Music is a powerful vehicle for our emotions. Songs can give you a few moments of empathy for love, triumph, grief, and a host of other emotions.
It should come as no surprise that many of the most powerful songs that have gained radio play have to do with being there for someone who needs you. So take a look at these top songs about being there for someone when they need you.
Song Year: 2005
Starting off with a mellow, folksy groove is “Song for a Friend” by Jason Mraz. This song appeared on his sophomore album and is an unusual kind of love song in that it is for a friend. And what is more, the song is not about Mraz being there for his friend, but his friend being there for him.
He wrote it for his roommate of several years as a way of saying thank you for all the things he had done for Mraz when he was a struggling musician, including:
- Taking him to gigs
- Paying his rent
Mraz’s friend just wanted to see him succeed. So Mraz put it all in a song that captures the loneliness of trying to make it in the music business in the context of help and love from a close friend.
Song Year: 1994
This feel-good number on the debut album by Hootie and the Blowfish takes the frustration of watching a friend struggle with problems and actions and puts it into a rising chorus that is fun and easy to sing along with.
Featuring harmony vocals from one David Crosby, “Hold my Hand”:
- Made it to number ten on the Billboard Hot 100
- Was part of what propelled their first album to massive acclaim
According to Darius Rucker, the song idea came from their drummer when the band was auditioning him for a slot.
Song Year: 2010
Country music star Martina McBride stepped out of the mold when she recorded this song about supporting someone going through cancer. The song opens with:
- A 38-year-old woman's diagnosis, and
- The revelation of unflagging support from her husband
Co-written by Sonya Issacs, the song was inspired by Isaac’s mother, who had lived through a fight with breast cancer due, at least in part, to the love and support from her husband.
Song Year: 1992
Slowing down a bit, “Everybody Hurts” is R.E.M.’s deeply felt encouragement to that struggling someone in the form of a great slow dance number. The song:
- Came from the band’s drummer Bill Berry
- Channels more of a soul feel, which is unusual for the band
Typical of the band’s approach, they worked out the music before giving it to singer and frontman Michael Stipe, who brought the words to it. In an untypically direct fashion, Stipe goes straight for the heart in a song that is often considered to be directed at those contemplating suicide, especially teenagers.
Song Year: 2002
From her album Stripped, Christina Anguilera takes the self-affirmation of “Beautiful” and extends it, not to a friend but to her detractors. Coming at a time when the internet was showing how easy it was to insult people under the mask of anonymity.
“Beautiful” highlights the power of words, not by dwelling on their damage but by refusing to acknowledge their negative effects and instead turning the power of self-affirmation around on the trolls.
Written by Linda Perry and sung in one take by Aguilera, this song became an anthem for those who feel disenfranchised by the cultural norms of beauty.
Song Year: 1970
Sung by 11-year-old Michael Jackson with brother Jermaine on the bridge, “I’ll be There” is the expression of devotion from a former lover, no matter what the other person may do or who they end up being with.
That fact that it comes from the voice of a child gives it the warm glow of innocent acceptance that comes before sexual attraction and reaches beyond jealousy. It expresses a kind of self-sacrifice that many listeners want to feel (even if they cannot quite bring themselves to express it).
Song Year: 1999
“Kryptonite” puts a bit of twist on this category of songs because the question of being there for someone is left open-ended. And not only is the speaker in the song asking if a person will be there for him when he is down but when he is doing well.
Rather than coming from the point of view of someone offering encouragement, it comes from the point of view of someone needing unconditional acceptance through the good and the bad. “Kryptonite” was written by the band’s drummer, Brad Arnold, during math class when he was 15.
Song Year: 1971
Originally written by Carole King and released earlier in that same year on her iconic album Tapestry, “You’ve Got a Friend” became a number one hit for James Taylor. In fact, it became his only number one hit in the US.
King seems to have written the song in response to a song written by Taylor in 1970. In “Fire and Rain,” he wrote about desolate periods where he thought he was abandoned by friendship, to which the King song responded, “You’ve got a friend.”
Song Year: 1994
“You’ve Got a Friend in Me” was written by Randy Newman, the same guy who wrote the words, “Short people got no reason to live.” Maybe working from a change of heart, Newman offers this simple song of steadfast friendship, which has become a cultural staple as a theme for the Toy Story movies.
An entire generation of kids has grown up with this song as the soundtrack to an unflagging friendship between two people of different backgrounds and points of view.
Song Year: 1969
Not all the great songs of encouragement are radio hits. Case in point, “Lonesome Suzie” was recorded by The Band in 1969 for their album Music From Big Pink and did not chart, even though song writer Richard Manuel was hoping for a hit.
Nevertheless, this song has heartache and compassion written into it from the very first note and remains one of the great songs that Manuel wrote. It observes the heartbreak of a girl named Suzie and chronicles Manuel’s halting attempts to offer friendship as a consolation.
Song Year: 2016
Country music bad boy Keith Urban added “Break on Me” from Ripcord to the list of feel-good anthems in 2016. This song is a standing invitation to that special someone to let it out whenever life gets overwhelming.
With lines like “Shatter like glass/ Come apart in my hands,” this song came to life for one of the writers, Jon Nite, whose daughter had gone off to college, as well as for Urban himself. After recording the song, his wife’s father died, and Urban put the lyrics into practice.
