What song changed your life?


From the first time I heard it, ‘Two of Us on the Run’ by Lucius was like a light in dark times. I got to hear it live for the first time at Newport in 2014, and it brought me to tears. Every time I hear it now, I think back on all that’s happened in my life since then, and remember the beauty of that experience.
— Emily Broeseke, Birmingham AL
‘Kind and Generous’ by Natalie Merchant.
I am not married, but I always thought this would be the perfect song to dance with my dad.
‘Peace in the Valley’ by Dawes. Listening to Taylor’s gentle soul spoke to me and that was that. If only people like Taylor could rule the world...they wouldn’t want to but would make it a better place.
— Sharon G, Plainville Ma
The song that changed my life is ‘The Weight’ by The Band. I heard it first when I was in 8th grade, and first played it in front of an audience when I was in 10th grade. A friend of mine played it, and that’s when I knew I wanted to start playing guitar. The end.
— Thorne Sparkman, Bristol RI
How do I even possibly begin to choose just one song that changed my life? Almost all of my memories have a different song that acts as a trigger to my past. I suppose if I were to choose just one it would have to be ‘Cinnamon’ by the Long Winters. I first heard it when I was about 13 and it was truly one of the first songs that changed my music tastes. Having a love and appreciation for a long list of music that was few and far between the top 40 hits, changed my style, changed my attitude, changed my friends, changed my life.
— Emily H, Denver CO
My very first memory is of my father singing James Taylor’s ‘Sweet Baby James’ to help me fall asleep. Now I have a daughter of my own, and I’m continuing the tradition.
— Kelly, Massachusetts
‘In the stillness of the moment it takes for a Polaroid picture to capture our faces forever, the world has turned a touch on its axis; the only thing certain is everything changes,’ is a quote from Frank Turner’s song ‘Polaroid Picture’ that always serves as an important reminder for me to enjoy and appreciate all that the present has to offer, because I know I will come to miss it when it becomes the past.
— Jack, Pembroke MA
An American Prayer
by Jim Morrison
— Sumi & Kajal
I thing every song change a little part of my life, but without my father I will never know what music means.
— Ulla C., Madrid, Spain.
‘Blowing in the wind by Bob Dylan
— Sumi and Kajal
‘Like a Rolling Stone’ - Bob Dylan
— Jon & Chris, MA
‘Say It To Me Now’ by Glen Hansard showed me a world where it was okay to bear your soul.
— Chelsea C., CT
‘Into the Mystic’ by Van Morrison
— Erica, East Greenwich RI
‘Fistful of Love’ by Antony & The Johnsons. Many songs have moved me in my life but this particular song felt and sounded like nothing else I had ever heard, literally shifting my perspective and expanding my taste within its five minutes. Antony’s vibrato pulses through the skin and continues to wade through until the end. I understood the pain and the simultaneous love all at once, before I even knew the words. When a song can feel that way the first time, and every time, it’s a life changer.
— Mike Mallette, Brooklyn NY
‘Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In a Small Town’ - Pearl Jam
— Rachael M., Brooklyn NY
‘She’s a Rainbow’ by The Rolling Stones
— Jessica Bojanowski, Marlbrough MA
‘Here Comes the Sun’
— Molly, Boston
‘Attaboy’ by The Goat Rodeo Sessions, specifically their Tiny Desk Concert performance of it. It was the first song my husband and I bonded over and I walked down the aisle to it. It’s so powerful to me now that I can’t listen to it as just background music, it’s too sacred.
— Amy, Washington DC
‘Imagine’ by John Lennon has spoken to me for years. Why cant it be so? I keep hoping for the sentiments to change the world. It has bee a powerful influence on how I roll everyday
— Martha Elmes, VT
Joni Mitchell’s ‘Blue’ changed my life at age 17, I learned love, pain, and regret all in one album. And later, like Joni, I escaped to a Greek Island but came back to California, “gonna kiss a sunset pink.” “I wish I had a River I could fly away on” is a line that still brings tears of regret to my eyes.
— Mary Bianchetti, NYC
I’ll look for the purple banana until they put me in a truck, Prince, Let’s Go Crazy, Purple Rain. The song that reminds me to be forever curious.
