CJ Baker is a published writer who recently started the podcast Ongoing History of Protest Music.
George Reeves as Superman
Superman: Cultural Icon
Superman was first introduced to the world on June 1st, 1938 when he made his first appearance in Action Comics #1. Since that time, The Man of Steel's impact on pop culture has expanded beyond comic books. He has made numerous appearances in radio serials, TV shows, movies and video games. There has also been no shortage of songs either about Superman, or that make reference to him.
Some of the songs appear to be literally about Superman, while others use the famed super hero for metaphorical purposes. Cultural commentators have long look at the Superman folklore to examine what it has to say about the nature of humanity. It should come as no surprise that songwriters have done the same.
Right now we are going to examine 15 songs about The Man of Steel. The songs range from tongue in cheek quirkiness to insightful social commentary. The following songs are listed chronologically not numerically.
Superman Actor Poll
Sunshine Superman - Donovan
"Sunshine Superman" appeared on Donovan's 1966 album of the same name. The song is Donovan's only #1 hit on the US Billboard chart and it is considered an important tune in the development of psychedelic music. The song also features two future members of Led Zeppelin, Jimmy Page on guitar and John Paul Jones on Bass.
The song makes reference to both Superman and fellow DC Comics superhero Green Lantern ("Superman and Green Lantern ain't got nothing on me"). In the song Donovan takes on the persona of Sunshine Superman to express his confidence in his ability to win over the lady of his dreams.
Sunshine Superman also became a bit of a pop culture figure as well. Sunshine Superman was created by Grant Morrison as an African American version of Superman in Morrison's DC Comic reboot of Animal Man (#23 & #24, May-June 1990). This alternative version of Superman made a couple of other comic book appearances as well.
Sunshine Superman by Donovan (Video)
Superman - The Clique
"Superman" was originally recorded by The Clique as a b-side to their 1969 single, "Sugar On Sunday". The song remained an obscure gem until it was covered by R.E.M. and released as a single in 1986. It also appeared on the band's 1986 album, Lifes Rich Pageant.
Just like with the previous song on this list, it is another example where the songwriter adopts the Superman persona in his quest to get the girl. In this instance it almost borders on sinister. Even though the song has a feel good vibe, the lyrics border on creepy stalker territory ("if you go a million miles away I'll track you down girl").
Superman by The Clique (Video)
The Day Superman Got Busted - Company Caine
"The Day Superman Got Busted" is an obscure gem from Australian prog rock band Company Caine. It is from their 1971 album A Product of a Broken Reality.
Even though Superman is generally portrayed as a law abiding super hero, there has been a few instances when he has had brushes with the the law. For example there was Superman Volume 1, 153 "The Day Superman Broke the Law" which was published in May, 1962. In the story a corrupt councilman tries to get Superman arrested on the grounds of numerous misdemeanors. The Man of Steel eventually serves jail time for littering when he accidentally drops a piece of paper on the ground.
The Day Superman Got Busted by Company Caine (Video)
Superman - Alison McCallum
This is the second consecutive song from an Australian artist. "Superman" is from Alison McCallum 1972 album Fresh Water (which was reissued under the name Any Way You Want Me). The song did manage to hit #12 on the Australian charts. The song was written by Harry Vanda and George Young who went on to produce a number of AC/DC albums. George Young was the older brother of AC/DC's Malcolm and Angus Young.
This song refers to how the female protagonist is going to find her Superman and make him love her. The song does make reference to the different superpowers of Superman, so I am not 100% sure if it is meant to be a fictional literal narrative or if it is meant to be figurative. Either way it is an infectiously feel good ditty.
Superman by Alison McCallum (Video)
(Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman - The Kinks
"(Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman" is from The Kinks 1979 album Low Budget.
The song expresses a desire to possess superpowers. The song's protagonist feels very inadequate ("A nine stone weakling with knobbly knees") and overwhelmed by the pressures of life ("Gas bills, rent bills, tax bills, phone bills/I'm such a wreck but I'm staying alive"). If he was Superman he and his lady could just fly away.
To a certain extent I can relate to the sentiments of the song. A few years back I was given a pair of Superman boxers and I was extremely disappointed when they did not give me superpowers. Just like Ray Davies I wish I could fly like Superman.
The Kinks - (Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman
Barack Obama as Superman
Man of Steel - Hank Williams Jr
"Man of Steel" is from Hank Williams Jr 1983 album of the same name. The song hit #3 on the US country charts.
