Whether it be through the feeling of sadness or happiness, music is a powerful tool that connects people all over the world. Songs about empathy, in particular, can help us understand ourselves and connect with others through shared experiences and feelings.
In this article, we present 21 songs about empathy, or relating to the feelings of others and understanding their problems. Of course, some of the songs below are sadder than others, but they all teach us something important about being human.
1. I Know a Place by MUNA
This MUNA song is about empathy and encourages listeners to look out for one another. The trio, who have gained a reputation for their socially conscious lyrics, wrote “I Know a Place” as a rallying cry for the LGBTQ+ community and a reminder that safe spaces exist.
Songs about empathy like “I Know a Place” have become instant anthems for fans worldwide. Aside from being a song for those who struggle to fit in, it’s also a song about standing up for one another in a world that doesn’t always make it easy to be kind to each other.
If you are looking to understand others and yourself, you can add this song to your playlist. The lyrics of “I Know a Place” are encouraging and will remind you that you’re not alone in your struggles. There will always be places you can go and people you can rely on.
2. Epiphany by Taylor Swift
“Epiphany” (stylized in all lowercase) is a song by Taylor Swift from her 2020 album, Folklore. The song depicts someone attempting to find peace in their dreams despite living in a world of turmoil and violence. Swift wrote one of the most beautiful songs about empathy that honors the frontliners of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the lyrics, Swift empathizes with doctors and nurses who serve despite the grueling nature of their work and the mental trauma they face when dealing with the loss of lives. The song also touches on the emotional pain and physical toll that World War II soldiers had to endure, particularly the experiences of her veteran grandfather Dean.
3. An Innocent Man by Billy Joel
“An Innocent Man” is a simple, soulful ballad about the power and understanding that a meaningful relationship needs. In particular, it’s about loving someone who experienced betrayal in a past relationship.
In this song, Billy appears to be consoling a heartbroken person. It seems that rejection and desertion burned this person. As a result, she’s terrified to trust, open up, and give herself to someone else again. So, what Billy does is offer his heart. He pleads throughout the song that he is an “innocent man,” assuring the other person that he is willing to put himself on the line for love. Billy does this even if it means taking her abuse, which stems from her previous hurtful relationships.
4. Empathy by Alanis Morissette
The song “Empathy” is from Alanis Morissette’s eighth studio album, Havoc and Bright Lights, her first album since the birth of her first child, Ever Imre Morissette-Treadway.
While motherhood is a central topic on the album, the songs she created for it also cover various aspects of her new life, including being kind to others. Morissette explained to MTV News, “I’m healing a lot of wounds from my childhood, and so is my husband… that healing definitely shows up in songs like ‘Empathy’.”
This song is about being loved by someone who truly understands what you’re going through. It’s as if the other person accepts you just as you are and is an empath who understands and is sensitive to your feelings. According to Morissette, this song brings tears to her eyes no matter how often she hears it or performs it. “May it hug your heart in the way it is intended to,” said Morisette in her caption for the music video.
5. Creature Comfort by Arcade Fire
“Creature Comfort” is a song by Canadian indie rock band Arcade Fire. On June 16, 2017, the band released it as the second single from their fifth studio album, Everything Now, a concept album about unrealistic expectations, conformity pressure, and modern life’s relentless din.
Behind the lyrics, the song “Creature Comfort” touches on the themes of suicide and depression. However, these are not necessarily about the band’s thoughts. Instead, it’s their fans. Here, Arcade Fire enters the minds of two different groups of listeners—boys and girls—and describes some of their more depressing thoughts and actions. Despite writing a song about such a heavy topic, the band does it to give their fans one of their best songs about empathy. They wanted to help listeners feel understood and perhaps provide them with a new perspective on how they’re feeling.
6. Human by Christina Perri
“Human” is a song from Christina Perri’s second studio album, Head or Heart, released in 2014. Lyrically, the song conveys the vulnerability of being human. Perri expresses her willingness to go to any length for the person she loves. However, she isn’t perfect, and her relationship with this person is tearing her apart.
Although it’s written from a relationship perspective, the song can be a reminder that we’re all human, and we all feel pain and sadness. Hopefully, this song will help you be kinder to others and gentler with yourself.
7. This Is to Mother You by Sinead O’Connor
The song “This Comes to Mother You” is from Sinead O’Connor’s 1997 EP, Gospel Oak, which sold 250,000 copies worldwide. The song makes a simple promise to the world’s most vulnerable children: You may not notice us, yet we are aware of your presence. We will never stop loving and caring for you.
In this song, O’Connor pours forth a mother’s unconditional love like one long continuous warm hug, and she infuses tenderness and passion in every word she speaks.
As part of the Girls Are Not for Sale campaign, O’Connor recorded a new version of the song with Mary J. Blige. This campaign aims to raise awareness about child sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of American girls. The earnings from the new version of “This Comes to Mother You” went to GEMS: Girls Educational and Mentoring Services, the nation’s largest non-profit organization dedicated to empowering young women and girls in the United States.