— Danielle Cohn, Philadelphia
Before we were married, my husband and I came to NFF on our first vacation together. We happened to catch M. Ward’s set on the Quad Stage and pretty much fell in love to ‘Poison Cup’... Years later we danced to it at our wedding, and years after that an improbably job offer moved us, of all places, to Newport Folk Neighborhood.
— Sarah and Chad, Middletown, RI
‘Growing Up’ by Bruce Springsteen...THE BOSS.
’But when they said, “Sit down,” I stood up...ooh growin up’
— Trish WIndsor, CT
U2, ‘One’. The first song I discovered on my own, that made me think about the world. 25 years later, it’s true: we’ve got to carry each other.
— EMM, New York, NY
‘Forever Young’, an anthem for a generation...’May you build a ladder to the stars and climb on every rung...’
— Mary K. Cambridge MA
‘Hey Jude’... take a bad song and make it better. Music heals and makes everything better!
— Liz, E Setauket
‘Day Dreamer’ by Wild Child. If you’re lucky, you can find that artist who was able to say the things you’ve always heard in your head. Good sounds are meant to be shared.
— Daniel Rayzel, MI
‘Song for Zula’ by Phosphorescent. Listened to it with someone important in my life, at a very pivotal time and it reminded me that music can always sing my soul. Thank you
— Taylor, Brooklyn NY
‘One Big Holiday’ - My Morning Jacket
— Todd W., New York
‘Dancing in the Streets’
Made me so happy to be 15 - so many happy times ahead, I thought.... 1964, right?!
— Peggy E., Providence RI
‘I Can’t Make You Love Me’ by Bonnie Raitt
It made me realize that everyone, even rock stars get their hearts broken and you have to move forward. Love her and have seen her perform many times.
— Sharon, Plainville MA
The song that changed my life was ‘I, Me, Mine’ by the Beatles. It made me more aware of human selfishness and believed self-importance. It really opened my eyes in a life-changing way.
— Adam Lees, Mountain Lakes, New Jersey
‘I and love and you’ by The Avett Brothers
— Connor, Long Branch NJ
‘All Along The Watchtower’ by Bob Dylan, Jimmy Hendrix, and Dave Mason

Learning about everything the 60’s and 70s had to teach
— Paul Hecht, Plymouth MA
Prodigal Son
— Michael, Wakefield
Two Folk Festivals ago, we were engaged right before the Sunday Newport Folk Festival. Last Labor Day weekend, we were married in Narragansett, RI and our first dance was to ‘I Found You’ by Alabama Shakes. Best day of our lives.
— Marissa and Max Silver, Providence, RI
I would answer differently at different times of my life. As a teenager I might have said Across the Universe by the Beatles. In college I would have said Helpless by Neil Young. When I went to a girls apartment to pick her up for our 1st date she was playing ‘At Last’ by Etta James on her stereo. That woman is now my wife and that song was our wedding song. When my children were born I would say the song I thought of was ‘The One I Love’ by David Gray.
— Steve K., NYC
‘Sigh No More’ by Mumford and Sons. Reason behind it being; while having a rough and tough time in my life it helped in calming my soul and coming to the realization, I am made to see my maker.
— Jordan-Michael, Warwick RI
‘Feelin’ Good’ by Nina Simone. A reminder to always enjoy life.
— Katelyn Fitzsimmons, New Bedford MA
‘BAD’ by U2...Power of change...
— Ray Gilbert, Lynn MA
‘Whip My Hair’ as sung by Jimmy Fallon as Neil Young and accompanied by Bruce Springsteen (himself circa 1975)
— Kat, Janel, and Ben Young, Pittsburgh PA
‘Brokedown Palace’ by Grateful Dead. This song has resonated throughout my young adulthood as an anthem for setting days and rising tomorrows.
— Andrew DaRosa, Fall River MA
Phish - ‘Dirt’
(But the Stan Rogers song a few below mine is somewhere in my top 5 as well. Good taste, whoever you are.)
— Nina P.
Turn to, put out all your strength of heart and arm and brain and like the Mary Ellen Carter rise again.