Song Year: 1969
Here is a classic anthem from The Hollies that hits everyone in the heart because the story behind it is just about as moving as the song itself. The song’s title comes from a phrase that was used as the motto for a place called Boys Town in Omaha, Nebraska.
Boys Town (which became Boys and Girls Town in 1979) was a place for troubled youth since the early twentieth century. The priest who ran the organization had a statue built with a boy carrying another boy on his back and motto underneath: “He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.”
The motto was incorporated into the song written by Bobby Scott and Bobby Russel, apparently while Russel was dying of cancer. The guitarist for The Hollies found it and convinced the band to record it. Thus the anthem for carrying another’s burdens became a hit.
Song Year: 2008
This song is a shot in the arm to give significant others. Canadian band Nickelback wrote this rock anthem for struggling partners to keep on keeping on.
The singer gives a promise to stand by his significant other no matter, and not to waste time doing other things when he could spend it being a support to the person he loves.
Song Year: 1967
If there is a classic, timeless song that says I’m with you no matter what, it has to be “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” Originally recorded by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, the song peaked at #19 in 1967.
The song has since been put on an endless number of movie soundtracks and is without question the authoritative version.
Song Year: 1993
This gospel-tinged offering co-written by the singer herself originated in Mariah Carey’s life when she was in a controlling relationship. A handful of backup singers creates the feel of a whole gospel choir as Carey sings about needing a friend in desperate times.
She later said that the song came out of her faith in God and that she felt the song says what God might say to people when they feel alone and need a friend.
Song Year: 1967
There is probably a Beatles song for every occasion. That being the case, “With a Little Help From My Friends” easily takes its place in this category.
Sung by the affable Ringo Starr, this song is from the point of view of someone confident that his friends will always be there for him no matter what he needs.
Song Year: 1994
This touching anthem comes from insightful and usually hard-edged Chrissie Hynde, who co-wrote the song with Tom Kelly and BIlly Steinberg.
As such, it sounds out of ordinary from other Pretenders songs as being softer and more pop-oriented. Nevertheless, it became a hit for the band.
Song Year: 1966
This is an anthem of devotion by The Four Tops that has continued to speak to generations after.
Written by Eddie Holland, Lamont Dozier, and Brian Holland, this song came out of discussion between the writers about what women want: devotion through the good times and the bad.
Song Year: 1986
To get a straightforward song of encouragement from the former frontman of Genesis was something unexpected, but Peter Gabriel pulled it off for his hit album SO.
With guest vocalist Kate Bush, Gabriel brings the listener into the distraught musings of a man out of work, with Bush being the voice of support on the chorus. Moody and haunting, “Don’t Give Up” brings it home for the down and out listener.
Song Year: 1970
This is another classic anthem of support and an epic offering of courage and strength during hard times. Written by Paul Simon, the original recording was made with Garfunkel singing alone, though apparently, Garfunkel thought Simon should have sung it.
Nevertheless, Simon did sing the song many times throughout his solo career, including during his farewell tour.
Song Year: 2003
In “Answer” on her album Afterglow, Sarah McLachlan poses her devotion as the answer to unanswered questions.
Featuring mostly just her and the piano, the song is a mellow contemplation on giving unchanging love to someone who has been an unchanging source of inspiration.
Song Year: 1959
Ray Charles recorded the jazz standard in 1959, employing an orchestra and backup vocalists with bass and drums for his piano and voice.
The song is a bit unusual in the category of being there for someone when they need you, because in “Come Rain or Come, Shine,” the singer is going to be there for someone who is not sure they need it yet! But when they figure it out, the singer will be there.
Song Year: 1988
Hard rock crown prince Jon Bon Jovi recorded this song of devotion in 1988 about moving forward and not dwelling on the past, especially a past when he let down the person he loved.
In “I’ll be There for You,” the singer wants to be so close to the person he loves; he will be there when she breathes and the wine that gets her drunk. Now that’s commitment!
Song Year: 2005
From their huge album X&Y, “Fix You” is about the singer’s desire to reach out and fix the person who is hurting.
Rather than a recipe for codependency, “Fix You” is an elixir to take when you are down and need something to show you that there are better things ahead.
Song Year: 1973
This number two R&B hit has a definite latin feel that comes from a combination of Stevie Wonder being exposed to a lot of different music as a kid and a Puerto Rican woman he met in a record store once before a gig.
The song is a confidence booster to explore the world and take it by the horns. And no matter what happens, don’t worry about a thing.
Song Year: 1970
This is young, sassy Dolly Parton at her best. With a country foundation and gospel tinge from the background singers, Parton belts out a declaration of steadfast love to give and desire to receive it.
The song was written by Parton herself back in the day, and the Country Music Queen went on to re-record it with Sia for the movie Dumplin’.
Song Year: 1995
The late powerhouse vocalist Whitney Houston recorded this uplifting song about being a friend to count on with gospel singer CeCe Winans for the movie Waiting to Exhale.
It became a hit at #8 on the Billboard and won a host of awards. It continues to be a go-to song about being there for someone who needs you.
Music reaches out to a wide range of styles, tastes, and personalities, so what better way to say I’m there for you than through a song. It seems like every style of music has a song for the person feeling down on their luck, so no matter what you listen to, you can find a song about being there for someone that speaks to you.