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The 20 greatest yacht rock songs ever, ranked

27 July 2022, 17:50

The greatest yacht rock songs ever

By Tom Eames

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We can picture it now: lounging on a swish boat as it bobs along the water, sipping cocktails and improving our tan. Oh, and it's the 1980s.

There's only one style of music that goes with this image: Yacht rock.

What is Yacht Rock?

Also known as the West Coast Sound or adult-oriented rock, it's a style of soft rock from between the late 1970s and early 1980s that featured elements of smooth soul, smooth jazz, R&B, funk, rock and disco.

  • The 40 greatest disco songs ever, ranked
  • The 10 greatest and smoothest ever sax solos, ranked

Although its name has been used in a negative way, to us it's an amazing genre that makes us feel like we're in an episode of Miami Vice wearing shoulder pads and massive sunglasses.

Here are the very best songs that could be placed in this genre:

Player - 'Baby Come Back'

summer yacht rock songs

Player - Baby Come Back

Not the reggae classic of the same name, this 1977 track was Player's biggest hit.

After Player disbanded, singer Peter Beckett joined Australia's Little River Band, and he also wrote 'Twist of Fate' for Olivia Newton-John and 'After All This Time' for Kenny Rogers.

Steely Dan - 'FM'

summer yacht rock songs

It's tough just choosing one Steely Dan song for this list, but we've gone for this banger.

Used as the theme tune for the 1978 movie of the same name, the song is jazz-rock track, though its lyrics took a disapproving look at the genre as a whole, which was in total contrast to the film's celebration of it. Still, sounds great guys!

Bobby Goldsboro - 'Summer (The First Time)'

summer yacht rock songs

Bobby Goldsboro - Summer (The First Time)

A bit of a questionable subject matter, this ballad was about a 17-year-old boy’s first sexual experience with a 31-year-old woman at the beach.

But using a repeating piano riff, 12-string guitar, and an orchestral string arrangement, this song just screams yacht rock and all that is great about it.

Kenny Loggins - 'Heart to Heart'

summer yacht rock songs

Kenny Loggins - Heart To Heart (Official Music Video)

If Michael McDonald is the king of yacht rock, then Kenny Loggins is his trusted advisor and heir to the throne.

This track was co-written with Michael, and also features him on backing vocals. The song is about how most relationships do not stand the test of time, yet some are able to do so.

Airplay - 'Nothing You Can Do About It'

summer yacht rock songs

Nothin' You Can Do About It

You might not remember US band Airplay, but they did have their moment on the yacht.

Consisting of David Foster (who also co-wrote the Kenny Loggins song above), Jay Graydon and the brilliantly-named Tommy Funderburk, this tune was a cover of a Manhattan Transfer song, and was a minor hit in 1981.

Boz Scaggs - 'Lowdown'

summer yacht rock songs

Boz Scaggs - Lowdown (Official Audio)

We've moved slightly into smooth jazz territory with this track, which is guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

The song was co-written by David Paich, who would go on to form Toto along with the song's keyboardist David Paich, session bassist David Hungate, and drummer Jeff Porcaro.

Steve Winwood - 'Valerie'

summer yacht rock songs

Steve Winwood - Valerie (Official Video)

This song is probably as far as you can get into pop rock without totally leaving the yacht rock dock.

Legendary singer-songwriter Winwood recorded this gong about a man reminiscing about a lost love he hopes to find again someday.

Eric Prydz later sampled it in 2004 for the house number one track ‘Call on Me’, and presented it to Winwood, who was so impressed he re-recorded the vocals to better fit the track.

Toto - 'Rosanna'

summer yacht rock songs

Toto - Rosanna (Official HD Video)

We almost picked 'Africa' , but we reckon this tune just about pips it in the yacht rock game.

Written by David Paich, he has said that the song is based on numerous girls he had known.

As a joke, the band members initially played along with the common assumption that the song was based on actress Rosanna Arquette, who was dating Toto keyboard player Steve Porcaro at the time and coincidentally had the same name.

Chicago - 'Hard to Say I'm Sorry'

summer yacht rock songs

Chicago - Hard To Say I'm Sorry (Official Music Video)

Chicago began moving away from their horn-driven soft rock sound with their early 1980s output, including this synthesizer-filled power ballad.

  • The 10 greatest Chicago songs, ranked

The album version segued into a more traditional Chicago upbeat track titled ‘Get Away’, but most radio stations at the time opted to fade out the song before it kicked in. Three members of Toto played on the track. Those guys are yacht rock kings!