— Stan Rogers
— Sufjan Stevens
‘Like a Virgin’ - Madonna
— Jaime Bloomfield, NJ
‘The God of Loss’ -Darlingside
— Cam 01355
Mine is going to be a two-parter because I can’t play the first song without having the second play immediately after. ‘Open’ by Rhye followed by ‘The Fall’ by Rhye. Give it a listen will ya?
— Cristoforo Rosauro DiSanto, Newport RI
‘Sam Stone’ by John Prine (ANYTHING by John Prine), Phil Ochs’ Draft Dodger Rag brought the sadness, anger, irreverence, and hope necessary for everyone who was fighting to end the Vietnam War. And they are all relevant today, more than ever. Another REAL LIFE CHANGER? When those early Beatle songs swept over us all in 1963 and changed the music we listened to forever.
— Connie Breece, Jamaica Plain MA
‘I Ain’t a Marching Anymore’ by Phil Ochs, first heard it in mid-60’s, when i was about 14; helped transform my viewpoint about the Vietnam War, and ultimately about peace and justice in the world. somehow still as relevant today. And so many more: ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ by Dylan, ‘Imagine’ by John Lennon, ‘Both Sides Now’ by Joni Mitchell. Songs that remain as powerful for me today as when I first heard them.
— Gail Sullivan, Boston MA
The Band’s ‘Cripple Creek’, coming out of the radio clipped to the handlebars of my bike when I was about 10.
— Toni Fernandez, Boston, MA
‘Moves Like Jagger’ by Maroon 5. I’ve never been the same. Oh maybe ‘Toxic’ by Britney Spears. That one too.
— James, Boston
‘Tennessee’ by P.S. Eliot. One of the first songs my boyfriend played in his car. We’ve been together for over 4 years and it’s one of our songs. :)
— Emily, Johnstown PA
‘Don’t Speak’ by No Doubt. I was was working late, and my (ex) kept calling, demanding to know when I’d be home. This song came on, and I realized I was done. This song represents the moment I knew I’d be leaving my husband.
— Kathleen, Boston MA
‘What Would You Say’ by Dave Matthews Band. It started hitting big right as I was starting college, and when I put it on my CD player while unpacking, I had so many people stop by to say hi and introduce themselves, and share how much they loved that song...it really was the first moment I knew I’d be able to leave my 1,700 person hometown in southwest Virginia behind and make it a big university. Still makes me think of new beginnings and possibilities.
— Michele, Raleigh NC
‘Crazy Love’ by Van Morrison. My first adult music love. Love, Pain, Truth. The beginning of decades of listening.
— Robin, Washington DC
‘Summertime Blues’ from Live at Leeds, The Who. Nothing more to say.
— Gerry, Watertown MA
Old Pine... Ben Howard, put it on repeat when I get stressed and it works every time. Great at the dentist or at work.
— Janet, Plant City FL
The song “Alison” by Elvis Costello was a contributing factor to my parents’ choice of name for me. Fairly life-changing.
— Alison
‘If the Brakeman Turns My Way’ by Bright Eyes. Whenever I feel restless or nervous, this song grounds me and makes me feel understood. To me, this song is about taking care of yourself, knowing how to calm yourself down, trying to find a sense of peace and balance. As I wander through my early twenties and deal with all the anxieties that come with being the age I am, I find a lot of solace in Conor’s music- like I am in good company.
— Chloe D, Easthampton, MA
‘Tender’ - Blur
— Naz
‘I won’t let love disrupt corrupt or interrupt me’ -Jack White (Love Interruption)
— Claire and Em Warner
Ben Howard’s ‘Follaton Wood’.
‘Reach’ by Barefoot Truth

We have seen Barefoot Truth perform multiple times since starting dating. We got engaged at one of their concerts, and danced our first dance to Reach.
— Nick and Caitlin Melluzzo
‘Harvest Moon’ - Neil Young

At every major junction in our life together, this song has been there - moving across the country, living in Kenya, saying I love you for the first time...Harvest Moon has been the continuous melody.