8. Hello in There by John Prine
“Hello in There” is structured specifically, with the verses conveying the story and the choruses delivering the lesson from the story. According to John Prine, his friend Bob Dylan, particularly his song The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll, was the inspiration for this song.
After a 30-second acoustic prelude, Prine begins peeling back the layers of an older couple’s lives, two lovers who now find themselves wandering in their golden years. He goes on to talk about the mounting misery of becoming older and the feeling of being invisible to the rest of the world.
“Hello in There” is one of the best songs about empathy, especially considering Prine wrote this powerful message to the elderly when he was only 22 years old. It is a song that conveys the meaning of life, love, and happiness in a spectacular way.
9. Another Man’s Shoes by Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors
“Another Man’s Shoes” is a gentle rock song that takes a different approach to life. “Everyone’s got their own set of troubles/ Every one’s got their own set of blues / Every one’s got their own set of struggles / Walk a mile in another man’s shoes,” the lyrics sing.
Here, the band sings about how everyone carries their own burden on their shoulders, reminding us that we are not alone in our struggles. We may not be able to alleviate another person’s sorrow, but we may at least acknowledge and comprehend their pain. That alone can make a big difference.
10. Tin Man by Miranda Lambert
This melancholy song is featured in Miranda Lambert’s 2016 album, The Weight of These Wings. Lambert wrote the album shortly after her widely publicized divorce from fellow country superstar Blake Shelton. Miranda Lambert confesses that writing the album wasn’t easy for her, describing it as “her diary of the last couple of years.”
In this emotional single, Miranda sings to the legendary character of The Wizard of Oz. The singer, who has recently suffered a heartbreak, warns him about the agony of emotions and offers to trade places with the Tin Man, giving him her shattered heart in exchange for the protection of his metallic body.
“Tin Man” is undeniably one of Lambert’s best country hits. The sorrowful ballad reached No. 15 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart. It also received Grammy nominations in Best Country Solo Performance and Best Country Song categories.
11. Both of Us by B.o.B ft. Taylor Swift
“Both of Us” is the third single from American rapper B.o.B’s second studio album, Strange Clouds, released on May 22, 2012. American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift also contributes vocals to the song.
Filled with romantic yearning, Swift delivers one of her trademark epic hooks over acoustic guitar. When the beat then kicks in, B.o.B starts ruminating about poverty, perseverance, and the tyranny of self-consciousness. Additionally, the song contains lyrics that discuss racism and bullying.
Swift came up with the idea for the collaboration after visiting B.o.B’s label, Grand Hustle Records, and the end result became a sweet surprise to their fans. The song’s uplifting lyrics, combined with Swift’s catchy melody, made it a hit, earning it Platinum certification in the United States and Australia.
12. Stand By You by Rachel Platten
Rachel Platten released “Stand by You” on September 11, 2015, as a follow-up song to her breakout hit “Fight Song.” Here, Platten tells her significant other that she will be there for them even in the darkest circumstances.
“Hands, put your empty hands in mine,” sings the first line, referring to someone wounded by personal tragedy and has metaphoric wounds and broken wings. Platten offers to hold them, providing support and comfort in difficult moments.
“Stand By You” is a song for people who find themselves alone in life’s challenges. When everything seems to be falling apart, this song assures listeners that someone will always be with them no matter what happens, making it one of the best songs about empathy.
13. Rainbow by Kacey Musgraves
“Rainbow” is an uplifting song by Grammy-winning country music artist Kacey Musgraves. The singer-songwriter released it in February 2019 as the fifth and final single from her third studio album, Golden Hour. Musgraves is attached to this song for a variety of reasons. It was the last song Musgraves’s grandmother ever heard her write, and Musgrave performed the song at her funeral.
More than a song, “Rainbow” also seems an encouraging letter. According to the singer, it started as a note to herself before evolving into a message of hope for anyone amid difficult times.
Even though the song began as a personal note of comfort, Musgraves hopes it will become an anthem for others enduring adversity, particularly in the LGBTQ community.
14. Keep Your Head Up by Andy Grammer
“Keep Your Head Up” is Andy Grammer’s first single from his self-titled debut album. Grammar wrote this song at the beginning of his professional music career, back when he would experience a long day on the streets, attempting unsuccessfully to sell his album.
The song was really a pep talk to himself to keep his head up and not give up. But surprisingly, the song he created at this low period in his career would end up being the one that launched his career.
Even though Grammer wrote “Keep Your Head Up” as a message to himself, the lesson is relevant to all listeners. The lyrics can serve as a reminder to keep your heads up even when you’re feeling disheartened and hopeless or even when you’re battling to make ends meet, making it one of the most uplifting songs about empathy.
