The heroic epic is not only found in serious literature and visual arts. Numerous representatives of underground music dedicate themselves to the theme of “heroism” in very different ways. Some superheroes from comics, movies, and TV are explicitly themed, some songs teach us about the really important people in life, who perform true heroic deeds every day, but remain largely unrecognized and thus can’t be honored accordingly.
Interesting: Almost all genres approach the topic musically, but the heroes and superheroes are especially popular with the representatives of the somewhat harder music department. Tough guys who like to surround themselves with their own kind.
(A Spotify playlist can be found at the end of this article.)
1. Superman – Lazlo Bane
As the theme song to the cult comedy series “Scrubs – the beginners” fit this song like the proverbial fist on the eye. It comes from the 2000 Album “The Tao of Steve” and catapulted the until then completely unknown US alternative rockers overnight at least into radio stations all over the world. A knighthood by noteworthy chart positions remained despite the heroic storyline unfortunately missing.
However, a place in the hearts of fans of the series and band remains reserved for Lazlo Bane to this day.
2. Holding out for a Hero – Bonnie Tyler
Even strong women need help from time to time – and are on the lookout for a white knight who happens to be passing by at the end of the day and who, in addition to a strong shoulder to lean on, may also gladly step into the ring for the lady. The 1984 cult hit is part of the soundtrack to “Footloose,” the classic film that ushered in the era of 1980s Dance films.
Holding out for a Hero” experienced a revival in 2001 in the Animated film Shrek 2, also numerous Cover versions paid tribute to the classic through the years and decades. If you like it a little more intellectual: The first line of lyrics “Where have all the good men gone and where are all the gods?” is literarily borrowed from “Ubi Sunt”, a genre of poetry from the Middle Ages, which is supposed to remind people of the transience of earthly life through examples of past power or beauty.
3. Superman – Eminem
Of course, the ever-struggling genre of rap can’t ignore such a heroic theme. Grandmaster Eminem decided on “Superman” and put this on his 4. studio album “The Eminem Show” from 2002 another musical monument to Superman. The single reached number 15 in the USA, but its content is much more remarkable.
In “Superman,” the cool rapper grapples with his past (failed) relationships with women, most notably Mariah Carey. Eminem’s as always unsparing honesty and autobiographical features also manage in this song to win the attention of an audience that is basically less inclined to rap. A heroic deed of a different kind!
4. Kryptonite – 3 Doors Down
3 Doors Down dedicate the single “Kryptonite” to Superman’s weak point. The song was the first single from their debut album “The Better Life” from 2000 and was immediately nominated for a Grammy Award (Best Rock Song) considered.
The ballad has definitely goosebumps potential. The theme is of course a romantic love and the weakness that comes with it, similar to Kryptonite for Superman. The first-person narrator, however, would gladly accept this circumstance, as he never tires of emphasizing in the course of the song.
5. Hero – Enrique Iglesias
What newly in love man does not dream of being allowed to play the hero for his beloved? Cuddly singer and Latin lover Enrique Iglesias dedicates his superhit to this longing and was richly rewarded for it. The album “Escape” from 2001 was well received by the public and critics alike.
It rained 4 nominations at the MTV Music Awards, among others in the most coveted category “Best Song”. The romantic love song may not be a musical masterpiece that has made a lasting impression on the music world, but it scores points with devotional lyrics and an Earworm melody. Last but not least, the female listeners are served a feast for the eyes with Enrique Iglesias as a bonus, which warms the heart and soul.
6. “Heroes” – David Bowie
This heroic epic was the theme song of a cult movie. David Bowie’s “Heroes” was instrumental in the success of the harrowing docudrama “Christiane F. – Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo” (We Children from Zoo Station) from 1981.
Bowie had already written the song in 1977. It originally dealt with the trials and tribulations of a pair of lovers in the shadow of the Berlin Wall. The quotation marks are part of the song title and were added by the master himself to point out the irony of the plot described.
Some German lines in the middle of the song were penned by Visconti muse Antonia Maaß.
