14 Songs About Change — A Trainer’s Personal Playlist

The idea of Change is a complex topic, with many different “takes,” as you’ll see from the list of songs (with lyrical excerpts) below — about 56 minutes of total listening time if you decide to play ’em all.


iPhone Headphones

When selecting music to play during a training session, I typically use instrumental music, as it adds energy to the session without competing with participant dialogue — both the inner dialogue within individuals and the outer dialogue between individuals.

However, there are times — given the right mix of audience, program and activity — where I’ll play lyrical music, for example popular songs from the radio, or genres of music from the “golden years” (late teens / early twenties)  of the group that I’m facilitating.

Some genres — e.g.  funk — seem to more easily cross generations of workshop participants, but an even nicer “common denominator” is when I can weave-in a series of songs that relate to key themes of the program content. For example, if it’s a session about celebrating diversity and learning to express oneself more confidently, I might slip in songs like Wave Your Flag and Express Yourself.” When done subtly and with a light touch, it adds a fun, not-quite-subliminal layer to the workshop experience.

Here is my list of songs related to theme of Change  —  I started this list years ago when running  a program on Change Management and have been using parts of this playlist ever since for different programs….because ultimately, almost every program I do has an element of personal change and growth.

There are a few songs here that don’t make it to my classroom, but I enjoy them when exercising at the gym. Although these songs all feature the word “change” prominently, each one explores the concept of Change differently.


#1 – “Changes” by David Bowie (1971)

If you’re gonna play music about Change, you’ve gotta go back to this Bowie classic… particularly if your participants are Gen X or older.   It’s a song about continuous artistic reinvention and the inevitable passing of the baton between one rebellious generation to the next.


Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes — Turn and face the stranger
Ch-ch-Changes — Don’t want to be a richer man
Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes — Turn and face the stranger
Ch-ch-Changes — Just gonna have to be a different man
Time may change me — But I can’t trace time


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 going through


Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes — Turn and face the stranger
Ch-ch-Changes — Oh, look out you rock ‘n rollers
Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes — Turn and face the stranger
Ch-ch-Changes — Pretty soon you’re gonna get a little older
Time may change me — But I can’t trace time



#2 – “Hazy Shade of Winter” by The Bangles (1987) 

Speaking of transitions between generations, take a 1966 song about the changing of the seasons written by a couple of hippies,  throw some 1980’s rocker chicks with electric guitars, and you get this most excellent anthem…

Time, time, time, see what’s become of me
While I looked around
For my possibilities
I was so hard to please
But look around, leaves are brown
And the sky is a hazy shade of winter


Hang on to your hopes, my friend
That’s an easy thing to say, but if your hopes should pass away
Simply pretend
That you can build them again
Look around, the grass is high
The fields are ripe, it’s the springtime of my life…


#3 “Change” by Blind Melon (1992)

When it comes to songs about Change, a common theme is about experiencing hard times and then doing work to persevere and change in the face of adversity.  I love the scratchy, soulful, acoustic Southern Rock feel of this song and the entire album it comes from… for me, it just hits the spot, like a glass of bourbon on a porch in Mississippi on a hot summer’s day.


And oh as I fade away,
they’ll all look at me and they’ll say,
“Hey look at him and where he is these days.”
When life is hard, you have to change.

 #4 “Tubthumping”by Chumbawamba (1997)

As with the previous song, this song is also about perseverance…  except substitute the porch in Mississippi for a pub in Liverpool filled with striking dock workers and anarchist punks, the bourbon for Irish whiskey and hard cider, and the hot summer’s day for a long, blurry night that isn’t quite yet over.  Sing it.


I get knocked down
But I get up again
You’re never gonna keep me down
I get knocked down
But I get up again
You’re never gonna keep me down


Oh, Danny Boy
Danny Boy…


#5) “Change” by Faith Evans (2010)

Okay, it’s Sunday morning after that long night in the pub. You’re back home, Down South. Get your gospel choir robes ready.  This song, with its honeyed vocals and soothing R&B choruses, provides general all-purpose encouragement towards pursuing one’s personal aspirations and the aspirations of a broader society, with phrases like, “we the people,” “united we stand” and “promised land.”