15. The Sound of Sunshine by Michael Franti & Spearhead
In August 2009, Franti had surgery for a perforated appendix, nearly killing him. He was happy to be alive and grateful for the small pleasures in life, such as the sun beaming through his window during his recovery. He would open the curtain in his hospital room every day to check on the sun.
Franti told Songfacts, “I thought to myself, ‘If I could bottle this feeling of how good the sun feels when you’re trying to heal your body, it would be amazing,'” he told us. “So I thought, ‘Why not try to put it into a song so that I could share that experience with other people?’”
The hit “The Sound of Sunshine” by Michael Franti & Spearhead is also the title track from their album released in 2010. It was a minor hit in Switzerland and reached No. 3 in Italy. It also topped the AAA Airplay Chart in the United States.
16. Angel by Sarah McLachlan
“Angel” is a song about dealing with life’s agony and escaping it through drugs, with sometimes tragic repercussions. In particular, McLachlan said that the song is about how creatives, notably musicians and artists, seek to build a reputation for themselves but succumb to the influence of drugs as their relevance begins to fade.
McLachlan wrote this song in memory of all the artists and people who died because of drug overdoses. In particular, she wrote this song after reading articles in Rolling Stone about musicians using heroin to cope with the stresses of the music industry and overdosing, including Smashing Pumpkins’ keyboardist, Jonathan Melvoin. This song is a beautiful and melancholy piece of music that stems from Sarah’s empathy for fellow musicians.
17. Lean on Me by Bill Withers
“Lean on Me” is a touching song by American singer-songwriter Bill Withers. He released it in April 1972 as the first single from his second album, Still Bill. Lyrically, this song is about a rural man’s loneliness in the big city. The singer lets that person know that he is there for them and encourages them to lean on him when times get rough. The singer does not feel sorry for his friend but wants to support him through his pain.
It takes a great deal of empathy to be able to listen to another person’s problems without feeling as if they need your sympathy or advice; instead, you just let them know you are willing to lend an ear and care enough about their feelings that you are willing to put yours aside so they can talk. This song became an inspirational anthem for those overcoming adversity or a joyous rallying cry of unity and resilience in difficult times.
18. Soulshine by Allman Brothers Band
“Soulshine” is a song written by Warren Haynes and first recorded by Larry McCray for his album Delta Hurricane in 1993. It’s best known as a song performed by Haynes’ band, The Allman Brothers Band, on their 1994 album, Where It All Begins, which featured Gregg Allman on vocals. Haynes’ nickname, given by his father, inspired the song’s title.
“Soulshine” has become an anthem of hope to many. It is a song about looking inside oneself for calm in times of adversity. Its premise is that it’s not what you come across those matters, but what’s within you that makes each day better. Even though the Allman Brothers never released their version as a single, it is still one of the band’s most well-known tunes.
19. Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon & Garfunkel
“Bridge Over Troubled Water” is one of the most well-known songs in the world, as well as Simon & Garfunkel’s signature and farewell tune. Since its release, many other artists covered the iconic 1970 hit ballad which remains to be a compelling song in times of doubt and hardship.
Paul Simon wrote “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” for the duo’s fifth and last album of the same name. Paul wrote it so rapidly that he afterwards wondered, “Where did that come from? It doesn’t seem like me.” With its beautiful lyrics filled with figurative language, this is a lovely song about giving consolation to someone in need.
“Bridge Over Troubled Water” was the year’s biggest single. It went to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 list in the United States in February 1970 and stayed there for six weeks. In the Grammy Awards of 1971, the single won Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Contemporary Song, and Best Arrangement, Instrumental and Vocals, with the album receiving Album of the Year.
20. Hey Jude by The Beatles
Originally titled “Hey Jules,” this song was written by Paul McCartney to console John Lennon’s son Julian during John and Cynthia’s divorce. The lyrics comfort Julian with familial warmth, reminding him that love is not something to be afraid of.
“Hey Jude” was the longest single ever to top the British charts at the time, clocking in at over seven minutes. Additionally, it was the Beatles’ single with the longest run at the top of the American charts. The song’s nine-week stint at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 demonstrates its popularity at the time, and its continued inclusion in “Greatest Songs of All Time” lists shows its staying power today
21. Respect by Aretha Franklin
Aretha Franklin’s “Respect,” which was originally a minor hit for Otis Redding in 1965, had a new arrangement and lyrics about a woman courageously demanding her man’s respect. It became Franklin’s signature song and a revolutionary female empowerment anthem in the late ‘60s.
In addition to being one of the best songs about empathy for women, it’s also one of the best songs ever written. The song has a strong message about how women should be treated not only by their loved ones but also in the workplace and in public life. As a result, it became a universal rallying cry for those seeking dignity, respect, and equality. In the summer of 1967, the song spent two weeks at the top of Billboard’s pop chart.
From classic power ballads to more contemporary anthems, this list of songs about empathy demonstrates the tremendous power that music has to connect us emotionally to our fellow humans. There’s a song on here for everyone, and hopefully, at least one will inspire some level of compassion within you.