Everybody can use some inspiration now and then– a little motivation to keep going, even when times are tough.
The power of music is one way people find solace in their darkest moments. Songs of hope. Lyrics with messages of strength and perseverance. There’s nothing like hearing a song of empowerment, giving you the will to face any challenge that may lie ahead.
Prepare to be uplifted and inspired by our list of songs about surviving.
1. “I Will Survive” – Gloria Gaynor
Song Year: 1978
From her album, Love Tracks, Gloria Gaynor gives us one of the most powerful survival songs ever recorded, “I Will Survive.” It hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100.
The song was popular during the disco era and became an anthem for female empowerment. At first, the singer is scared of being alone, having just come out of a bad relationship. However, when her man returns, she tells him to get lost, holding her head high with the rest of her life to live.
2. “Eye of the Tiger” – Survivor
Song Year: 1982
With a name like Survivor, you know this band would release some uplifting material. The group’s biggest hit, “Eye of the Tiger,” was featured prominently in the movie, Rocky III. It topped the Billboard Hot 100 for six weeks.
The lyrics fit perfectly with the sport of boxing. Get knocked down, get back up. Rising to the challenge. The will to survive. If you have the guts, you can achieve glory.
3. “I’m Still Standing” – Elton John
Song Year: 1983
Elton John wrote “I’m Still Standing” with longtime collaborator Bernie Taupin, and the song released on his seventh studio album, Too Low For Zero.
After a broken relationship, the singer tells his partner that despite being abandoned, he is standing taller, “looking like a true survivor.” You can always pick up the pieces and move on in life for the better.
4. “Gonna Fly Now” – Bill Conti
Song Year: 1976
Bill Conti’s “Gonna Fly Now ” reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100. Another featured inspirational tune from the movie Rocky, it received a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Original Song.
Even with few lyrics, it still resonates as one of the most motivating songs recorded. Facing an uphill battle, especially as a boxer, takes commitment and dedication to get stronger. Rocky Balboa achieves this with his iconic pose after sprinting up the steps in Philadelphia.
5. “I’m a Survivor” – Reba McEntire
Song Year: 2001
“I’m a Survivor” was included on Reba McEntire’s compilation album of the same name. The song peaked at number three on the Billboard Hot Country Songs.
The song is a powerful message of survival. Even though the singer was born prematurely and not expected to live, she grew up to become a single mother with “the heart of a fighter.” Never given a chance of her own, the will to provide for her children makes this mom a survivor.
6. “I Can See Clearly Now” – Johnny Nash
Song Year: 1972
Johnny Nash scored an international hit with “I Can See Clearly Now,” the title track from his 1972 album, when it reached number one in both the US and Canada.
With Nash’s uplifting vocals and a reggae influence, the song is about hanging in there until the dark clouds make way for sunshine. If you persevere through the pain and bad feelings you may have, there are brighter days ahead.
7. “The Show Must Go On” – Queen
Song Year: 1991
“The Show Must Go On” was released on Queen’s fourteenth studio album, Innuendo. The song was written by guitarist Brian May in response to the deteriorating health of his bandmate, Freddie Mercury.
Mercury suffered from AIDS during the recording of the album. However, as one of the greatest frontmen to ever don a pair of tights, Freddie knew the importance of putting on a great show no matter what. Even with a broken heart and flaking makeup, the show must go on.
8. “Stayin’ Alive” – Bee Gees
Song Year: 1977
From the motion picture soundtrack Saturday Night Fever, “Stayin’ Alive” became one of the Bee Gees’ signature songs. This disco hit spent four weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100.
When you’ve been kicked around since you were born, an upbeat, positive outlook is just what it takes to see another day. While it may feel like your life is going nowhere, you have to do what it takes to stay alive.
9. “Fighter” – Christine Aguilera
Song Year: 2003
“Fighter” is a song from Christine Aguilera’s fourth album, Stripped. Aguilera’s empowering lyrics stem from difficult childhood experiences, including her abusive home and frequent bullying at school.
In her lyrics, she turns a toxic relationship into a positive by thanking her ex for making her stronger. All that cheating and backstabbing she once resented made her wiser and her skin thicker. The moment you have finally had enough, you become a fighter.
10. “Carry On” – Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Song Year: 1970
“Carry On” is the first song on Deja Vu from Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, and was written by Stephen Stills during a time of turmoil within the band.
Sometimes when a relationship does not work, each party has to go their own way. Initial feelings of darkness may threaten to overcome you, but with fresh eyes, you will soon face a new day and find the strength to carry on.
11. “Warrior” – Demi Lovato
Song Year: 2013
From her eponymous album, Demi, Demi Lovato’s powerfully uplifting song “Warrior” is written from her personal experiences.
