Songs to celebrate ABI strength + thriving

BY: RICHARD HASKELL

“Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without.”

– Confucius

Human beings are emotional and irrational creatures. We’re guided by the heart, and we respond emotionally to the sounds that music creates.

According to a paper presented at the University of London, music can even affect our perception of visual images.

The role of music in brain rehabilitation therapy has undergone some significant changes as a result of new information gathered from research into music and brain function. Because music is a highly-structured auditory language, one that requires perception and cognitive motor control, researchers have now found it can be a vital way of retraining and re-educating an injured brain.

For example, people who have suffered an ABI often have difficulties regaining speech, particularly if the trauma happened on the left side of the brain, the side that controls speech and comprehension. Music areas are located on both sides of the brain, and music can be used to bypass the language channels that have been damaged. This “backdoor” approach has been used to teach those suffering an ABI or a stroke to regain their control of speech, often by means of singing familiar songs.

Therapists and physicians now use music in rehabilitation in ways that are not only backed up by clinical research findings but also supported by an understanding of some of the mechanisms of music and brain function.

In 2011, American congresswoman Gabby Giffords suffered an TBI after an assassination attempt on her life. Five weeks later, she was experiencing a challenging time relearning how to talk as she attempted to recall words for certain objects. A therapist implemented a program of music therapy and from then on, her progress skyrocketed. Nineteen months later, in September 2012, Gabby was able to walk on stage at the Democratic National Convention to address the delegates. And just two months after that, she met her assailant face –to- face in the courtroom where he was sentenced to life imprisonment.

The power of music in brain injury rehabilitation is two-fold –

  • It provides unconditional emotional support and enjoyment for an ABI survivor
  • From a medical perspective, it’s proving to play a significant role in the healing process of brain injuries.

Songs that instill a sense of strength and survival take on a special meaning for those with the affects of brain injury.

Here’s a list of 15 – in no particular order – with just this theme – compiled especially for Brain Injury Awareness Month – ENJOY! 

Heal the World – Michael Jackson

From Michael Jackson’s 1991 album Dangerous, the uplifting Heal the World was the song he was most proud to have written.

Carry On – Olivia Holt

This song released in 2014 by actor and singer Olivia Holt explains that life is full of challenges and that we must make the best of them by simply carrying on.

It’s Gonna be Alright – Sara Groves

This song by American contemporary Christian singer Sara Groves was included on her 2005 CD Add to the Beauty, its lyrics offer words of reassurance to those facing hard times.

The Climb – Miley Cyrus

Written for the 2009 film Hanna Montana, The Climb focuses not only on overcoming adversity but recognizing the merit in dealing with struggle. Try not to get too distracted by Cyrus’ back-in-the-day G-Rated appearance.

 Hall of Fame –The Script ft. will.i.am

The lead single from The Script’s third studio album #3, Hall of Fame also features hip-hop artist will.i.am and focuses on following dreams and achieving greatness in yourself. 

Don’t Give Up – Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush


Inspired by the depression-era photographs of Dorothea Lange, Peter Gabriel wrote this song in 1986 and recorded it with Kate Bush for his CD So.

Ain’t no Mountain High enough- Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell


This classic from 1967 with Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell relates the timeless message that having a special person we can depend on is paramount. 

Brave – Sara Bareilles

Written by the American singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles, Brave appeared in her fourth studio album The Blessed Unrest and deals with having enough courage to say what you think and the importance of being yourself.

Hey World (Don’t Give Up) – Michael Franti & Spearhead


Musician, filmmaker and humanitarian Michael Franti wrote this song about holding on in hard times and remembering that all things are possible.

 So Small – Carrie Underwood

So Small was the first single from Carrie Underwood’s second studio album, Carnival Ride, released during the summer of 2007. In her own words, “it’s a feeling song on how people invest so much of their time and energy into things that aren’t really important, and how they don’t really realize it until it’s too late.”

Go the Distance – Michael Bolton

Written for Disney’s 1997 animated feature film, Hercules, Go the Distance focuses on reaching a goal while facing obstacles and the power of persistence.

Don’t Stop Believin’ – Journey

Journey’s classic anthem from 1981 relates that no matter how difficult the circumstances we may find ourselves in, the solution is simple – never give up!

Not Afraid – Eminem

This 2010 release by American rapper Eminem contains a defiant message urging us to take a stand no matter how difficult the odds. 

You Gotta Be – Des’Ree

Written by the singer with the track’s producer, Ashley Ingram, You Gotta Be was the first song on Des’ree’s 1994 album I Ain’t Movin’. New York critic Stuart Elliott described it as “an infectiously sunny tune about the affirmative powers of self-confidence.”

When You Believe – Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston

Written by Stephen Schwartz for the 1998 animated feature The Prince of Egypt, When You Believe was recorded by Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston for the end credits. Its powerful message is simple – miracles can occur if you simply believe in them.

#areyouaware

June is Brain Injury Awareness Month

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