Somewhere Over the Rainbow: Songs of Hope and Perseverance

Wooden sign with "Hope" painted on it over a bouquet of yellow daisies. Hope by Gedalya AKA David Gott, used under CC 2.0 license
“HOPE” by Gedalya AKA David Gott, used under CC 2.0 Attribution License

Inspired in part by our One City One Story Summer Selection, Finding Dorothy by Elizabeth Letts, and its story around The Wizard of Oz  and in part by the struggles we share in these troubled times, we’ve been thinking about hope and perseverance. And about the power of music to express big, universal ideas and emotions, and to make us all feel like someone out there understands how we are feeling.  As the recent meme states, “We may not all be in the same boat, but we are weathering the same storm.” Keep on, and if you notice someone else’s boat is leakier or a little more battered, lend a bucket, throw out a life preserver, or invite them aboard.

Here are some songs about hope and perserverance, available in collections offered at Pasadena Public Library.  There are songs about surviving lost love, about self-affirmation, and songs of protest–persevering in struggles for justice. Recommend your favorites in the comments.


“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” on Motown For Kids [CD] — recorded by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell; written by Nicolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson

If you need me, call me
No matter where you are
No matter how far (don’t worry, baby)
Just call my name
I’ll be there in a hurry
You don’t have to worry
Cause baby there

Ain’t no mountain high enough
Ain’t no valley low enough
Ain’t no river wide enough
To keep me from getting to you, babe


“Carry On” on Déjà Vu [available on hoopla]— recorded by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young; written by Stephen Stills

One morning I woke up and I knew you were really gone
A new day, a new way, and new eyes to see the dawn
Go your way, I’ll go mine and carry on

The sky is clearing and the night has cried enough
The sun, he comes, the world to soften up
Rejoice, rejoice, we have no choice but to carry on


“A Change Is Gonna Come” on A Change Is Gonna Come [available on hoopla] — recorded by Sam Cooke; written by Sam Cooke

There’ve been times that I thought I couldn’t last for long
But now I think I’m able to carry on

It’s been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change’s gonna come, oh yes, it will


“Everybody Hurts”on Automatic For the People [available on hoopla] — recorded by R.E.M; written by R.E.M.

When the day is long
And the night, the night is yours alone
When you’re sure you’ve had enough
Of this life, well hang on

Don’t let yourself go
‘Cause everybody cries
And everybody hurts sometimes


“I Can See Clearly Now” on Pop Music: The Golden Era, 1951-1975 [CD] — recorded by Johnny Nash; written by Johnny Nash

I think I can make it now the pain is gone
All of the bad feelings have disappeared
Here is that rainbow I’ve been praying for
It’s gonna be a bright (bright)
Bright (bright) sunshiny day


“I Will Survive” [avilable on CD and hooopla] — recorded by Gloria Gaynor; written by Freddie Perren and Dino Fekaris

Go on now, go. Walk out the door
Just turn around now ’cause you’re not welcome anymore
Weren’t you the one who tried to hurt me with goodbye?
Did you think I’d crumble?
Did you think I’d lay down and die?

Oh, no, not I
I will survive
Oh, as long as I know how to love I know I’ll stay alive
I’ve got all my life to live
I’ve got all my love to give
And I’ll survive


“Lean On Me” on Billboard #1s. The ’70s [available on hoopla] — recorded by Bill Withers; written by Bill Withers

Sometimes in our lives we all have pain
We all have sorrow
But if we are wise
We know that there’s always tomorrow
Lean on me, when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend
I’ll help you carry on
For it won’t be long
‘Til I’m gonna need
Somebody to lean on
Hush now child, and don’t you cry
Your folks might understand you, by and by
Move on up, toward your destination
You may find from time to time
“Reach Out (I’ll Be There)” on Dick Clark’s #1s: 50s to 70s: When AM Radio Was King [CD] — recorded by the Four Tops; written by Holland-Dozier-Holland
Now if you feel that you can’t go on
Because all of your hope is gone,
And your life is filled with much confusion
Until happiness is just an illusion,
And your world around is crumblin’ down;
Darling, reach out (come on girl, reach on out for me)
Reach out (reach out for me.)
I’ll be there, with a love that will shelter you.
I’ll be there, with a love that will see you through.


“Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World” on Facing Future [CD]— recorded by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole; “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” written by Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg; “What a Wonderful World” written by Bob Thiele and Goerge David Weiss

Someday I’ll wish upon a star
Wake up where the clouds are far behind me
Where trouble melts like lemon drops
High above the chimney top
That’s where you’ll find me


The colors of the rainbow
So pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces
Of people going by
I see friends shaking hands
Saying, “How do you do?”
They’re really saying
“I love you”


“You Gotta Be” on Now That’s What I Call the 1990s [available on hoopla] — recorded by Des’ree; written by Des’ree with Ashley Ingram

Listen as your day unfolds
Challenge what the future holds
Try and keep your head up to the sky
Lovers, they may cause you tears
Go ahead release your fears
Stand up and be counted
Don’t be ashamed to cry