Lovato likens herself to a phoenix, rising from the ashes after having been burned in a relationship, and as a result, she hides her wounds and scars, not showing any weakness. In the end, the experience has only made her stronger, turning her into a warrior.
12. “Don’t Stop” – Fleetwood Mac
Song Year: 1977
The third single from one of the all-time great albums ever recorded, Rumours, Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop” hit number three on the Billboard Hot 100.
No matter what you are feeling today, there is always tomorrow. Your past may be fraught with negatives and poor experiences, but don't look back or dwell on it. Cast your eyes to the future and brighter days.
13. “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” – Pat Benatar
Song Year: 1980
Pat Benatar reached the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 with “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” from her album, Crimes of Passion. It soon became her signature song and sold over one million copies in the US.
After a heartbreak, the singer challenges her man to give her his best shot. Though he does not fight fair, and she may get knocked down, she gets right back on her feet again, determined not to be defeated.
14. “Survivor” – Destiny’s Child
Song Year: 2001
From their self-titled album, Destiny’s Child released “Survivor” as their lead single. It hit number two on the Hot 100 and won a Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group.
The lyrics put female power on display. When her toxic partner leaves, Beyoncé sings that despite him thinking she would be weaker, helpless, and stressed, she is instead stronger, smarter, and happier. There is no more pain because she is a survivor.
15. “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” – Kelly Clarkson
Song Year: 2012
Dance-pop song “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” was Kelly Clarkson’s third song to top the Billboard Hot 100. Clarkson was the very first winner of American Idol in 2002.
In another song about a relationship turned sour, the singer scoffs at the perception of being broken. What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger, and turns you into a fighter. Being alone does not make you lonely when you believe in yourself.
16. “Don’t Stop Believin’” – Journey
Song Year: 1981
“Don’t Stop Believin’’ is the signature song of the rock band Journey. No doubt you've heard this tune before! The track was an international hit, making Journey one of the most successful rock bands of the early ‘80s.
The lyrics paint the picture of lonely people looking to leave their past lives behind for something better. When lead singer Steve Perry belts out the chorus, “don’t stop believin’,” it becomes a rock anthem about hope for the future.
17. “I Believe I Can Fly” – Yolanda Adams
Song Year: 2001
Yolanda Adams sings a powerful cover of “I Believe I Can Fly” on her gospel album, The Experience. It won a Grammy for Best Contemporary Soul Gospel Album in 2002.
It is a very inspirational song about the power of believing in yourself. You are capable of doing anything you put your mind to. Even if you find yourself in a dark place, you have the power to see the light– you just need to believe.
18. “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now” – McFadden & Whitehead
Song Year: 1979
Released on their self-titled debut, “Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now” was a disco hit for McFadden & Whitehead. It reached number one on the Billboard Hot R&B chart.
The song speaks to the hardships faced by the African-American community, describing how, despite the obstacles, nothing will stop them on the road to success. The band was involved in a dispute with its record label at the time of the song's creation, and the track expresses how they felt when finally free from their contract.
19. “Roar” – Katy Perry
Song Year: 2013
Katy Perry’s fourth album Prism focuses on themes of self-empowerment and inner strength, and no song better captures that sentiment than the single, “Roar.”
The song was an international hit, topping charts in several countries. Perry sings about being meek and timid at the start, getting pushed to the breaking point, but she gets up and goes from zero to hero with the eye of the tiger. Perry becomes Queen of the Jungle, and nothing will stop her now.
20. “Only the Strong Survive” – Jerry Butler
Song Year: 1969
Jerry Butler scored a number-one hit on the Billboard Hot R&B Songs chart with “Only the Strong Survive.” It would peak at number four on the Billboard Hot 100.
After having his heart broken, his mother gives her crying son some advice: pick yourself up, because only the strong survive. There are plenty of fish in the sea, so as long as you don’t give up, you never know what tomorrow may bring.
21. “I Didn’t Know My Own Strength” – Whitney Houston
Song Year: 2009
From her seventh album, Look To You, Whitney Houston released “I Didn’t Know My Own Strength.” It is a ballad of empowerment and perseverance from The Voice.
The song is about surviving your darkest hour and getting through the pain. Along with the introduction of hope comes light from within, and it will see you through. You may be surprised by your own strength.
22. “Roll With It” – Steve Winwood
Song Year: 1988
‘‘Roll With It” was the title track from Steve Winwood’s fifth album. The single was number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for four weeks and received two Grammy Award nominations.
The R&B track suggests that no matter how much life gets you down, you can get through by just rolling with it and taking it as it comes. If you can leave the bad times behind and hang in there, you can find love and happiness.
23. “You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me” – Cher
Song Year: 2012
Cher and Chistina Aguilera joined forces on the film Burlesque, with “You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me” released on the soundtrack. It reached number one on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Songs chart, making Cher the only artist to have a number-one single in six consecutive decades.
