In times like these, music is more important than ever.
For many, it’s been a difficult month. The past week alone saw the tragic shooting deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile by police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Falcon Heights, Minnesota, respectively. It also saw the tragic shooting deaths of five police officers in Dallas — Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Krol, Lorne Ahrens, Michael Smith — who were protecting a peaceful protest when a sniper opened fire. Sterling and Castile are the latest high-profile cases of black citizens losing their lives during encounters with the authorities in recent years, from Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown to Sandra Bland and Freddie Gray. In other areas of the news and the world, hate and senseless violence have reared their heads — from the shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando that killed 49 people, many of them members of the city’s LGBT+ Latinx community; to the attack on an airport in Istanbul last month that killed 44; to an undercurrent of intolerance that permeated the Brexit vote in the UK.
In short: this is a turbulent month amid turbulent times. And even if we’re not directly affected by the events, they touch us all. Which is where music comes in. Music serves any number of roles in our lives when faced with adversity: for some, it’s an escape from troubles. Which is a natural human response, it’s neither a good thing nor a bad thing, it simply is what it is. It’s something we all need to do from time to time.
At another level, music provides a means for everybody to understand and process these tragedies. It channels our outrage and heartbreak into a cathartic howl. It raises our consciousness, allowing some of us to view things from a perspective other than our own and gain a deeper level of understanding and empathy for the pain experienced by our brothers and sisters around the world. And for others — who may not be directly involved, but still feel the aftershocks of being on the close periphery — it allows us to begin the healing process.
Finally, music can be a voice of advocacy, it can be a scream in the night for peace in a hateful world, it can inspire people to stand up against violence and injustice in all corners of life, it can inspire us to raise our voices in the name of change.
With all of that in mind, we here at The Key have put together this playlist of music for a better world: a collection of songs from across the past 75 years, all containing ideas to reflect on in these times – from Billie Holiday‘s rendition of “Strange Fruit” to Patti Smith‘s “People Have The Power,” Pearl Jam‘s stirring “WMA” to Kendrick Lamar‘s inspired “Alright.”
Listen to the entire playlist below, via Spotify, and subscribe to it here. And as a bonus, watch a breathtaking and powerful performance of “Freedom” by Beyonce (featuring Kendrick Lamar), which took place at the BET Awards last month.
– The Key and WXPN’s Bruce Warren, John Vettese, Mike Vasilikos and Maureen Walsh contributed to this
NOTE: Some songs contain strong language, and listener discretion is advised.
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