5 Classic Rock Songs That Became Anthems of Empowerment

There’s nothing like the drive and power of a classic rock song to pump us up, but when the lyrics are positive and motivational, it feels like nothing can stop us. That’s why so many are used at sporting events, to give the team and their fans some inspiration. The same can be said for the listener to ask for that job promotion, or perhaps get through a marathon. Below are five classic rock songs that have become anthems of empowerment.

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1. “Gonna Fly Now (Theme from Rocky)”

It’s not often that a near-instrumental song can inspire this much. It barely has any lyrics, and the ones that are sung (Trying hard now, Feeling strong now) are practically unintelligible. Yet, hearing the opening horns and knowing the music provided the soundtrack to underdog boxer Rocky Balboa as he trains for his fight against the world heavyweight champion in the film Rocky is enough to make us all feel like raising our arms in victory. The song was co-written by Bill Conti, Carol Connors and Ayn Robbins, and performed by DeEtta West and Nelson Pigford.

2. “Eye of the Tiger,” Survivor

Yes, another song from the Rocky franchise: Rocky III (1982). With lines like, Rising up to the challenge of our rival and Rising up straight to the top, it’s not surprising that this theme by the American rock band Survivor has also endured as a lyric to get back on your feet after a setback. The metaphor-heavy song was written by Survivor’s guitarist, Frankie Sullivan, and keyboardist, Jim Peterik. They have sued several Republican politicians for using this song at campaign rallies without permission. However, it is a welcome staple at sporting events of all kinds.

[RELATED: 6 Anthems of the 1970s That Reflected The Social and Political Climate]

3. “We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions,” Queen

The enduring 1977 song combo is almost always played back to back. Written by guitarist Brian May for the album News of the World, the two musical movements were actually released together. The repetitive stomp-and-clap rhythm of “We Will Rock You” gets you motivated, while the braggadocio ballad segment of “Champions” seals the deal. Freddie Mercury told Circus magazine in 1978, “I was thinking about football when I wrote it. I wanted a participation song, something that the fans could latch on to.”

4. “Born to Run,” Bruce Springsteen

The 1975 classic is about freedom and giving life your all. It’s about escaping the things that hold you back, and the power of youth to make anything happen. We gotta get out while we’re young / ‘Cause tramps like us, baby, we were born to runSongfacts quotes the Boss as saying, “I was writing about a guy and a girl that wanted to run and keep on running, never come back.” But then he realized it was about the search for connection. “This is a song about two people trying to find their way home.”

5. “Don’t Stop Believin’,” Journey

This ubiquitous 1981 power ballad, with its opening piano and mounting guitar tension, is the definition of “anthemic.” But one can’t help but think if powerhouse vocalist Steve Perry wasn’t behind the mic, the song might not have had the decades-long effect that it has. The lyric was inspired by keyboardist Jonathan Cain’s father who told him to “don’t stop believing” when he was getting discouraged while trying to make it in Hollywood. In a 2010 interview with UK radio’s Planet Rock, Perry said, “Everybody has emotional issues and problems, and the song has helped me personally to not give up. And I’m finding a lot of people feel that.”

Photo by Paul Natkin/Getty Images

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