The power ballad is sung by a woman who has been pushed down and is at her breaking point, but strength and resilience will get her back on her feet, stronger than ever. She is not going anywhere.
24. “It’s My Life” – Bon Jovi
Song Year: 2000
“It’s My Life” was the lead single from Bon Jovi’s seventh album, Crush. It reached number one on charts in several countries across Europe.
The message is about taking charge of your life, not just becoming a face in the crowd. You cannot bend or break under pressure, stand tall. Life is short, nothing lasts forever, so make the most of what you have.
25. “Never Surrender” – Corey Hart
Song Year: 1985
Corey Hart borrowed a line from Winston Churchill for the title of his song, “Never Surrender.” It peaked at number three on the US Billboard Hot 100 and won a Juno Award in Canada for Song of the Year.
Hart would recall his mother’s advice as inspiration for the song. She taught him to never quit on himself or lose sight of his dreams no matter how difficult they may be to achieve. You need perseverance and the will to never surrender to the challenge.
26. “On Top of the World” – Imagine Dragons
Song Year: 2012
From their album Night Visions, “On Top of the World” was a Top 10 hit in several countries for the Imagine Dragons.
This song of inspiration is about achieving your dreams. If you dream about something as a child, don’t lose sight of it. If you can get up after falling and pay your dues, you may one day find yourself on top of the world.
27. “Jesus, Take the Wheel” – Carrie Underwood
Song Year: 2005
The ballad “Jesus, Take the Wheel” is the first single from Carrie Underwood’s debut album, Some Hearts. It would be her first of many number-one singles on the Billboard Hot Country Songs and also earned two Grammy Awards including Best Country Song.
The lyrics tell the story of a woman driving in snowy conditions with her baby in the back seat. She loses control of the car and sees her life flash before her eyes. Only her faith can save her and her child. When saved, she vows to make changes in her life.
28. “I Won’t Back Down” – Tom Petty
Song Year: 1989
“I Won’t Back Down” was the lead single from Tom Petty’s debut solo album, Full Moon Fever. The song was co-written by ELO’s Jeff Lynne and featured George Harrison on vocals and guitar, a collaboration that would be the early stages of the Traveling Wilburys.
The lyrics suggest that even when you feel like you are getting pushed around or dragged down by life, you cannot give up. You need to take a stand and not back down in order to survive.
29. “Dog Days Are Over” – Florence + The Machine
Song Year: 2008
Formed in London, Florence and The Machine released their debut album Lungs. It featured the song “Dog Days Are Over,” recorded without instruments in a tiny studio.
The song is about leaving your troubles behind if you want to survive. You cannot carry your burden with you, so you have to believe that the dog days are over to make a run for happiness in the future.
30. “Unstoppable” – Sia
Song Year: 2016
“Unstoppable” is an anthem of empowerment from Australian singer-songwriter Sia. The track appears on her seventh album, This Is Acting.
Sia sings about keeping your feelings from plain view and putting on armor to shield any signs of weakness. With that confidence comes a feeling of invincibility, the strength of an unstoppable force, like “a Porsche with no brakes.”
31. “Survival” – Eminem
Song Year: 2013
Eminem’s track “Survival” was originally released to promote the video game, “Call of Duty.” The song would be included on his album The Marshall Mathers LP 2.
Eminem raps about his experience in the music industry. He may not have been fully prepared for stardom, but once there, he was going to stay on top. It’s a cutthroat, winner-take-all business, do or die, and only the fittest survive.
32. “You’ll Never Walk Alone” – Gerry and The Pacemakers
Song Year: 1963
“You’ll Never Walk Alone” was originally a song in the 1945 musical Carousel by Rodgers and Hammerstein. It became the anthem of Liverpool FC following the success of the song from Liverpool-based Gerry and The Pacemakers.
Elvis Presley also recorded the song for a 1967 gospel album. The lyrics inspire the listener to hold strong during the darkness, that on the other side is light. Have the strength to hold onto your dreams, keep hope in your heart, and you will never walk alone.
33. “I Made It Through the Rain” – Barry Manilow
Song Year: 1980
From his 1980 release, Barry, Barry Manilow’s “I Made It Through the Rain” was a Top 10 hit on both the Billboard Hot 100 and the Adult Contemporary charts.
Barry sings about keeping your dreams alive, protecting them until it’s your time to shine. Sometimes life can feel unkind, but if you can make it through the rainy days, you will eventually see the sunshine, and your dreams will become a reality.
Top Songs About Surviving, Final Thoughts
The concept of survival has inspired countless artists across every genre of music. Country songs about strength in one’s faith, pop songs and ballads about female empowerment, and lyrics about hope and perseverance to get through the darkness.
The will to survive is basic human nature. Sometimes you need a little background music to help get you there.