Top Five Best & Worst Songs About 9/11

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This Sunday will be 10 years since America was attacked on Sept. 11, 2001. In that time, a lot of musical ground has been covered. Some artists mention that day only in passing, as Jay-Z and Alicia Keys do in "Empire State of Mind," but some have crafted songs about 9/11 itself.

Some of these are heartfelt, sincere outpourings of emotion by people who were there or were genuinely moved by what happened. Some songs are knee-jerk gut reactions with little more thought put into them than goes into a sneeze. And of course, some of these songs are simply crass exploitation.

We're going to take a look at the best and worst of the songs we've encountered in the past ten years that were written about 9/11 or events pertaining to it. Something to understand before you even start hitting that "Add Comment" button: This means we're going to be mocking some people who probably had the best of intentions.

Tough shit. You want a better review, put out a better product, especially when it has to do with something as serious and lasting as 9/11, which is still at the top of the news. Let's start with the best...

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5. Sage Francis, "Makeshift Patriot": Recorded in October 2001, Sage took just enough time to refine his prose while still exposing his raw nerves. The rapper from Providence, R.I., visited Ground Zero five days after the attacks, and this track recounts his frustration at the bandwagon patriots on the news and in the city, people all too quick to jump in line behind our leaders and cease asking critical questions.

He as much as predicts the subsequent creation of the Patriot Act, warning "Freedom will be defended at the cost of civil liberties." He decries a media which at the time was panicking America into a patriotic fervor by showing the attacks on the news over and over and over again, while a city and nation in mourning were still trying to heal. Pretty powerful stuff, a snapshot of the times, with an air of urgency, immediacy, and sadness.


4. Bruce Springsteen, "The Rising": Springsteen has always known how to espouse hope without spouting cliches and overwrought sentiment, and here he displays this skill in an honest-to-God anthem. With key passages written from the perspective of a New York City firefighter ascending one of the burning towers, "The Rising" begs us to literally rise above the hate and the ugliness that led to September 11. It's a song not of revenge and war, but of peace and unity. And a hell of a singalong chorus to boot.


3. The Weepies, "Safe As Houses": The Weepies recount what it was like to not know if your loved ones were dead or alive on that day. Harrowing and sad, but with an undercurrent of real love.


2. The Low Anthem, "Boeing 737": This song imagines a conversation with Philipe Petit, the man who walked a tightrope between the twin towers in 1974, as chronicled in the excellent documentary Man On Wire. The conversation is interrupted when "prophets entered boldly into the bar," a fairly clear allusion to the 9/11 attacks.

This imagery brings to mind several questions: What if Petit and the towers had been destroyed before that historic tightrope walk could take place? How many Philipe Petits did we lose on 9/11, people who may have gone on to greatness? How many shared national experiences like Petit's 1974 walk have we missed out on because those 3,000 people were murdered? A thought-provoking song.


1. Mary-Chapin Carpenter, "Grand Central Station": As told from the perspective of a rescue worker on his way to work at Ground Zero, digging through the wreckage for bodies. He sees faces of the missing plastered on the walls of Grand Central Station and wonders if he'll be able to bring any of them home. A simple, powerful, and very human portrait.

Now that we've lifted your spirits and touched your heart, it's time for Rocks Off insult your intelligence and give you the douche chills. That's right, it's time for the worst...


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22 comments
skitty14
skitty14

What about "Let's Roll" That Neil Young (A Canadian!) POS?

Rick C
Rick C

A metal band made a great song about 9-11.  It is Testament, and the song is called "The Evil Has Landed".  VERY great song describing the events on that day.  

protestfolk
protestfolk

There's a video of the public domain "Let Me Tell You About 9/11" folk song posted at the following protestfolk channel link that might also interest Houston Press readers:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

Allison
Allison

Alan Jackson, Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning

Bruce Springsteen, You're Missing

Bill
Bill

I thought Overcome by Live was a bit much, in particular the marketing overdose it got. We had (in Australia) copies of the CD single given away free in weekend newspapers and it was the backing music for every fucking emotional 'interest' story about the event.

guest
guest

elvis perkins, doomsday, is good one.

DuckDuckGoose
DuckDuckGoose

Written before 1970 - one of the best Fire and Rain by James Taylor

"... sweet dreams and flying machines in pieces on the ground ..."

AKholic
AKholic

Sage Francis and his song Makeshift Patriot was one of my favorite songs that year. Very powerful lyrics. I'm glad you recognized that track.

Andie
Andie

I'd add to the 'Best' list "Anthrax" by Kimya Dawson.  It's chilling.  The title is a reference to the Anthrax attacks that came shortly after the attacks.  

She makes a lot of references to having nightmares about the attacks, and being in Montreal during a shitty tour, then finding out about the planes crashing.

the air is filled with computers and carpetsskin and bones and telephones and file cabinetscoke machines, firemen, landing gear, and cementthey say that it's okay but i say don't breathe in

jermaine
jermaine

What about "Times Like These" by the Foo Fighters???? Dave has even been quoted saying the song is an homage to the way everyone took care of each other after 9/11.

Jake
Jake

A song that is surprisingly decent with the 9/11 theme: "Skylines and Turnstiles" by My Chemical Romance...written for their first album when they were still just a run of the mill garage band well before they were famous, and not long after 9/11.

KING
KING

Shocked that "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue" didn't make the list. Honestly not sure about which list it would make, but still.

Classic Rock Bob
Classic Rock Bob

One of the most moving 9-11 songs ever is "Flying" by Living Colour off their Colleidoscope album. It's from the perspective of a guy who jumps out of one of the towers. Very eerie and powerful:

I jumped out the window to get to the parking lotI'm writing this little song on my way downNever in my life have I felt a heat so hotI had to get outI was gathering up my nerve to ask out CarmenShe glanced out the windowOh my GodThe room It went away, now we’re holding handsJust not the way I planned

Such a lovely day to go flyingThe sky's so clear, the sun is shiningFate has given me wings Such a terrible funny thing

Flag? Rag? Can't it be both?
Flag? Rag? Can't it be both?

What? No Alan Jackson?!? That motherfucker was cashing the checks while the corpses of the people he was exploiting were still smoldering.

Andie
Andie

I've generally found anything by Live after Throwing Copper (and even some tracking therein) tend to be the definition of 'overwrought'

April
April

Yes and he would know, his mom died in ones of the planes.

Arghtothejay
Arghtothejay

I remember hearing it for the first time live, I went to his merch booth and bought every record he had. It was dec 01, he was on the verge of breaking down but fought his way through it.

I have to say to the author, well done. This is still such a touchy subject, yet you some how filtered through all the hate filled songs and only gave credit to the ones that expressed true emotion of the artist, yet chastised the ones who were obviously in it for the profit.

Maripoza67
Maripoza67

YES. That is such an amazing song and an amazing band. I'm sure you know 9/11 was the catalyst for the band's beginning. Excellent suggestion!

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