Michael Jackson - 'Human Nature'

summer yacht rock songs

Michael Jackson - Human Nature (Audio)

A few non-rock artists almost made this list ( George Michael 's 'Careless Whisper' and Spandau Ballet 's 'True' are almost examples, but not quite), yet a big chunk of Thriller heavily relied on the yacht rock sound.

Michael Jackson proved just how popular the genre could get with several songs on the album, but 'Human Nature' is the finest example.

The Doobie Brothers - 'What a Fool Believes'

summer yacht rock songs

The Doobie Brothers - What A Fool Believes (Official Music Video)

Possibly THE ultimate yacht rock song on the rock end of the spectrum, and it's that man Michael McDonald.

Written by McDonald and Kenny Loggins, this was one of the few non-disco hits in America in the first eight months of 1979.

The song tells the story of a man who is reunited with an old love interest and attempts to rekindle a romantic relationship with her before discovering that one never really existed.

Michael Jackson once claimed he contributed at least one backing track to the original recording, but was not credited for having done so. This was later denied by the band.

Christopher Cross - 'Sailing'

summer yacht rock songs

Christopher Cross - Sailing (Official Audio)

We're not putting this in here just because it's called 'Sailing', it's also one of the ultimate examples of the genre.

Christopher Cross reached number one in the US in 1980, and VH1 later named it the most "softsational soft rock" song of all time.

Don Henley - 'The Boys of Summer'

summer yacht rock songs


Mike Campbell wrote the music to this track while working on Tom Petty’s Southern Accents album, but later gave it to Eagles singer Don Henley, who wrote the lyrics.

The song is about the passing of youth and entering middle age, and of a past relationship. It was covered twice in the early 2000s: as a trance track by DJ Sammy in 2002, and as a pop punk hit by The Ataris in 2003.

England Dan and John Cord Foley - 'I'd Really Love to See You Tonight'

summer yacht rock songs

England Dan & John Ford Coley - I'd Really Love To See You Tonight.avi

A big hit for this duo in 1976, it showcases the very best of the sock rock/AOR/yacht rock sound that the 1970s could offer.

Dan Seals is the younger brother of Jim Seals of Seals and Crofts fame. Which leads to...

Seals & Crofts - 'Summer Breeze'

summer yacht rock songs

Summer Breeze - Seals & Croft #1 Hit(1972)

Before The Isley Brothers recorded a slick cover, 'Summer Breeze' was an irresistible folk pop song by Seals & Crofts.

While mostly a folk song, its summer vibes and gorgeous melody make for a perfect yacht rock number.

Christopher Cross - 'Ride Like the Wind'

summer yacht rock songs

Ride Like The Wind Promo Video 1980 Christopher Cross

If Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins are in charge of the yacht rock ship, then Christopher Cross has to be captain, right? Cabin boy? Something anyway.

The singer was arguably the biggest success story of the relatively short-lived yacht rock era, and this one still sounds incredible.

Eagles - 'I Can't Tell You Why'

summer yacht rock songs

The eagles - I can't tell you why (AUDIO VINYL)

Many Eagles tunes could be classed as yacht rock, but we reckon their finest example comes from this track from their The Long Run album in 1979.

Don Henley described the song as "straight Al Green", and that Glenn Frey, an R&B fan, was responsible for the R&B feel of the song. Frey said to co-writer Timothy B Schmit: "You could sing like Smokey Robinson . Let’s not do a Richie Furay, Poco-sounding song. Let’s do an R&B song."

Gerry Rafferty - 'Baker Street'

summer yacht rock songs

Gerry Rafferty - Baker Street (Official Video)

Gerry Rafferty probably didn't realise he was creating one of the greatest yacht rock songs of all time when he wrote this, but boy did he.

  • The Story of... 'Baker Street'

With the right blend of rock and pop and the use of the iconic saxophone solo, you can't not call this yacht rock at its finest.

Michael McDonald - 'Sweet Freedom'

summer yacht rock songs

Michael McDonald - Sweet Freedom (1986)

If you wanted to name the king of yacht rock, you'd have to pick Michael McDonald . He could sing the phone book and it would sound silky smooth.

Possibly his greatest solo tune, it was used in the movie  Running Scared , and its music video featured actors Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines.

