Lyricists often use the words ‘brother/s’ and ‘sister/s’ to metaphorically refer to humanity, or rather, to the best part of humanity. Yet the fact that the most desirable aspects of being human is represented by our collective ideals about siblings contrasts with the common characterization of siblings as rivals. We present a curated list of songs that explore the simplicity and complexity, the affirmations and contradictions, the heartbreaks and joys, of our sibling relationships.
Being at War with Each Other – sung by Barbra Streisand, Music and Lyrics by Carole King.
If I Had A Hammer – sung by Peter, Paul and Mary (1963), Music and Lyrics by Pete Seeger and Lee Hays.
He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother – sung by The Hollies. Music and Lyrics by Bobby Scott and Bob Russell.
Once Were Brothers – Vocals, Music, and Lyrics by Robbie Robertson.
Over You – sung here by Blake Shelton. Music and Lyrics by Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert [expressing Shelton’s shock and heartache when, as a teen, his older brother was killed in a car accident].
You Are My Christmas – sung by Dolly Parton, her brother Randy Parton, and his daughter Heidi (2020), Music and Lyrics by Dolly Parton [When Dolly was eleven, her brother was born around Christmas – this song was inspired by their loving relationship].
Ms. Celie’s Song (Sister) – sung by Táta Vega. Music by Quincy Jones and Rod Temperton. Lyrics by Quincy Jones, Rod Temperton and Lionel Richie. From the film, A Color Purple.
My Sister – sung by Reba McEntire. Music and Lyrics by Amy Michelle Dalley, Bonnie J. Baker, and Roxie Dean.
Oh, Sister – sung by Bob Dylan and Emmylou Harris. Music by Bob Dylan and Lyrics by Bob Dylan and Jacques Levy. [By most accounts, this song is metaphorical. Yet it references an idealized relationship between brother and sister.]
Two Little Sisters – sung by Carly Simon and Meryl Streep. Music and Lyrics by Carly Simon. Theme song from the film, Marvin’s Room. 1997.
When We Grow Up – sung by Diana Ross. Music by Stephen Lawrence and Lyrics by Shelley Miller.