In a Tribute to Ukraine President Zelenskyy, John Ondrasik Asks “Can One Man Save The World?”—Shares Story Behind the Lyrics

“Can One Man Save The World?”

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It’s a complicated, yet universally inspiring question. Grammy-nominated artist John Ondrasik, whose musical moniker is Five For Fighting, posed the question in his recent song of the same name. From the title “Can One Man Save The World?,” Ondrasik penned the rest of the song as a tribute to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The song applauds the strength that Zelenskyy has shown in the face of the recent Russian invasion.

Ondrasik dubs Zelenskyy the Superman Ukrainian with an Eastern heart the West has lost on the track as he lifts up the Ukrainian resistance. Listen to the lyrics below.

Who Is This Comedian / His Audience More Mice Than Men / the Superman Ukrainian I Don’t Know / Great Grandson of the Hall Holocaust / an Eastern Heart the West Has Lost Nail or / Carry Up His Cross I Don’t Know, he sings to kick off the song.

The Five For Fighting musician has a knack for pinpointing the moments when people need help to voice their anger and world-weary. The artist previously released the song “Blood On My Hands” about the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

To understand more about Ondrasik’s process of writing culturally moving anthems like these, we asked Ondrasik to walk us through his thought process. Read below for the story behind “Can One Man Save The World?”

American Songwriter: How did the lyrics for “Can One Man Save The World?’ first emerge?

John Ondrasik: Like so many, Since Putin’s brutal invasion, I have been inspired by the courage and fortitude of President Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian people. Initially, it seemed the western world was inclined to manage the fall of Ukraine, but that dynamic changed when Zelenskyy scoffed at America’s offer of evacuation and demanded weapons to fight for his freedom and the very existence of his country. I started thinking about how one person’s stand can strengthen, shame, enlighten and inspire each of us, including nations and their leaders. Can one “will” change the trajectory of history? In the last couple [of] days, we have seen European Prime Ministers visit Kyiv and Russian reporters risking their lives to defy Putin. Courage, it seems, is contagious.

Concurrently in the writing process, I was asking myself does Zelenskyy’s heroism matter? History has yet to be written. He could be assassinated before you print this article. Will he get the support he needs from the west? Hence the bridge lyric.

Regarding creation, this song was not sparked by melody or lyric but by concept and question. Can One Man Save the World? From there it wrote itself.

Can One Man Save the World / In a Thousand Years / Will They Say Your Name or Is This All
In Vain / Can One Man Save the World / Will You Take My Hand / Will You Help Me Stand
Still in the End / Can One Man Save the World
, he sings in the chorus.

Single cover courtesy of John Ondrasik

AS: What type of impact do you see this song having on listeners?

JO: I frankly have not thought about it very much. Like songwriters reading this know, some songs you craft for months while others are screams in real-time. I have little memory of writing it and uploaded it a few hours after recording the piano/vocal. The fact that it now joins millions of voices of support for Ukraine, and seems to be resonating, leaves me hoping that more artists will use their voices and talents to create similar expressions.

One thing we do know is that music moves the masses, unlike any other medium.

AS: What is one thing most people may not know about “Can One Man Save The World?”?

JO: When I sat down to write, I started with the first 4 chords of “Superman (It’s Not Easy),” as that seemed fitting.

AS: Do you think that one man can save the world?

JO: Not if he or she is alone in this.

Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Capital Concerts.

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