7. Superman’s Song – Crash Test Dummies
Rather unknown but absolutely worth listening to is this adaptation of the Superman theme in the manner of the Canadian Rock Band “Crash Test Dummies”. The melancholic ballad, carried by the unmistakable bass-baritone voice of frontman Brad Roberts, depicts the unselfish services of Superman, who never took any money for his services and in the end had to spend his hero’s evening lonely and alone. The already dramatic subject of the song is carried by a melancholy cello and other strings, as well as the congenially used background vocals of Ellen Reid.
The song appeared on the 1991 album “The Ghosts That Haunt Me”, which reached #4 in Canada and #54 in the U.S. album charts. Everything changed for the band two years later with the successful album “God Shuffled His Feet”, which gave the music world the super hit “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm” and the Crash Test Dummies international fame.
8. She’s my Heroine – Skunk Anansie
Heroes don’t necessarily always have to be men. The charismatic singer Skin of the British rock band Skunk Anansie dedicates herself in this brute Rock ballad to the topic of women & love and all the (unattractive) facets that go along with it. The single appeared on the second studio album “Stoosh” in 1996, which also contained the hit “Hedonism” and thus helped the band to the international breakthrough finally.
The Rock Hard magazine honored “Stoosh” with place 367 of the 500 greatest rock & metal albums of all time, gold and platinum rained down in addition in droves.
9. Hero – Mariah Carey
Another great dedicates herself musically to the hero theme: pop diva Mariah Carey appeals to the inner strength of each and every one of us in this ballad, often referred to as her signature song. The song was also (co)written by her and is considered one of her most personal songs, which was therefore also always a fixed part of her live performances and tours.
Use as a film song was not originally the intention of the diva, but “Hero” was nevertheless the inspiration for the comedy-drama of the same name from 1992 with Dustin Hoffman and Geena Davis. The commercial success was also impressive: Among other things, the song stayed in the U.S. Top 40 for a total of 25 weeks, including 16 weeks in the Top 10. The atmospheric ballad has also won numerous nominations and awards.
10. Spiderman – The Ramones
Punk is also dedicated to the theme of superheroes. The Ramones voted for the (amazing) Spiderman with their homage to the spider-man, who – similar to the other already mentioned warriors in costume and mask – leads a mundane life undercover during the day and goes out to hunt down criminals at night.
The Punk band from New York covered the song from the cartoon show in 1995 for their tribute album “Saturday Morning: Cartoon’s Greatest Hits”. Like most of the Ramones’ classics, this is a pleasing punk-rock song that even less punk-enthusiastic listeners can at least get them to bob along under the table.
11. Flash – Queen
Let’s continue with the next comic hero, who even managed to win over pop giants Queen. The lightning-fast superhero with the probably most questionable of all costumes appeared in 1980 on the soundtrack album “Flash Gordon” to the science fiction film of the same name.
The single differs to a large extent from the album version, which could not help it in the matter of chart placement, at least in the USA. In Europe, the song was noticeably more successful, making it to the top of the charts in Austria for example. B. even made it to number one. The anthemic pop ballad has often been used in other films and commercials, it was brought to a wider audience by its use at the opening ceremony of the 2007 Formula 1 World Championship.
12. We don’t need another Hero – Tina Turner
As a musical signature for the Fantasy Strip “Mad Max – Beyond the Thunderdome” composed, this classic Tina Turner song advanced in real-time to a super hit. It was part of her repertoire on pretty much every tour, and fans would probably have protested vehemently if this anti-war anthem, which deals with misconceived heroism and its sacrifices and collateral damage, had ever come up short. The song appeared on the soundtrack to the 1985 film.
The album “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome” received numerous nominations (Golden Globe Award/Best Film Song, MTV Video Music Awards/Best Female Video). Tina Turner herself stated that the song marked one of her absolute career highlights. A look at the international charts definitely confirms this subjective impression: In Germany and Switzerland the single reached number one, in the USA, Austria, New Zealand, and Norway it came at least to number two.
But at least the Top Ten was for sure for this hit in most countries worldwide.