Hall & Oates - 'I Can't Go for That (No Can Do)'

summer yacht rock songs

Daryl Hall & John Oates - I Can't Go For That (No Can Do) (Official Video)

This duo knew how to make catchy hit after catchy hit. This R&B-tinged pop tune was co-written with Sara Allen (also the influence for their song 'Sara Smile').

  • Hall and Oates' 10 best songs, ranked

John Oates has said that the song is actually about the music business. "That song is really about not being pushed around by big labels, managers, and agents and being told what to do, and being true to yourself creatively."

Not only was the song sampled in De La Soul's 'Say No Go' and Simply Red 's 'Home', but Michael Jackson also admitted that he lifted the bass line for 'Billie Jean'!

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10 Best Yacht Rock Songs of the Summer

by Peter Burditt June 26, 2022, 10:12 am

The term yacht rock wasn’t coined when the genre took the radio by storm in the 1970s and ’80s. The calmer soft rock gained its name 30 to 40 years later when Channel 101, an LA website, had a comedy web series called Yacht Rock .

Videos by American Songwriter

The web series imagined the lives of the stars of the genre with made-up plots. For instance, imagine if The Doobie Brothers and Hall & Oates were rivals and Kenny Loggins was a good friend of Boz Scaggs. Pretty amusing stuff, but thank God it brought a name to the genre, especially because it really is all-encompassing. You can’t describe yacht rock, you just know it when you hear it.

So, are you already “ Reelin’ In The Years ?” Picture this: it’s summer, you are on a sailboat or yacht with all of your closest friends, and you have the soft rock of the 1970s, with breezy vocals, glossy production, and bouncy rhythms playing. This could be you, and we are here to help you out. We have compiled the 10 best songs for your imagined boating adventure this summer.

Let’s check them out.

10. “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)” by Looking Glass

9. “how long” by ace, 8. “summer breeze” by seals and crofts, 7. “reminiscing” by little river band, 6. “sarah smile” by daryl & john oates, 5. “escape (the pina colada song)” by rupert holmes, 4. “lowdown” by boz scaggs, 3. “ventura highway” by america and george martin, 2. “listen to the music” by the doobie brothers, 1. “peg” by steely dan.

Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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The Top 10 Yacht Rock Songs Perfect for Your Next Summer Cruise

Yacht rock is a style of soft rock music that rose to prominence in the 1970s and early 1980s. Characterized by its laidback, smooth sound, yacht rock songs have become staples of classic radio playlists as well as modern-day streaming services.

This list highlights some of the genre’s most beloved tracks from artists like Kenny Loggins, Hall & Oates, and Michael McDonald.

What is Yacht Rock?

Yacht rock is a style of soft rock music that reached its peak popularity in the 1970s and early 1980s.

Characterized by its laidback, smooth sound, yacht rock songs feature lush instrumentation, slick production, and often synthesizers or light funk rhythms. Lyrically, yacht rock tends to focus on themes of relaxation, romance, and escapism.

Popular artists associated with the genre include Kenny Loggins, Hall & Oates, and Michael McDonald.

Why yacht rock is loved by many

Yacht rock has an enchanting, laidback quality that is both nostalgic and timeless. It evokes a sense of summertime relaxation and escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life. The smooth sound and lighthearted lyrics provide a perfect soundtrack for cruising on the open water or lounging by the pool. The genre’s popularity has been further popularized in recent years through a successful podcast and the meme-ification of certain yacht rock songs.

“What a Fool Believes” by The Doobie Brothers

“What a Fool Believes” is a classic yacht rock song by The Doobie Brothers that appeared on their 1978 album Minute by Minute. It was written by Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins and won the Grammy Award for Record of the Year in 1979. The song features a soulful vocal performance from McDonald, with tight harmonies from the backing band. Instrumentally, it features a light funk groove, Hammond organ licks, and an infectious chorus.

Yacht rock elements in the song

“What a Fool Believes” contains many of the quintessential elements of yacht rock. The song has a light funk groove, provided by the syncopated drums and bass line. It also features lush instrumentation, with a Hammond organ providing the main melody and piano accompaniment. The vocal performance is smooth and soulful, featuring layered harmonies and a memorable chorus. Overall, the song conveys feelings of relaxation and escapism, providing the perfect musical backdrop for a leisurely cruise on the open water.

Critical reception and awards

“What a Fool Believes” was an instant hit on release, reaching the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart in 1979. It also won the Grammy Award for Record of the Year, becoming one of the most awarded yacht rock songs ever. The song has been praised for its smooth sound and timeless appeal; Rolling Stone called it “ a near-perfect piece of soft rock”. It has been covered by a variety of artists, including the Irish pop group The Corrs.

