7 songs that highlight health conditions
published in Reader's Digest,
16 December 2022
Music is a universal language so what better way for charities and campaigns to get the word out? Here are seven songs that do just that.
Since the success of the iconic charity single “Do They Know it’s Christmas” by Band Aid in 1984, many other individuals, community groups and celebrities have come together to make music to raise awareness of health conditions, and to fund vital research, care and community work.
Here are a selection from the last seven years:
“Breathe—Life Unlimited” by Cystic Fibrosis Trust (2016)
Beginning with laboured breathing sounds from damaged lungs, powerful piano chords accompany images of Sophie, from infancy to adulthood, as she lives with cystic fibrosis.
With an expressed aim of raising awareness of the fight for “a life unlimited for everyone with cystic fibrosis”, the track finishes with breaths from actors, comedians, politicians, journalists and those living with the inherited condition.
“12 Days of Sepsis” by the Sliding Scales choir (2017)
Five people die with sepsis every hour in the UK; 25,000 children are admitted to hospital with sepsis each year.
Delayed diagnosis can be devastating, so a hospital choir of nurses and other health professionals from Weston Area Health NHS Trust recorded their own version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas”, singing about sepsis, to raise awareness of the diagnosis and treatment of this medical emergency.
Lyrics include, “On the third day of sepsis my doctor took from me: three sets of obs, two blood cultures and a catheter to measure my wee”.
“Hope’s Alive” by Erin Willet (2018)
Each year, more than 10,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, making it the tenth most common cancer in the UK.
Singer, songwriter and reality TV star Erin Willett lost her father to pancreatic cancer in 2011 and released the single, “Hope’s Alive”, as an “anthem of empowerment” for all those with the disease and to honour those who have died.
Proceeds went to Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, whose own mission is to “wage hope” in the battle against pancreatic cancer, by funding research, raising awareness and building support and community outreach.
“Run” by X Factor Celebrity Finalists (2019)
“To think I might not see those eyes, makes it so hard not to cry, and as we say our long goodbyes, I nearly do,” sing the finalists of The X Factor: Celebrity, as images of children with life-limiting or life-threatening conditions and their families fill the screen.
This cover of the Snow Patrol song is a tear-jerker, but the smiles, laughter and dances from the children highlight the vital work that hospices do. All profits went towards two charities—Together for Short Lives and Shooting Star Children’s Hospices.
Reflecting on his role, singer Wes Nelson said, “It’s one of the most meaningful things you can do with music.” Watch until the end for the best singer of them all.
“Times Like These” by Live Lounge Allstars (2020)
No song was needed to raise awareness of Covid-19: people talked of little else in 2020.
This cover of the Foo Fighters hit, though, raised proceeds to help individuals and nations fight the pandemic; it also sought to “bring hope, courage and strength to one another”.
Lyrics included, “It’s times like these you learn to love again,” “We’ll make it better together, we’ll make a better life,” and “We pray, and we will forever fight.”
Using pots, pans and acoustic guitars, each of the 23 famous musicians performed from their home in lockdown, creating a kind of virtual Live Aid. Proceeds were split between Children in Need, Comic Relief and the World Health Organisation’s Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund.
“Spotlight” by Charlie Starmer-Smith (2021)
Written during lockdown, and recorded at the famous Abbey Road studios, this song, as its title suggests, aims to shine a spotlight on Alzheimer’s, with singer/songwriter Charlie describing the “hurt, pain, anger and fire” in his father’s soul as he battles dementia.
His father, Nigel Starmer-Smith, was an England Rugby player and commentator, and funds raised will support Alzheimers Society’s “Sport United Against Dementia” campaign, which will study whether professional athletes show more signs of early dementia.
“Help!” by Talking Therapies/NHS
According to Mind, the mental health charity, one in four people experience mental health problems each year.
Talking therapies, such as counselling and cognitive behavioural therapies can help, and artists including Craig David and Nicola Roberts recorded the spoken version of the Beatles’ classic to urge people to access help and, in the words of the song, to get their feet back on the ground.
“No-one should suffer in silence,” says NHS mental health director Claire Murdoch.