Perhaps this final act was meant
To clinch a lifetime's argument
That nothing comes from violence and nothing ever could
In crises, we often turn to music for comfort or to express something we simply cannot put into words. September 11, 2001 is no exception; on that very day, and for several months afterward, the radio played certain tracks that appropriately addressed how we felt, even if the songs were written decades before.
One of the first songs to emerge was Sting's "Fragile," a delicate ballad from his 1987 album ...Nothing Like the Sun. The lyrics seemed to eerily describe the day's tragic events: "If blood will flow when flesh and steel are one/ Drying in the color of the evening sun," he sings, "Tomorrow's rain will wash the stains away/ But something in our minds will always stay." That day, Sting was to perform in Tuscany; the concert was originally going to be streamed via the internet. Sting elected to continue with the show, but broadcast only one song: the opener, "Fragile." The band's beautiful arrangement, with particularly lovely backing vocals, proved to be a moving testament to the fragility of human life.
In the aftermath, radio stations struggled with which songs to air. Were all tracks appropriate, or were some too violent or celebratory? A news story quickly circulated online that Clear Channel Communications, a company that operates over 1,170 US stations, had issued a memorandum listing "banned" songs that should immediately be removed from playlists. Clear Channel denied issuing such a directive, but stated that the list simply provided suggestions that stations did not have to follow. Among the songs deemed inappropriate were Drowning Pool's "Bodies," AC/DC's "Highway to Hell," the Steve Miller Band's "Jet Airliner," and Carole King's "I Feel the Earth Move." Curiously, the memo also cited John Lennon's "Imagine" as potentially controversial due to the lines "Imagine there's no country/ It isn't hard to do/ Nothing to kill or die for/ And no religion too." Ironically Lennon intended the song to serve as a peace anthem, and the public seemed to view it as such. During the America: A Tribute to Heroes telethon, aired on September 21, Neil Young covered the track; the subsequent benefit Come Together: A Night for John Lennon's Words and Music also used the song as its centerpiece.
Other previously released songs figured prominently in the days after 9/11. Radio and television broadcasts used Enya's 2000 new age anthem "Only Time" as a soundtrack, perhaps due to its somber but gentle tone. The lyrics also do not attempt to answer life's most complex questions: "Who can say where the road goes/ Where the day flows, only time?" she quietly sings. Some stations edited in audio clips of reporters and survivors describing the horrors of the event. Its grave tone reflected the country's mood, and to this day "Only Time" remains inextricably linked with September 11.