Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler, teacher, scientist; Published author & Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published February 19th 2021
Because heroes can be everywhere
Lately, there have been several discussions about what makes someone a hero in society. Front-line medical workers come up a lot, and especially in times of COVID, that is a perfectly reasonable appellation. In my community, the Country Fire Service volunteers who fight bushfires are quite rightly seen as local heroes. Heroes seem to resonate with us if they are at a local or personal level.
Yes, we have placed fictional "super-heroes" into that realm. The reason some people play video games or even D&D is to play at being a larger than life hero; superhero films are breaking box office records. And some famous people could well be considered heroes – John Cena holds the record for highest number of Make-A-Wish wishes granted (over 650 and counting), not stopping even during the pandemic; that is something that I think is incredible. And some people have personal reasons for considering famous people heroes, even if the rest of the world cannot understand.
So… why this column? With the vaccination roll-out now under-way, I think it is the time for us to recognise those people who, despite incompetent governments, lack of funding, and morons who do not believe COVID even existed, have still gone out there to protect us all, to be the heroes that we not only need, but can strive to be ourselves. I am hearing it more and more in the community, so have decided to celebrate it with song.
So, here are 20 songs about heroes. Some rules, though. First, no theme songs (so no 'Theme From 'Local Hero'' by Mark Knopfler or 'Believe It Or Not (Greatest American Hero)' by Joey Scarbury). Next, one song per artist. And, as usual, I have to like the song. Now, I will say, this was a hard list to cull down. I had almost fifty "hero" songs to choose from and decide to cut it to 20, which means a few good ones did miss out.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy the list!
'Heroes And Villains' by The Beach Boys (1967)
From when the Beach Boys started to leave their surf music past behind to go a little more experimental before, in the 70s, going back to surf music, and then country music and 80s/90s pop… the Beach Boys had a weird musical arc that did not work out brilliantly for them. However, songs like this from the late 60s showed why they were considered rivals to The Beatles for a while.
'Working Class Hero' by John Lennon & Plastic Ono Band (1970)
A protest song about the class divide in the UK, which still holds true in too many countries around the world today. There have been so many cover versions of this song over the years because the lyrics still mean something today. Nothing has changed.
'Celluloid Heroes' by The Kinks (1972)
A gentle and sad song about the movie stars of yore, and reminiscing about them. Ray Davies gives is poignancy and the band plays so well behind him. This is such a wonderful song and yet one not really remembered in the Kinks' canon.
'Yesterday's Hero' by John Paul Young (1975)
It is interesting that JPY's first hit was about being a washed up star. Odd. Written by Vanda-Young of Easybeats fame, this is a great rock song from Australia's seventies that was later covered by the Bay City Rollers (urk!) and remains largely forgotten nowadays. It is a great song and what a way to showcase Young from the word go.
'"Heroes"' by David Bowie(1977)
Probably the hero song, and one of the best songs by David Bowie, I have so many cover versions of this song it is insane… and, no, they will not make a good column as most are just exact copies of Bowie. Because, really, how could you do this better? Inspired by seeing lovers by the Berlin Wall, it has come to represent standing up in the face of anything. Such a great track.
'No More Heroes' by The Stranglers (1977)
One of those weird songs from the punk era of UK music, saying that the heroes of history all ended up dead, and bemoaning the fact there do not seem to be any people to replace them. It is a strange song, as The Stranglers were wont to record, but is still a great track.
'The Hero' by Queen (1980)
From the soundtrack to the glory that is the film Flash Gordon, this is the song that plays over the closing credits and is a great rocking song in the Queen canon.
'A World Without Heroes' by Kiss (1981)
A short song by Kiss from Music From 'The Elder', this ballad is a great track, a song about how the world needs heroes. Not superheroes, but real heroes. Kiss at their most reflective and best, with a great guitar solo supplied by Paul Stanley.