“Ride Like the Wind” by Christopher Cross

“Ride Like the Wind” is a classic yacht rock song by Christopher Cross, released as the lead single from his self-titled debut album in 1980. Written and produced by Cross, the song features lush instrumentation, a smooth vocal performance, and dreamy lyrics about escaping to a foreign land. It reached number two on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart and has been covered by many artists, including country singer Clay Walker.

Like many yacht rock songs, “Ride Like the Wind” features a light funk groove, provided by muted electric guitars and a steady drum beat. It also contains lush instrumentation, with sweeping strings and piano accompaniment. Cross’ vocal performance is smooth and soulful, with a memorable chorus that conveys feelings of escapism and adventure. The overall mood is one of relaxation, perfect for a leisurely cruise on the open water.

“Ride Like the Wind” was a massive hit on its release, reaching number two on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart and topping the charts in several countries. It earned Christopher Cross three Grammy Awards, including Song of the Year and Record of the Year. The song has been praised for its lush instrumentation and dreamy lyrics; AllMusic called it “a stunningly beautiful piece of music.” It has been covered by a variety of artists, including Clay Walker, The Corrs, and Sade.

“Sailing” by Christopher Cross

“Sailing” is a classic yacht rock song by Christopher Cross, released as the second single from his self-titled debut album in 1980. Written and produced by Cross, the song is an uplifting ode to escapism and freedom, with lyrics about sailing away on the open sea. Instrumentally, it features a light funk groove, lush string arrangements, and an infectious chorus.

Like many yacht rock songs, “Sailing” features a light funk groove, provided by muted electric guitars and a steady drum beat. It also contains lush instrumentation, with sweeping strings and piano accompaniment. Cross’ vocal performance is smooth and soulful, with a memorable chorus that conveys feelings of esc apism and adventure. The overall mood is one of relaxation, perfect for a leisurely cruise on the open water.

“Sailing” was a massive hit on its release, reaching number one on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart and topping the charts in several countries. It earned Christopher Cross three Grammy Awards, including Song of the Year and Record of the Year. The song has been praised for its lush instrumentation and dreamy lyrics; Rolling Stone called it “a near-perfect piece of soft rock.” It has been covered by a variety of artists, including Clay Walker, The Corrs, and Sade.

“Rosanna” by Toto

“Rosanna” is a classic yacht rock song by Toto, released as the lead single from their 1982 album Toto IV. Written by David Paich and produced by Jeff Porcaro, the song is an ode to love and commitment, with lyrics about a woman named Rosanna. Instrumentally, it features a light funk groove, lush string arrangements, and an infectious chorus.

Like many yacht rock songs, “Rosanna” features a light funk groove, provided by muted electric guitars and a steady drum beat. It also contains lush instrumentation, with sweeping strings and piano accompaniment. The vocal performance is smooth and soulful, with a memorable chorus that conveys feelings of love and devotion.

“Rosanna” was a massive hit on its release, reaching number two on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart and topping the charts in several countries. It earned Toto three Grammy Awards, including Record of the Year and Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal. The song has been praised for its lush instrumentation and tender lyrics; AllMusic called it “a classic of modern soft rock.” It has been covered by a variety of artists, including Clay Walker, The Corrs, and Sade.

“Africa” by Toto

“Africa” is a classic yacht rock song by Toto, released as the third single from their 1982 album Toto IV. Written by David Paich and Jeff Porcaro and produced by the band, the song is an ode to exploration and adventure, with lyrics about a spiritual journey to Africa. Instrumentally, it features a light funk groove, lush string arrangements, and an infectious chorus.

Like many yacht rock songs, “Africa” features a light funk groove, provided by muted electric guitars and a steady drum beat. It also contains lush instrumentation, with sweeping strings and piano accompaniment. The vocal performance is smooth and soulful, with a memorable chorus that conveys feelings of exploration and excitement.

“Africa” was a massive hit on its release, reaching number one on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart and topping the charts in several countries. It earned Toto three Grammy Awards, including Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal and Record of the Year. The song has been praised for its lush instrumentation and imaginative lyrics; Pitchfork called it “a perfect encapsulation of yacht rock.” It has been covered by a variety of artists, including Clay Walker, The Corrs, and Sade.