The song references many of the adversities that Hank has faced in his life (such as the death of his legendary father Hank Sr). In order to endure he needed the strength of Superman. The song provides the argument that you don't have to be superhuman to overcome insurmountable obstacles. Mere mortals can accomplish extraordinary things if they possess a never give up attitude.
Man of Steel by Hank Williams Jr (Video)
Jam On It - Newcleus
"Jam On It" is a 1984 old school hip hop classic from Newcleus. I was debating whether or not to include the song because it is not directly about Superman. That being said the song includes a pretty fun reference to the superhero. The Man of Steel decides to challenge the Newcleus crew to a break dancing competition. He "blew away every crew he faced until he reach our block". Superman's superpowers were no match for the breaking skills of the Newcleus crew. In the end he ended up succumbing to "disco Kryptonite".
Jam On It by Newcleus (Video)
Superman's Song - Crash Test Dummies
"Superman's Song" is from Crash Test Dummies 1991 album The Ghost That Haunts Me. The song is written has a funeral dirge. Interestingly the song predates the comic book death of Superman by a little over a year. The music video features depictions of aging superheroes attending Superman's funeral.
The song presents Superman as a selfless hero ("Superman never made any money/For saving the world from Solomon Grundy). The song also expresses despair over the fact that "the world will never see another man like him".
Even though the songs intent is not clear, it does appear to have at least some metaphorical meaning. The fact that the death of Superman predates the comic book death is an indicator that the song could be making a statement about humanity and the death of selflessness and heroism.
Superman's Song by Crash Test Dummies (Video)
Jimmy Olsen's Blues - Spin Doctors
"Jimmy Olsen's Blues" is from the Spin Doctors 1991 album Pocket Full of Kryptonite. The song depicts the young photo journalist has being infatuated with Lois Lane and jealous of The Man of Steel. He hopes to address his issues with a "pocket full of Kryptonite" (which the album is named after).
In connection with the song, Superman artist Jon Bogdanove who drew for Superman: Man of Steel would occasionally depict Jimmy Olsen wearing a Spin Doctors t-shirt.
Superman Kryptonite Poll
Jimmy Olsen's Blues by Spin Doctors (Video)
Waitin for Superman (Is It Gettin' Heavy??) - The Flaming Lips
"Waitin for Superman (Is It Gettin' Heavy??)" is from The Flaming Lips 1999 landmark album The Soft Bulletin.
The song's lyrics deal with the fact that things are getting so heavy that "it is too heavy for Superman to lift". Even though things may become overwhelming, we do not want to give up. When things get heavy people need to "hold on the best they can". If we hold on long enough hopefully relief will be on its way.
Waitin' For Superman by The Flaming Lips (Video)
Kryptonite - 3 Doors Down
"Kryptonite" is from 3 Doors Down 2000 album The Better Life. The song is still the bands most well known tune and biggest hit, making it to #3 on the US Billboard chart.
Concerning the meaning of the song, lyricist and lead vocalist Brad Arnold made the following statement: "It's not just asking, “If I fall down, will you be there for me?” Because it's easy to be there for someone when they're down. But it's not always easy to be there for somebody when they're doing good. And that's the question it's asking. It's like, “If I go crazy, will you still call me Superman?” It's asking, “If I'm down, will you still be there for me?” But at the same time, “If I'm alive and well, will you be there holding my hand?” That's kind of asking, “If I'm doing good, will you be there for me? Will you not be jealous of me?”
The song's video is also compelling. It features an elderly man who used to be a TV action hero. He dons the superhero getup in order to save the damsel in distress. Despite appearing to be washed up he succeeds at saving the day.
Will You Still Call Me Superman Poll
Kryptonite by 3 Doors Down (Video)
Superman - Lazlo Bane
"Superman" is from alternative rock band Lazlo Bane and it first appeared in the soundtrack for the 2000 indie film Tao of Steve. The song then gained wider attention as the theme song for Scrubs and it appeared on the band's 2002 album All the Time in the World.
The main lyric "I'm no Superman" fits in well with Scrubs theme of human fallibility. The song is an acknowledgment that as humans we need the support of others. With the support of others who love us, we don't need superhuman powers.