— Anna Rozzi & Brian Ricci
‘I Can’t Make You Love Me’ by Bonnie Rait

My father always used to blast strong female vocalists while cleaning out the garage or the house, singing along to these amazing lyrics and whistling too. I didn’t fully appreciate the female voice and subtlety and beauty that an artist like Bonnie Raitt and a song like “I Can’t Make You Love Me” had until my mid to late teens, but to this day it still makes me tear up, both for the powerful hurt it conveys and the memory it evokes. My father was strong for not being bound by gender lines in the music he identified with, and I am strong for being raised by such a person with such great taste. Bonnie Raitt’s song is about strength in a time of extreme pain. This song changed my life and keeps that strength in my mind, along with pain, each time I hear it.
— Jessica Barbosa, Stamford CT
Not a song as much as an album - Murmur by REM. I came to college from a small Midwestern town with NO musical taste or experience. REM opened a world of expression and creativity that helped me leave my small childhood behind and walk into a bigger world with open eyes and arms.
— Mark L., Bloomington IN
Joni Mitchell - ‘Priest’
— Susan Alex
‘Glory Hallelujah’ by Frank Turner: ‘No waiting until we die until we restitute the meek.’
— Laura Kennedy
‘Northern Sky’ by Nick Drake
— Tanner Mortensen
‘Have a Little Faith in Me’ by John Hiatt. My wife and I have very dissimilar musical tastes but we learned that we both loved this song and Hiatt as an artist.
— Josh D
That moment when you hear lyrics that hit home and it places all the broken bits back in line for your mind heart and soul.

Thanks Brandi Carlile for writing ‘It Wasn’t Me’
— Kristina
‘Hopeful’ by Josh Ritter. It defined how my love and I fumbled towards each other after bad relationships made us wary of trying again.
— Paula
‘Space Oddity’ by David Bowie. I heard it for the first time as a teenager in the ‘90s. I literally stopped everything I was doing, looked at my mother and said “who is this?”. Amazed to find out it was the man I’d loved as Jareth the Goblin king since I was 5 years old. Since that day Bowie’s music has been there with me through everything I’ve been through and he just seems to have the words to fit every situation.
— Jen
‘King of Birds’ by REM.
— Nicole DiStasio, Chattanooga TN
‘Rapper’s Delight’ by The Sugarhill Gang - That s*** was lit and it was the first song I memorized word for word. Then I was cool... because I could rap an 8 minute song.
— Adam Roth, Chicago
Born To Run
— Bruce Springsteen
‘Talkin’ World War III Blues’ by Bob Dylan. I was to be a senior in high school, it was summer, and I was at Yawgoog Scout Camp in Rhode Island. At the Saturday night talent show, someone came up with an acoustic guitar and harmonica and played a song on guitar that they claimed to write themselves. The line, “Met me a girl and before she could leave, I said let’s go and play Adam and Eve was cleverest line I had heard in a song. I always dug the harmonica. It wasn’t until that fall that I decided to look the song up before discovering who Bob Dylan was. I was anything but a sheltered child, but I simply had never heard of him. I suppose it has to do with growing up in a classic rock radio community that really doesn’t stray any further than Journey, ACDC, and Pink Floyd. Dylan and this song inspired me to pick up the guitar that my grandfather got me ten years earlier and now I play at various open mics myself. I haven’t played Talkin’ World War III Blues myself yet, it’s overdue.
— Steve Badolato
‘Ol ‘55’ by Tom Waits... You see, my time had come so quickly for another two week, 12-hour-day stint on the oil rigs about 100 miles off the coast of Aberdeen, Scotland. It was 6:00 in the morning on a day in 1983 and the chopper was about to take off. We had the opportunity to send up a music tape to the pilots. I sent up Tom Wait’s “Spare Change” and the lyrics through our headphones were in perfect synch with what was actually happening because ...6:00 in the morning had come without warning and we had to be on our way... as the chopper lifted off ...and now the sun was coming up, and we were riding with lady luck ....out to our gritty, nasty jobs ...everyone wishing we could have stayed a little longer ... oh Lord on that morning the feeling was getting way too much stronger.... I never realized how a song about something so far removed from your current experience could so affect you.
— Winslow Pettingell
‘Pig in a Pen’ by Old and In the Way set the wheels in motion in transition from liking almost strictly classic rock to where I am today - being well rounded in my tastes liking everything from classic rock to bluegrass to old time to Americana to ragtime to folk to (some) jazz to baroque to classic soul and beyond. All because I was open to a different kind of song than what the classic rock station played.