“Cool Change” by Little River Band

“Cool Change” is a classic yacht rock song by Little River Band, released as the lead single from their 1979 album First Under the Wire. Written by band member David Briggs and keyboardist Graeham Goble, the song is an ode to personal growth and transformation, with lyrics about leaving behind troubled times and embracing new beginnings. Instrumentally, it features a light funk groove, lush string arrangements, and an infectious chorus.

Like many yacht rock songs, “Cool Change” features a light funk groove, provided by muted electric guitars and a steady drum beat. It also contains lush instrumentation, with sweeping strings and piano accompaniment. The vocal performance is smooth and soulful, with a memorable chorus that conveys feelings of hope and optimism.

“Cool Change” was a massive hit on its release, reaching number ten on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart. It earned Little River Band a Grammy Award nomination for Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal. The song has been praised for its lush instrumentation and uplifting lyrics; AllMusic called it “ a perfect example of yacht rock.” It has been covered by a variety of artists, including Clay Walker, The Corrs, and Sade.

“Summer Breeze” by Seals and Crofts

“Summer Breeze” is a classic yacht rock song by Seals and Crofts, released as the second single from their 1972 album Summer Breeze. Written by band members Jim Seals and Dash Crofts, the song is an ode to relaxation and peacefulness, with lyrics about comfortable summer days. Instrumentally, it features a light funk groove, lush string arrangements, and an infectious chorus.

Like many yacht rock songs, “Summer Breeze” features a light funk groove, provided by muted electric guitars and a steady drum beat. It also contains lush instrumentation, with sweeping strings and piano accompaniment. The vocal performance is smooth and soulful, with a memorable chorus that conveys feelings of contentment and relaxation.

“Summer Breeze” was a massive hit on its release, reaching number six on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart. It earned Seals and Crofts a Grammy Award nomination for Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal. The song has been praised for its lush instrumentation and peaceful lyrics; Rolling Stone called it “ a perfect encapsulation of yacht rock.” It has been covered by a variety of artists, including Clay Walker, The Corrs, and Sade.

“Steal Away” by Robbie Dupree

“Steal Away” is a classic yacht rock song by Robbie Dupree, released as the lead single from his 1980 album Street Corner Heroes. Written by Dupree and producer Arif Mardin, the song is an ode to freedom and escape, with lyrics about running away to find love and solace in a better place. Instrumentally, it features a light funk groove, lush string arrangements, and an infectious chorus.

Like many yacht rock songs, “Steal Away” features a light funk groove, provided by muted electric guitars and a steady drum beat. It also contains lush instrumentation, with sweeping strings and piano accompaniment. The vocal performance is smooth and soulful, with a memorable chorus that conveys feelings of hope and freedom.

“Steal Away” was a massive hit on its release, reaching number six on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart. It earned Robbie Dupree a Grammy Award nomination for Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal. The song has been praised for its lush instrumentation and uplifting lyrics; AllMusic called it “a perfect example of yacht rock.” It has been covered by a variety of artists, including Clay Walker, The Corrs, and Sade.

“How Long” by Ace

“How Long” is a classic yacht rock song by the British band Ace, released as the lead single from their 1975 album Five-A-Side. Written by band members Paul Carrack and Phil Harris, the song is an ode to patience and resilience, with lyrics about trying to find peace and solace in difficult times. Instrumentally, it features a light funk groove , lush string arrangements, and an infectious chorus.

Like many yacht rock songs, “How Long” features a light funk groove, provided by muted electric guitars and a steady drum beat. It also contains lush instrumentation, with sweeping strings and piano accompaniment. The vocal performance is smooth and soulful, with a memorable chorus that conveys feelings of hope and perseverance.

“How Long” was a massive hit on its release, reaching number three on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart. It earned Ace a Grammy Award nomination for Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal. The song has been praised for its lush instrumentation and uplifting lyrics; AllMusic called it “a perfect example of yacht rock.” It has been covered by a variety of artists, including Clay Walker, The Corrs, and Sade.

Yacht rock songs are considered some of the best music of the era for a variety of reasons. One key factor is their lush instrumentation, which creates an atmospheric soundscape that is both mellow and soothing. Additionally, these songs often feature uplifting lyrics about hope and resilience, making them great sources of inspiration and comfort. Finally, yacht rock artists have consistently demonstrated a commitment to craft smanship in their songwriting and production, resulting in timeless classics that can be enjoyed for years to come.