We got to change
We need to change
Come on change
Why don’t you change?
I want to change
Things don’t always stay the same
We can make it together
Things don’t always stay the same


#6) “Man in the Mirror” by Michael Jackson (1988)

Continuing with the gospel-derivative form, but moving WAY UP  to the top of the radio charts, we have this number by the King of Pop.  As with the Bowie song, no playlist on Change would be complete without this Michael Jackson classic. This is a song about commitment to taking personal responsibility for change. The refrain could not have been any clearer.

I’m gonna make a change, for once in my life
It’s gonna feel real good, gonna make a difference
Gonna make it right . . .


I’m starting with the man in the mirror
I’m asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change


Gonna feel real good now!


You know it!


Make that change.

#7 ) “Change” by Wide Mouth Mason (2000)

Most people don’t know this little band from the little town of Saskatoon… but these guys have a big sound.  The message here is about maintaining authenticity throughout the change process.  We might start thinking of the analogy of the Ship of Theseus, which retained its identity despite having all of its parts replaced over time… or we might just shake our booty to the groove and revel in the lead singer’s moment of ecstasy…

Do you go with what you know and feel just fine?
Or do you try, on the fly, to be fresh?
A bed of nails, a night in jail
That’s the hard way to learn
Doing what you’re told makes no sense

Change, but be yourself now
Change, but be yourself now
Change, but be yourself now
Change, but be your real self…


#8) “A Change Would Do You Good” by Sheryl Crow (1997)

This song also deals with the idea of change and authenticity, except here it’s a specific critique of superficiality in stardom. With its clever wordplay and cryptic references, we can only guess who Sheryl is actually talking to.


God’s little gift is on the rag
Poster girl, posin’ in a fashion mag
Canine, feline, Jekyll and Hyde
Wear your fake fur on the inside

Queen of South Beach, aging blues
Dinner’s at six, wear your cement shoes
I thought you were singin’ your heart out to me
Your lips were syncing, and now I see

A change would do you good…

I think a change would do you good…

#9) “Change” by Taylor Swift

Once we’ve gone into Sheryl Crow country, we might as well stick around and listen to Taylor Swift. True, this is not my kind of music, but sometimes it’s not about what I like — or what Kanye likes — it’s about what the people (or at least the people’s kids) want…


So we’ve been outnumbered
Raided and now cornered
It’s hard to fight when the fight ain’t fair
We’re getting stronger now
Find things they never found
They might be bigger
But we’re faster and never scared
You can walk away, say we don’t need this
But there’s something in your eyes
Says we can beat this

Because these things will change
Can you feel it now?
These walls that they put up to hold us back will fall down
This revolution, the time will come
For us to finally win
And we’ll sing hallelujah, well sing hallelujah


#10) “Changes” by A Cursive Memory (2008)

..and while we’re feeling bright and effervescent, we can continue our playlist with this pop rock ditty by a band from California.  This song reminds me of a saying my dad has, which he picked up from his dad:  “Different ages, different stages.”


Changes changes
We’ll always change in life
Goes in stages
Changes changes
Nobody knows life
Jumps and goes…


#11) “Changes” by 3 Doors Down (2002)

Okay, enough with the light fare, time to starting bringing on the darkness. I’d rarely play metal in a training room, but when doing weights at the gym it makes for an excellent cadence. Hard rock and heavy metal songs often reference a kind of testosterone-imbued idea of Change, addressing the physical and emotional changes and transformation of young men who are growing up.  This song presents a relatively mild-mannered example of what is often a much harder-edged genre:

I’m not supposed to be scared of anything, but I don’t know where I am
I wish that I could move but I’m exhausted and nobody understands (how I feel)
I’m trying hard to breathe now but there’s no air in my lungs
There’s no one here to talk to and the pain inside is making me numb

I try to hold this Under control
They can’t help me ‘Cause no one knows

Now I’m going through changes, changes
God, I feel so frustrated lately
When I get suffocated, save me
Now I’m going through changes, changes…


#12)  “Changes” by Godsmack (2004)

…and here is a harder edged example, where the protagonist addresses an antagonist, and speaks of emerging from the fire of rejection and betrayal, stronger than before… and ready for revenge.