13. Billy don’t be a Hero – Paper Lace
Another song that deals with the darker side of heroism are this one 70s hit the One hit wonder Formation “Paper Lace. The anti-war song was released in 1974, which is why its plot was usually considered to be set in the Vietnam War.
In fact, the storyline, in which a young woman pleads with her fiancé to prioritize self-protection over heroism, is said to be set in the era of the American Civil War. By the way, the fiancée’s intervention is unsuccessful: Billy dies at the front, she bitterly throws away the message about his “heroic death”.
14. Everyday Superhero – Smash Mouth
Also dedicated to the theme of “everyday hero” is this song by Smash Mouth. The first-person narrator reports on the doubts and hardships that one has to live through and survive as an “average, ordinary everyday hero.
The guitar riffs typical for the sound of Smash Mouth invite even non-fans to headbang right from the start. The song was released in 2006 on the album “Summer Girl”, but could not win a large audience outside the fan community of the Californian rockers, even a chart position failed to materialize.
15. Iron Man – Black Sabbath
Black Sabbath dedicated themselves musically to the man in the steel suit. At the time of the creation of this song – 1970 – known only to a die-hard comic book fan community, the superhero with this place on the successful album “Paranoid” already preceded his later reputation as a box office hit. The rock song is in classic Black Sabbath tradition and delivers a tribute to the superhero that is guaranteed to never go out of style.
The song was ennobled by a Grammy, but also by the absolutely worth hearing cover version by Metallica from 2011.
16. Batdance – Prince
Prince’s “Batdance” from 1989 is dedicated to the heroic bat. The album “Batman” provided the soundtrack to the movie of the same name with Jack Nicholson as the Joker and Michael Keaton as a black-robed bat and was commercially also similarly successful. The “Batdance” became a number one hit in the USA, Canada, New Zealand, and numerous countries in Europe.
Prince is said to have produced and recorded the song in less than 10 minutes, and the choreography of the official video was done by none other than Paula Abdul.
17. Hero of the Day – Metallica
Stories about heroism and rescuers in times of need seem to fascinate especially the heavy metal faction among the musicians. The grandmasters of Metallica also contribute their share to the musical superhero epic.
The “Hero of the Day” appeared on the album “Load” from 1996. It tells the story of a (young) man who has to cope with the challenges of everyday life. Just as unspectacular as the story was the reception of the song. Overshadowed by the superhits of the bards around frontman James Hetfield, “Hero of the Day” is still considered an insider’s tip, which is especially popular live as an Acoustic version is given to the best.
18. Superman tonight – Bon Jovi
The theme of superheroes is also taken up by the soft rockers from Bon Jovi. They turn their attention to the next in the bunch, who by day pursues a serious day job while hunting down supervillains.
The song from 2009 is one of the late works of the formation, which experienced its musical peak in the late 1980s and 1990s. The pleasing piece of mainstream rock convinces with technically flawless guitar solos and romantic lyrics that should appeal to the everyday hero in every (amorous) man. The song was part of the eleventh studio album “The Circle”, which was commercially only moderately successful, but in Germany, Switzerland, and the U.S. reached number 1 in the album charts.
19. Juke Box Hero – Foreigner
The rock classic by Foreigner from 1981 is about a would-be hero of the international music scene. Released on the album “4”, the song remained largely unnoticed, but still tells a story that could happen every day in the music business: Buying a guitar and dreaming big doesn’t necessarily make you a star right away – but it’s definitely a good start.
20. From Zero to Hero – Sarah Connor
German singer/songwriters can also perform heroic deeds on the international music scene. This is what happened in 2005 when Sarah Connor released this song on her album “Naughty but Nice”.
For Sarah Connor, it was the fifth number one hit, the sales reached gold status. The dynamic catchy tune served as the theme song for the animated film “Robots,” in which the singer also lent her voice to a character.
The places 21 – 63 of the best heroes songs:
Mit Superkräften zum Superhit
Wer sagt, dass man in Maske und Cape nicht auch cool sein kann? Successful definitely works, as this excerpt from (countless) songs about heroes, superheroes, and everyday knights, most of whom accomplish truly great things unrecognized, shows.