The enduring popularity of yacht rock music is largely due to its timeless sound. The combination of funk grooves, lush strings, and soulful vocals create a soundscape that evokes feelings of nostalgia and relaxation. Additionally, the lyrics often contain uplifting messages about finding peace in difficult times, making them especially comforting in uncertain moments. As a result, yacht rock songs have become staples on classic rock and easy listening radio stations, as well as popular music streaming services.

Nick Lachey

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60+ Best Yacht Rock Songs of All Time

The family vibe on the yacht was outstanding as they enjoyed listening to the yacht's rock song.

Published April 28, 2023

Yacht rock is a subgenre of soft rock. It became prevalent in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and while it’s no longer as popular now, it still continues to be loved by fans today.

It’s best known for the jazzy arrangements, sophisticated harmonies, and lyrics that would often encapsulate the laid-back lifestyle of yacht owners. Needless to say, yacht rock targets a specific niche, and even those outside of that niche can enjoy the songs the genre offers.

If that sounds like you, then you’re in luck. In this post, we’ve compiled a list of the best yacht rock songs of all time, from deep cuts to classics that came out from 1972 to 1990.

67 Best Yacht Rock Songs List

  • “Summer Breeze” by Seals and Crofts (1972)
  • “If You Leave Me Now” by Chicago (1976)
  • “Sara Smile” by Hall & Oates (1976)
  • “What a Fool Believes” by The Doobie Brothers (1978)
  • “Peg” by Steely Dan (1978)
  • “Ride Like the Wind” by Christopher Cross (1979)
  • “Sailing” by Christopher Cross (1979)
  • “Escape (The Pina Colada Song)” by Rupert Holmes (1979)
  • “I Keep Forgettin’ (Every Time You’re Near)” by Michael McDonald (1982)
  • “Africa” by Toto (1982)
  • “Cool Change” by Little River Band (1982)
  • “I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do)” by Hall & Oates (1982)
  • “Lonely Boy” by Andrew Gold (1982)
  • “Rock with You” by Michael Jackson (1982)
  • “Slow Dancer” by Boz Scaggs (1982)
  • “Baby Come Back” by Player (1983)
  • “Say You Love Me” by Fleetwood Mac (1983)
  • “All Out of Love” by Air Supply (1984)
  • “Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do)” by Christopher Cross (1984)
  • “Biggest Part of Me” by Ambrosia (1984)
  • “Can’t We Try” by Dan Hill and Vonda Shepard (1984)
  • “Dancing in the Moonlight” by King Harvest (1984)
  • “Just the Two of Us” by Grover Washington Jr. & Bill Withers (1984)
  • “Magnet and Steel” by Walter Egan (1984)
  • “One on One” by Hall & Oates (1984)
  • “Private Eyes” by Hall & Oates (1984)
  • “Ride Captain Ride” by Blues Image (1984)
  • “When You Love a Woman” by Journey (1984)
  • “When I Need You” by Leo Sayer (1985)
  • “You Belong to Me” by Carly Simon (1985)
  • “Foolish Heart” by Steve Perry (1986)
  • “More Than a Feeling” by Boston (1986)
  • “On and On” by Stephen Bishop (1986)
  • “Reminiscing” by Little River Band (1986)
  • “We’re All Alone” by Boz Scaggs (1986)
  • “Can’t Hide Love” by Earth, Wind & Fire (1987)
  • “Just You and I” by Melissa Manchester (1987)
  • “Lovely Day” by Bill Withers (1987)
  • “Sweet Baby James” by James Taylor (1987)
  • “The Air That I Breathe” by The Hollies (1987)
  • “Touch Me in the Morning” by Diana Ross (1987)
  • “Give Me the Night” by George Benson (1988)
  • “Lady Love Me (One More Time)” by George Benson (1988)
  • “Time Passages” by Al Stewart (1988)
  • “Do That to Me One More Time” by Captain & Tennille
  • “How Long” by Ace (1989)
  • “I’ll Be Over You” by Toto (1989)
  • “Kiss on My List” by Hall & Oates (1989)
  • “Making Love Out of Nothing at All” by Air Supply (1989)
  • “On My Own” by Patti LaBelle and Michael McDonald (1989)
  • “Rosanna” by Toto (1989)
  • “The One You Love” by Glenn Frey (1989)
  • “Through the Fire” by Chaka Khan (1989)
  • “What You Won’t Do for Love” by Bobby Caldwell (1989)
  • “Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)” by Phil Collins (1990)
  • “Baby, I Love Your Way/Freebird Medley” by Will to Power (1990)
  • “Easy” by The Commodores (1990)
  • “Higher Love” by Steve Winwood (1990)
  • “I Keep Forgettin'” by Warren G featuring Michael McDonald (1990)
  • “I’ll Be There” by The Escape Club (1990)
  • “Lido Shuffle” by Boz Scaggs (1990)
  • “Missing You” by John Waite (1990)
  • “Smooth Operator” by Sade (1990)
  • “The Way You Look Tonight” by Frank Sinatra (1990)
  • “Waiting for a Girl Like You” by Foreigner (1990)
  • “We Built This City” by Starship (1990)
  • “Your Wildest Dreams” by The Moody Blues (1990)