— Craig Sherman, Sharon MA
‘Two Headed Boy’ by Neutral Milk Hotel.
Maybe they’ll be here some day. They are true musicians. The lyrics are wild, make you think, and the voices are like no other. Their music is beauty.
— Karen Sutton, Topeka KA
‘I Still Believe’ by Frank Turner

The first time my son and I saw Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls together is one of my favorite memories. The mental snapshot of my son singing along at the top of his lungs, his fist raised in the air, is forever burned into my memory.
— JJ Sheffer
‘California Stars’ let me slow down and remember my dreams when the world seemed too hard and life seemed too fast.
— Charlie Schneider
‘The Rescue Blues’ was the first song that hooked me to Ryan Adams. I’ve been obsessed ever since then, 13 years ago.
— Suzanne McMahon
What do you do when you’ve stayed home for 30 years to raise your three children then your nest is empty? You put on Rod Stewart singing ‘Forever Young,’ on a loop. You cry, you look at pictures, you absorb it, then embrace the transition into your new life. The lyrics take you from thinking about your children as ‘forever young,’ to realizing it’s actually you.
— Virginia Powers
‘Going to California’ by Led Zeppelin. My parents introduced me to music, and this one always brings me back to my dad.
— Cat, Avalon NJ
‘Sitting on the dock of the bay’ by Otis Reading helped out a lot over the years
— Michael Powers, Avalon NJ
Growing up, my taste in music was pretty bland, I just inhaled whatever was on the Top 40 charts. When I heard ‘Under the Pressure’ by War On Drugs, it completely altered my perspective on what music could be, and how it could make me feel.
— Annabelle, Ellicott City MD
The Flying Burrito Brothers ‘Hot Burrito #2’ was my first real introduction to Gram Parsons and the California country scene. The most lovely song about Jesus and heartbreak.
— Coyote, Bethel CT
Sufjan Stevens ‘Eve’ Soundtrack is the most beautiful song i have ever heard :)
— Alex Martinez
A performance on YOUR PROGRAM, BOB BOILEN, of the song ‘One Love’ by Macklemore/Ryan Lewis et al., helped me understand what my wife and my daughters had long understood. It was sublime.
— Russ, Newport RI
‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’ tuned me on to music. After seeing The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show I became a sponge for music, absorbing all I could. I was nine and here I am in Newport at 61.
— Bob Dunn
‘Lawyers, Guns, and Money’ was the first of many Warren Zevon songs played from my father’s tape deck that, at eight years of age enro ute to Story Land, would channel the sort of music I’d grow accustomed to following: gifted songwriters who create a raw, powerful sound. I knew at a young age that at some point I too would go home with a waitress...
‘A Threnody for Modern Romance’ by It Dies Today. It was my first taste of metal/metalcore that piqued my interest in heavier music. Granted, this is a folk fest...but, yeah.
— Faraday Barnswallow, New Bedford MA
When I was a freshman in high school, I heard Red Hot Chili Peppers’ ‘Higher Ground,’ and I was transformed. I didn’t know any music other than what was on the radio, and it opened my eyes and ears to so much more. I barely listened to the radio after that!
— Stephanie, Orlando, FL
Brian Heffron is one of the most unheralded songwriters in Tupelo, MS. His song, ‘Why Me?’ changed my life. Allowed me to leave an abusive relationship, go to medical school and marry a carpenter. The lyric was: ‘Why?’ Powerful. I cry.
‘Elephant’ by Jason Isbel - I lived the song - when I heard it for the first time at Newport FF I finally cried...I didn’t cry when I was diagnosed, or during chemo...but every time I hear “surrounded by her family I saw that she was dying alone...
— Just a survivor in RI
Regina Spektor’s ‘Hero of the Story’ because it’s not only in one of my favorite films, (500) Days of Summer, but I also find it empowering and inspiring.
— Lisa Beerle, Upstate New York
Hearing “Bohemian Rhapsody”, and the line “I don’t want to die, I sometimes wish I’d never been born at all” made me suddenly realize (at the age of 5) my own mortality.
— Sarah Heaton, Newport RI
‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’ by Roberta Flack. I first heard it a few years ago when I was going through a breakup and it was really soothing to hear her soulful voice.
