Superman In Song: A Musical Phenomenon

by Amy Gold

Songs about Superman are more plentiful than you might imagine. Almost since the caped crusader first came to life in the comics, he has captured the imagination of musicians and songwriters. Many different artists have drawn on the popular image of the invincible superhero to give voice to their thoughts and ideas.

And those ideas have taken Superman in many different directions. Whereas some are mere mentions of the comic book hero inside a larger theme, others are entirely devoted to him, contemplating both the supercharged superhero and his mild-mannered alter ego, Clark Kent. Superman the song may seem like an odd concept, but he seems to lend himself to musical interpretation rather well.

So what is the draw that has led to so many songs about Superman? There are many different possibilities, and judging from the variety of songs that include the man of steel, they can be quite personal. Superman first became a popular subject of music in the 1960s, and at that time, most songwriters took a much more idealized approach to him. They saw his strength, speed and the way he was admired by others and thought of it as something to be reaching for themselves. Not that it would be possible to suddenly develop super powers, even in the ultra trippy 1960s, but it sure would be nice to be looked up to like that.

The idealism of the 1960s and early 1970s gave way to a grittier approach in the 1980s and 1990s. When the hip hop world got hold of the caped crusader, Superman began to take on a whole new meaning. With hardscrabble lyrics about life in the 'hood, rappers chose the image of Superman to give voice to their own ideas of invincibility. Everyone from the Sugarhill Gang to Eminem has referenced Superman to varying levels of impact.

Another trend was for Superman to stop representing the ideal and instead become an objet of angst and dissatisfaction. Seeing themselves as real life manifestations of Clark Kent, popular songwriters like Dave Matthews and the Spin Doctors sang about their own inadequacy compared to the superhero. In this vein, Superman the song can include tunes like Alanis Morissette's wistful folk rock version.

And the trend toward songs about Superman has not let up in recent years either. Rock groups from the 1990s and 2000s such as the Crash Test Dummies and Good Charlotte have put their own unique spin on the subject. They continue to use the popular image of the superhero to point up our own inadequacies as mere mortals to great effect.

Whether we're relating to Clark Kent's frustration or wishing for Superman's invincibility, no other comic book hero has had quite the lasting impact of the man of steel. He has become more than a simple one-dimensional character and taken on new life as a cultural icon and musical inspiration - yet another awesome power to add to his amazing repertoire! Below is a list of songs that are either about or make reference to this iconic figure.