By Marco den Ouden
The pithiest definition of determination is given in Google’s own dictionary: firmness of purpose, resoluteness. And it gives a long list of synonyms:
Synonyms: resolution, resolve, willpower, strength of character, single-mindedness, purposefulness, intentness, staunchness, perseverance, persistence, tenacity, staying power, strong-mindedness, backbone, stubbornness, doggedness, obstinacy, spirit, courage, pluck, grit, stout-heartedness Informal: guts, spunk, balls, moxie
That covers a wide range and the Song Bar patrons provided a wealth of wonderful songs on the theme. I’ll try and cover the range of different nuances starting with a song that covers both sport and overcoming adversity.
While working as a news editor during my long career in television broadcasting I had the privilege of interviewing Rick Hansen, the wheelchair athlete who lost the use of his legs in a car accident. Inspired by one-legged cross-Canada runner Terry Fox, Hansen circumnavigated the globe in his wheelchair to raise money for spinal cord research. John Parr and David Foster wrote St. Elmo’s Fire about Hansen who called his journey the Man in Motion tour.
When he was growing up, my son got involved with taekwondo, a Korean martial art. Like all martial arts, it requires dedication and focus. Japan is noted for Karate, which the girl band Babymetal sings about. Watch the video. It is as impressive as the song with its brilliant choreography and visuals.
From sports we go to other aspects of human achievement. All achievement requires some level of dedication but sometimes a goal becomes a mission. That is the case with the man who designed the Spitfire, honoured in Public Service Broadcasting’s song which samples a 1937 radio broadcast about the plane.
Flying itself is a skill and an art that requires considerable focus. Pink Floyd’s Learning to Fly tells the story of an emergency landing. The song has an ethereal quality to it, “a state of bliss”.
The idea of resolve is nicely wrapped up in Larry Williams’ and Johnny Watson’s A Quitter Never Wins.
Sometimes collective determination changes a culture. That was the case with the American civil rights movement, passionately captured in the Staple Singer’s Long Walk to D.C..
Speech Debelle and Bonobo emphasise that a movement can only do so much. Ultimately the individual has to act, to show his own resolve. In Sun Will Rise rapper Debelle tells us that “The sun will rise without fail even if you only get a little bit. Work with it cause everything in life, you got to earn it.” This is an enigmatic mix of rap and jazz, both mellow and moving.
Miley Cyrus says the exhilaration of the struggle is as important as the end goal. The glory of conquering the mountain is in The Climb.
The feminist movement of the 1960s empowered women to become independent, to stand up for their rights. It also spawned a great many feminist anthems. One modern one is Katy Perry’s Roar.
Probably the most suggested sub-topic was songs about romantic relationships. The pursuit of a would-be lover, coping with breakups, starting anew, all were themes touched on. Indeed it does take determination to pursue a relationship and make it work, especially to make a relationship last. One song stood out for me in particular - Roy Orbison’s I Drove All Night.
Times of disaster bring about great swells of determination and dedication as the community rallies around in mutual support, sometimes to cope and sometimes to rebuild. The devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina inspired The Avenue by Cowboy Mouth. “I never want to be from somewhere else,” they sing. “The parades will ride again… This will not be the end of the avenue.”
We’ll wrap up with two songs to inspire. Bluesman Jonny Lang tells us in Make It Move that “the greatest lie I told myself was that it could not be done.” You can’t “waste your whole life waiting for that mountain to move… You got to make it move.”
And a rousing chorus of Queen’s We are the Champions rounds out the list. He revels in their success, but tells us “it's been no bed of roses, no pleasure cruise. I consider it a challenge before the whole human race and I ain't gonna lose.”
Determination makes things happen.
Ain’t Giving Up A-List Playlist:
St. Elmo's Fire by John Parr
Karate by Babymetal
Spitfire by Public Service Broadcasting
Learning to Fly by Pink Floyd
A Quitter Never Wins by Larry Williams & Johnny Watson
Long Walk to D.C. by The Staple Singers
Sun Will Rise by Bonobo & Speech Debelle
The Climb by Miley Cyrus
Roar by Katy Perry
I Drove All Night by Roy Orbison
The Avenue by Cowboy Mouth
Make It Move by Jonny Lang
We Are the Champions by Queen
Bullish, Recordbreakin’ B-List Playlist:
Gonna Fly Now by Bill Conti
Dedication by Roy Castle
Carry On by Fun
Feel First Life by Jon Hopkins
Walk Like A Man By Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons
Not Gonna Give It Up by Peter Tosh
Break My Stride by Matthew Wilder
High Hopes by Frank Sinatra
Where Do You Go To My Lovely by Peter Sarstedt
Rise by Richard Earnshaw ft Ursula Rucker & Roy Ayers
The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner by Iron Maiden
Pardon Me (I've Got Someone To Kill) by Andre Williams & The Sadies
Kowalski by Primal Scream
Risin' To The Top by Keni Burke
Fighter by Christina Aguilera
A Quitter Never Wins by Jonny Lang
Remember the Alamo by Willie Nelson
The Impossible Dream by Andy Williams
The Machine by John McCutcheon
Hold The Line by Toto
Two Weeks by FKA Twigs
Everest by Public Service Broadcasting
That's Life by Frank Sinatra
Bad Blood by Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band
Guru’s Wildcard Picks:
Whatever It Takes by Imagine Dragons
Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You) by Kelly Clarkson
These playlists were inspired by readers' song nominations from last week's topic: Pack up your troubles: songs about determination. The next topic will launch on Thursday at 1pm UK time.
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