— Tammy Kim, Traveler
Watching Dave Grohl race around the crowd and scream the lyrics to ‘Everlong’ at the first concert I ever attended made me a life-long Foo Fighters fan and led to my love of live music.
— Sam Chud, Newton MA
‘Avalon’ by Roxy Music. It’s a tie between the original and the version Bill Murray sings in “Lost in Translation.” ;)
‘Look at Us’ by Vince Gill

My GF and I was in Nashville watching The Time Jumpers. Before the show I asked Vince Gill to Play “Look at Us” because I wanted to ask my girlfriend to marry me. He played it and point us out and let the whole crowd I know I had a question to ask her. I then asked and she said yes. We then danced in front of the crowd at Third and Lindsley to Look at US. This happened the day of the Boston Bombings on 4/15/2013. It was such a sad way to start the day but an amazing ending.
— John Fraioli, Elmhurst IL
The song that changed my life is ‘Diamonds and Gold’ by Langhorne Slim. To me, it is an anthem of finding the good times on the bad days. I often share it with my teenage clients who are struggling with depression and anxiety, In fact, I keep the following quote on my desk: “You’re beautiful, baby. You’re the boss. You’ve gotta learn to get happy along the way.”
— Blair B., Asheville NC
‘Fall on Me’ by REM.
After hearing it so many times, I finally actually heard the lyrics. How better to appreciate something than a ‘promise to keep it whole’?
— J.Ferrari, Newport RI via Brooklyn NY
‘American Pie’ by Don McLean. Perhaps, it seems too, well, American pie. Cliche even. However, I was in 6th grade when I learned all the words. My older brother gave me a publication to read about the song’s symbolism. It was the first time I understood songs had messages beyond face value. This realization changed the way I listen to and appreciate music. Being here at Newport Folk Festival year after year, I can confidently say the music is still alive.
— Em Brown, Baltimore MD
‘The First Day of My Life’ by Bright Eyes. My now wife and I saw the earliest iteration of the Monsters of Folk right here at Fort Adams as Conor, M. Ward and Jim James all played each others songs. When this song came on I immediately focused on the line “I’d rather be working for a paycheck than waiting to win the lottery.” This song has helped me and my wife through some tough times, and has taught us not to worry on what is happening in the present moment, it too will pass, and better times are on their way!
— Daniel Tonski, Tiverton RI
‘Julius’ by Phish is undoubtedly the song that changed my life. June 11th, 1994 I received a copy of Hoist at a local event from WIZN in Burlington, VT. I put it on as soon as I got home and the first swinging guitar riff and I knew I had found my band. A show in my hometown of Waitsfield a month later on July 16th confirmed this and now it’s been 22 years, 67 shows, and countless friends seeing these guys. So much so that I’m now marrying two of my friends I met on tour! Totally the song that changed my life. Thanks to Trey, Page, Mike, Jon, CK5, and Tom Marshall and all of Phish Inc. for everything.
— Alexander Grosby, Ellensburg WA
‘Suga Lumps’ by Flight of the Conchords helped me accept my balls for who they are.
— Ethan Ullman, Schenectad NY
Led Zeppelin’s ‘When the Levee Breaks’ made me fall in love with rock and roll.
— Jesse Breshears, Salem MA
The Waterboys ‘When ye go away’ connected me back to folk music and irish music through it’s sad solos and beautiful words....reconnected me to my roots and to American while healing a broken heart.
— Patrick Holt, Pearl RIver NY
‘Come Away With Me’ by Norah Jones
— Kyra Vail Foley
Tomorrow Never Knows..... Duh
‘Gideon’ by My Morning Jacket
— Beth S, Somerville MA
‘If you want to Sing out, Sing Out’ by Cat Stevens changed my life. I was 11 years old - awkward, shy, unsure of myself - when my grandmother died. She loved this song and I loved her. I sang it in front of a church packed full of people who had come to celebrate her life. I feel this moment changed me; I am now able to share myself with the rest of the world.
— Abby Byrne, Newport RI
‘How Soon is Now?’ by The Smiths. The hauntingly beautiful music pairs perfectly with the smooth vocals. Every time i hear this song i stop in my tracks to listen to the full song.
— Carla W., Baltimore MD