'Jukebox Hero' by Foreigner (1981)
The story of a man who couldn't get into a show so he bought a guitar to become the titular jukebox hero, and sung with power by Lou Gramm, has gone down as a classic rock track. And deservedly so. It is a great piece of rock before Foreigner became a power ballad band.
'The Wind Beneath My Wings' by Colleen Hewett(1982)
Ignore the over-wrought version by Bette Midler, Australia's Colleen Hewett recorded the definitive version of this song, her voice filled with emotion. I was in my first year of high school (1983) when I first heard this song (I saw it on Countdown, I reckon) and so I saved up my pocket money to buy the album Colleen, which I still own on cassette. This is such a beautiful version of this track, and should be better known. Glorious. (This link is to the official video, but it's not on an official channel, so could be taken down.)
'Holding Out For A Hero' by Bonnie Tyler (1984)
From the soundtrack to the magnificent film Footloose, written by Jim Steinman and gloriously sung by Bonnie Tyler, this is such a great track and I think I'm gushing.
'Rock'n'Roll Hero' by Meat Loaf (1986)
I am something of a fan of Meat Loaf, and have found that many of the deep cuts on his albums are as good as the released singles. Case in point – this track. I first heard this on a live album, which inspired me to go out and buy everything in his discography I didn't already have, and starting me down the path to collecting everything he has released. This song showcases his magnificent voice and is a great rock and roll track.
'Compulsory Hero' by 1927 (1989)
Another 1980s song railing against the Vietnam War over a decade after it was over, this one looks at the draft and the effect that had on the men who fought. This is a really good ballad from an Australian band, highlighted by some nice piano playing and emotional singing. A good song, all told.
'Hero' by David Crosby (1993)
This has the feel of a 1990s Phil Collins song with David Crosby singing… and that's because Collins co-wrote it, played keyboards, synthesisers and drums on it and produced it. Still, it is a really sweet song about sometimes the hero does not come from a simple place.
'Search For The Hero' by M People (1994)
A song with a great positive message about being the hero we ourselves deserve, this bit of Europop is a lot more thoughtful than the majority of its ilk. The singing is really good, and the message is a wonderful one, and the Eurobeat does not overwhelm the track.
'Heroes Don't Cry' by The Scorpions (1995)
A powerful ballad with a great guitar solo that is stunning and some good singing, I am not sure exactly what the song is getting at (the reference to a judge confuses issues somewhat), but I think they are telling some-one they are the hero of their own story and shouldn't cry. Anyway, I still like this song.
'Heroes' by James Blunt (2013)
A really nice song from a singer-songwriter who I think gets way too much-undeserved hate. He sings this song about a girl stuck in a toxic home environment where the parents fight and it is really sad and yet also tells a strong story. Blunt really is not that bad. Songs like this show that.
'Heroes' by Alesso feat. Tove Lo (2014)
A bit of EDM that I really liked. It might be Tove Lo's singing, it might be the lyrics, but whatever it is, from the first time I heard it, I just liked it. It's just a decent song telling us all that "we could be heroes!"
'Heroes' by Mans Zelmerlöw (2015)
The winner of the 2015 Eurovision song contest, and it is actually a worthy winner. Great lyrics, and the stage production at the show was stunning. He has a great voice , the song is another one with a positive message and it still stands as a fine piece of pop music. Just a shame it and Zelmerlöw did not make the impact on the charts they deserved.
'Hero Ground Zero' by The Who (2019)
From the recent album WHO, this is an interesting track with some of their classic sound that I am still sure is Pete Townshend having subtle digs at Roger Daltrey, or maybe it's friendly banter. I do like this track from the album, though.
Wow! That's a lot of heroes! Hero songs are everywhere – what a great way to show your appreciation for some-one… or to lament something else. But it is probably salient to remember the true heroes in our societies, celebrate them, maybe even wish them well. Hey, offer yourself to volunteer somewhere – be someone's hero for something.
We can all be heroes if we want.
Hope you enjoyed the list!