10 Yacht Rock-Inspired Songs from the 2010s and Beyond

A group of friends sings yacht rock songs to enjoy and relax on their yacht trip.

While yacht rock is often associated with the late 1970s and early 1980s, there have been some recent songs that were able to capture the yacht rock vibe or sound. They’re now quite popular among fans of this genre. Here’s a yacht rock songs list of these songs:

  • “This Love” by Taylor Swift (2014)
  • “On the Rocks” by The Last Shadow Puppets (2016)
  • “Too Late” by Washed Out (2017)
  • “If You Want It” by Slightly Stoopid (2018)
  • “Feels Like Summer” by Childish Gambino (2018)
  • “Shallow” by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper (2018)
  • “So Caught Up” by The Teskey Brothers (2019)
  • “Joanna” by Joji (2019)
  • “Lucky Ones” by Logan Prescott (2020)
  • “Midnight Sky” by Miley Cyrus (2020)

The Bottom Line

Yacht rock has proven to be a timeless genre that has, for decades, captured the hearts of not only yacht enjoyers and owners, but also music lovers in general. Whether you’re a newcomer to yacht rock or a long-time enthusiast of the genre, the top yacht rock songs in this list will offer a glimpse into the melodic, smooth sound that defines the yacht genre.

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  • Best Yacht Rock Songs to Play on Your Boat

Best Yacht Rock Songs to Play on Your Boat

Whether sailing the high seas or cruising on a tranquil lake, there’s no denying the magical combination of boating and music. And nothing quite fits the bill like yacht rock songs when it comes to creating the perfect ambiance for your boat party. With their smooth melodies and laid-back vibes, yacht rock tunes are the ideal soundtrack to accompany your nautical adventures. 

Curate the ultimate playlist for your next boat party with these suggestions so you can set sail with style and groove to the sounds of the sea.

What Is Yacht Rock and Why Is It Perfect for Boating?

Yacht Rock emerged in the late ’70s and early ‘80s , epitomizing the era’s smooth, soft rock music. Characterized by its polished production, jazz-influenced arrangements and evocative lyrics, yacht rock often features leisure, escapism and coastal lifestyle themes. These songs would be played aboard luxury yachts, capturing the essence of sunny days, ocean breezes and carefree adventures on the water.

Yacht rock songs for boats’ relaxed yet sophisticated nature make it a perfect complement to any boating experience. As the boat glides through the water, the soothing rhythms of the best lake songs create an atmosphere of tranquility and joy, taking your boat party to a new level of enjoyment.

Crafting the Perfect Boating Playlist

To create the ultimate summer boating songs playlist, we considered various factors contributing to the perfect sailing ambiance. The selected songs boast uplifting beats, catchy melodies and lyrics that evoke images of boats, sailing and the sea. Moreover, we’ve included diverse songs to cater to different musical tastes.

Best Boat Songs of All-Time

With so many options out there, we’re excited to share our top songs about boats and sailing and the best songs to listen to on a boat. 

  • “Sailing” by Christopher Cross: With its gentle guitar strums and Christopher Cross’s velvety vocals, “Sailing” is an anthem for seafarers. The song’s serene melody and poetic lyrics encapsulate the feeling of being on the open water, making it a must-have for your boat party playlist. As you cruise along, “Sailing” will have everyone swaying to the rhythm, embracing the true spirit of yacht rock.
  • “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)” by Rupert Holmes: A yacht rock classic, “Escape” brings a touch of whimsy to your boat party. This catchy tale of love and adventure pairs perfectly with the carefree ambiance of boating. The song’s playful vibe and sing-along chorus will have your guests joining in the fun, creating unforgettable memories on the water.
  • “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)” by Looking Glass: “Brandy” is a timeless yacht rock gem that narrates the tale of a sailor’s love for a barmaid. Its upbeat tempo and memorable hooks make it an essential addition to your boat party playlist. As you listen to the story unfold, you’ll be transported to coastal taverns and endless maritime horizons.
  • “Yacht Rock” by JD & The Straight Shot: The eponymous “Yacht Rock” is a modern tribute to the genre. With smooth instrumentals and polished vocals, this song embodies the very essence of summer boating songs. As you sail into the sunset, “Yacht Rock” will warmly embrace you, ensuring a truly unforgettable boat party experience.