Superman by Lazlo Bane (Video)
The Man of Metropolis Steals Our Hearts - Sufjan Stevens
"The Man of Metropolis Steals Our Hearts" is from Sufjan Stevens 2005 album, Illinois (full title is: Sufjan Stevens Invites You To: Come On Feel the Illinoise). The entire album revolves around people and places connected with the State of Illinois. In connection with this song, Superman's fictional hometown of Metropolis was based partially on Chicago (there also happens to be a Metropolis in Illinois as well). Another interesting fact is that Ray Middleton, who is the first actor to play The Man of Steel, also happens to be from Chicago.
The song makes references to Superman as a Christ like figure (such as making reference to raising the dead). This is interesting because there have been different cultural commentators who have made the comparisons between Jesus and Superman. Those parallels have to do with Superman being presented as a savior for mankind.
The Man of Metropolis Steals Our Hearts by Sufjan Stevens (Video)
Superman - Snoop Dogg & Willie Nelson
"Superman" a somewhat unlikely duet between Snoop Dogg & Willie Nelson appears on Snoop's 2011 album Doggumentary. The song written by Nelson was originally recorded by Nelson as a solo track.
In the song both Willie and Snoop acknowledge that they "ain't no Superman". They are just two humans doing the best they can. Even though on the surface the pairing may seem to be an unlikely collaboration, the two artists have a good chemistry together. The song definitely has a relaxed chill out vibe. Even though I try not to read YouTube comments (my IQ always drops 20 points every time I do), one YouTube commenter summed it up quite succinctly "attaining racial harmony, one blunt at a time."
Superman by Snoop Dogg & Willie Nelson (Video)
Hit the Ground (Superman) - The Big Pink
"Hit the Ground (Superman)" is from The Big Pink's 2012 album Future This. The electronic rock duo samples Laurie Anderson's 1981 avant-garde classic "O Superman".
This infectious little ditty refers to a wild night out that you never want to end ("I don't wanna hit the ground"). In the end the song acknowledges that all good things must come to an end ("I know there never be no Superman"). The important thing is that we make the most of each moment while it lasts. Just as a note the band takes its name from The Band's 1968 classic debut album Music from Big Pink.
The Big Pink - Hit The Ground (Superman)
© 2013 CJ Baker
Any songs about Superman that you would like to share? Feel free to leave any other feedback.
LaZeric Freeman from Hammond on January 31, 2016:
Interesting. Did you ever hear a song by Kenny Rogers called, "The Last Ten Years". It's actually dedicated to Christopher Reeve. There's a particular line that is part of the hook ... But I'll let you find it yourself. Cheers.
CJ Baker (author) from Parts Unknown on January 21, 2014:
Hi Beth, I am glad that I introduced you to some new Superman tunes! I agree with you about Jimmy Olsen Blues. Thanks for the read and the comment!
Beth37 on January 21, 2014:
I have not heard of so many of these songs, but I was getting more and more worried that you didn't include my favorite... Jimmy Olsen Blues. I love this song. I featured it on one of my hubs too. What a great idea for a hub.
Tim from Los Angeles, CA on December 06, 2013:
Ah, I see! I will have to check that hub out!
CJ Baker (author) from Parts Unknown on November 25, 2013:
Bat115, thanks for the read and the comment. Johnny Wakelin barely missed the cut for this list. But part of the reason why I excluded it was because I included "Black Superman" in my Songs About Famous People hub.
Tim from Los Angeles, CA on November 25, 2013:
Cool hub! Forgot all about The Spin Doctors! You should give an honorable mention to Johnny Wakelin's "Black Superman", what with Muhammad Ali's connection to the Man Of Steel.
CJ Baker (author) from Parts Unknown on May 01, 2013:
Heidi, I agree that Kryptonite is an obvious choice. Because of that I almost excluded it from the list because I thought it was too obvious. But I wanted a selection of both well known and obscure tunes. Thanks for the read and the comment!
Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on May 01, 2013:
Whenever I think of Superman songs, I think of 3 Doors Down Kryptonite. Very timely hub with the Superman movie coming out soon. Hope it's a popular one for you!
CJ Baker (author) from Parts Unknown on April 30, 2013:
Thanks for the suggestion! It wouldn't of made the list otherwise! Out of all of the Superman references it is probably the most ridiculous (ridiculous in a good way). Thanks for the read and the comment.
Keith Abt from The Garden State on April 30, 2013:
Awesome! I see you used my suggestion of "Jam On It." I still find it hard to believe that Superman's break dancin' skillz were not up to the Newcleus challenge. :)