Bow down to me
Taken your pride and stuff it down inside
Vows are ruined
Losing my faith, losing time
Better off you than me
I just can’t stand another day when you’re in my way
A long time brewing
It’s time you kiss your ass goodbye

I’ll never be the same
I’m moving back onto my ways
I’m looking for changes to better my way…

Once ignited, vengeance is hard to control, so I’ll just pile on some bonus lyrics from the even harder-edgedDown with the Sickness by Disturbed, along the same lines as the above…

(…)  It seems you’re having some trouble
In dealing with these changes
Living with these changes (oh no)
The world is a scary place
Now that you’ve woken up the demon in me…


#13) “Change” by Tears for Fears (1983)

Yes, the needle of the record suddenly scratched and we’re in a cheesy 80’s dance club.  Seriously, I didn’t know where to put this song on the list.  Well there IS a protagonist who is addressing an antagonist here (as in the previous song), but here the conflict is long over, the parties have drifted apart, and the mood is wistful.


And something on your mind
Became a point of view
I lost your honesty
You lost the life in you

When it’s all too late
It’s all too late
We walk and talk in time
I walk and talk in two
Where does the end of me
Become the start of you

When it’s all too late
It’s all too late
What has happened to
The friend that I once knew
Has he gone away

However, lest you take this song too seriously, the band’s songwriter Roland Orzaba has this to say about it:

“It’s not really about much. It’s just one of those cheap pop lyrics.”

..and on that note about cheap pop lyrics , we can wrap up this playlist with one last item…

#14) “Changes” by Ziggy Marley

At the end of the day — yeah, literally at the end of the day — people enjoy some good, safe, scrubbed, uncontroversial reggae music. With its trite lyrics and obvious rhymes,  you can just relax and stay focused on the learning lesson. Peace out, ordinary people.

Let’s plant a new tree, make a change
Need it for you and me, brighter days
Will come and you’ll see, make the change
Necessary for ordinary people

There’s so much beauty in every breath that we take
Oh, tell me, can you relate?
Needs of the many and the wants of the few
You can find religion in the freedom you choose

There’s so much hurt all over the place
And I can tell by the look on your face
And there’s one thing that we’ve got to say

Changes, changes
(Danny man say, brighten up your day and never feel no weight)
For ordinary people now…


About danspira

My blog is at: http://danspira.com. My face in real life appears at a higher resolution, although I do feel pixelated sometimes.

Posted on May 12, 2014, in Art, Business, Career, Coaching, Exercise, Inspiration, Learning, Life, Metaphors, music, Psychology, Relationships, Talent and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. For embattled organizations in need of change, I would add Twisted Siter, “We’re Not Gonna Take It” http://youtu.be/4xmckWVPRaI and The Offspring “Why Don’t You Get a Job” http://youtu.be/sxSEW3sUitA. I’ve always imagined rallying a room of folks getting their lunches handed to them by competitors or key customers with these songs. Delusions of grandeur, perhaps 😉

  2. Reblogged this on Dan Spira and commented:

    (#13 of 27) — Re-blogged this list of 14 favorite songs related to the theme of change, adding a couple of strummin’ good tracks.

    Let’s call this the Classic Guitar Hero Supplement:

    #15) Eric Clapton, “Change the World”

    …where he sings to his Beloved, over silky chord sweetness. Clapton is a worthy heir in the lineage of Robert Johnson. Perhaps the ‘queen’ he refers to here is none other than the Blues tradition itself.

    If i could be king
    Even for a day
    I'd take you as my queen
    I'd have it no other way

    #16) Bob Dylan, “Things Have Changed”

    Alternate title for this song is, “Alienated Aging Rockstar Gives In to Midlife Resignation.” Get a grip, Bob. (…but we love you anyway.)

    People are crazy, times are strange
    I'm locked in tight, I'm outta range
    I used to care, but things have changed

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