The Byrds: Turn! Turn! Turn! (1965)

Another of the best songs about peace which can be traced back to the good book, Turn! Turn! Turn!’s lyric is taken almost verbatim from Ecclesiastes, from the King James version of The Bible – with the bulk of it being ascribed to King Solomon in the 10th century.

The song first found a 20th-century audience when folk revivalist Pete Seeger added additional lyrics (including the closing line, “A time for peace, I swear it’s not too late”) and recorded it in 1959. However, while Seeger’s version chimed with the times, The Byrds really popularised Turn! Turn! Turn! when their glorious folk-rock interpretation of the song topped the Billboard charts late in 1965.

6: Green Day: Holiday (2004)

Living proof that peaceniks don’t have to be passive, Green Day’s Holiday may be furious, but it’s about as anti-war and pro-peace as you can get. The third single from the band’s massive-selling American Idiot album, it pulled few punches in its attack on war and US conservatism in general (“Hear the sound of the falling rain/Coming down like an Armageddon flame/The shame, the ones who died without a name”), but it ended on a note of positivity (“I beg to dream and differ from the hollow lies/This is the dawning of the rest of our lives”) and is still one of the best songs about peace you’ll hear to this day.

5: The Doors: Peace Frog (1970)

Many of the best songs about peace relate to trouble and strife erupting in the wider world, but The Doors’ Peace Frog was far more personal, as it found Jim Morrison seeking shelter from the eye of the hurricane his band had been in for several years.

Adapted from one of Morrison’s earlier poems, Abortion Stories, much of Peace Frog’s brooding imagery related to violence the band had encountered while on the road, with the line “Blood in the streets in the town of New Haven” relating to an incident in which Morrison was tear-gassed by a cop and later arrested on stage for allegedly trying to incite a riot. Allied to one of the band’s slinkiest grooves, Peace Frog remains one the best Doors songs to come out of a turbulent period for the group.

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4: Elvis Costello: (What’s So Funny ’Bout) Peace, Love And Understanding (1979)

Penned by Nick Lowe, (What’s So Funny ’Bout) Peace, Love And Understanding was initially recorded by Lowe’s country-inclined pub-rock outfit Brinsley Schwartz, but Elvis Costello truly realised the song’s potential when his band The Attractions worked up a far more muscular, anthemic version of it circa 1979’s Armed Forces album. Proving that you can’t keep a great tune down, the song reached an even bigger global audience when Curtis Stigers recorded it for the soundtrack for the box office smash The Bodyguard, but while fantastic performers such as Bruce Springsteen and Josh Homme have since tackled it, Costello’s energised, nostril-flaring take of (What’s So Funny) ’Bout Peace, Love And Understanding) remains definitive.

3: Eagles: Peaceful Easy Feeling (1972)

Unlike many of the selections in our list of the best songs about peace, Eagles’ Peaceful Easy Feeling, from their self-titled debut album, is more personal than political. However, it has a universal appeal as it celebrates both the indefinable beauty of women and that feeling of infinite possibility which comes from being a young man with the future stretching ahead of you. Add that to a super-chilled vibe guaranteed to calm even the most tempestuous heart, and you have something truly special.

2: Plastic Ono Band: Give Peace A Chance (1969)

Though credited to John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Give Peace A Chance actually sprang from John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s famous “Bed-In” honeymoon protest in Montreal, when a journalist asked Lennon what he was hoping to achieve by staying in bed. Lennon responded with an off-the-cuff “Just give peace a chance”, but his spontaneous quip became the catalyst for this all-star protest anthem.

1: Curtis Mayfield: We Gotta Have Peace (1971)

A true pioneer of soul music, the much-missed Curtis Mayfield brought social awareness to the fore on classic 60s songs such as People Get Ready, which he recorded with The Impressions. He continued to document the socio-political concerns facing the Black community when he went solo in 1970, releasing critically-acclaimed albums such as that year’s Curtis and 1971’s Roots. The latter included We Gotta Have Peace – as sublime and sophisticated a protest song as you’re ever likely to hear, and much-deserving of its place at the top of this list of the best songs about peace.

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