summer yacht rock songs

  • “Sail On” by Commodores: Smooth and soulful, “Sail On” by the Commodores is a yacht rock favorite that perfectly captures the essence of sailing. The mesmerizing vocals of Lionel Richie and the mellow instrumentation make it a sublime addition to your boat party playlist. As you sail into the horizon, “Sail On” will evoke feelings of serenity and nostalgia.
  • “Southern Cross” by Crosby, Stills & Nash: “Southern Cross” is a yacht rock sensation that vividly depicts a sailor’s journey and longing for adventure. With its dreamy harmonies and evocative lyrics, this song embodies the wanderlust spirit of boating. As you navigate the waters, “Southern Cross” will ignite a sense of exploration and freedom.
  • “Key Largo” by Bertie Higgins: Set the perfect mood for your boat party with “Key Largo” by Bertie Higgins. This romantic ballad takes inspiration from the beautiful Florida island, offering a gentle and relaxing vibe. As you anchor in tranquil waters, “Key Largo” will fill the air with enchanting melodies, creating a magical experience on your boat.
  • “Into the Night” by Benny Mardones: “Into the Night” is a yacht rock classic that weaves a tale of passion and romance under the moonlight. With its soulful vocals and captivating melody, this song is perfect for setting a dreamy and intimate atmosphere at your boat party. As the stars twinkle above, “Into the Night” will take you on a magical journey through the night skies.
  • “Reminiscing” by Little River Band: As the sun sets on your boat party, let the nostalgic vibes of “Reminiscing” fill the air. This boating playlist gem has smooth harmonies and a gentle rhythm that will transport you back to cherished memories and create an ambiance of camaraderie and friendship. It’s the perfect tune to share stories and laughter with your guests.
  • “Moonlight Feels Right” by Starbuck: “Moonlight Feels Right” is a funky and fun yacht rock song that will have everyone dancing on deck. With its catchy marimba riffs and chorus, this tune infuses your boat party with playful energy and excitement. So, let loose and dance under the moonlit sky as “Moonlight Feels Right” fills the night with joy.

Honorable Mentions

Whether you use them to create a more extensive playlist or keep them on standby for future voyages, these yacht rock gems will elevate your boat party’s ambiance. Let the melodies of these honorable mentions serenade you as you create unforgettable memories on your nautical journey. Here are our best boat party songs: 

  • “Dance with Me” by Orleans: A captivating blend of folk and yacht rock, “Dance with Me” offers a smooth and romantic melody that sets the perfect tone for a slow dance on deck. This timeless classic will create a memorable moment for you and your guests as you sway together beneath the stars.
  • “Cool Change” by Little River Band: “Cool Change” is an introspective Yacht Rock anthem that captures the essence of tranquility and self-discovery. Its calming rhythm and soul-stirring lyrics make it an excellent addition to your boat party playlist, especially during introspection on the open waters.
  • “Steal Away” by Robbie Dupree: The captivating vocals and soft rock style of “Steal Away” make it a must-have on your Yacht Rock boat party playlist. This tune exudes a sense of freedom and adventure, making it the perfect companion as you explore new horizons on your boat journey.
  • “On and On” by Stephen Bishop: Stephen Bishop’s soothing voice and the mellow instrumentation of “On and On” create an atmosphere of pure relaxation. As you glide across the water, this yacht rock classic will add a touch of serenity to your boat party experience.

As you set sail on your boat party adventure, let the smooth melodies of yacht rock be your trusted companions. The carefully curated playlist will transport you and your guests to a world of blissful boating, where the worries of the shore are left behind. Grab your sunglasses, feel the wind in your hair and embark on a memorable journey with the ultimate yacht rock playlist for your boat party.

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  • Mar 10, 2020

'The New Yacht Rock'- Reviving the Soundtrack to Your Summer

By: Scott Way

Yacht rock band playing concert

People never forget the song that played during their first dance, or the anthem to their high school years, or the songs that defined epic road trips with friends or family. Everyone has a soundtrack to their life. If you’re a boater, and depending on your age, you’ve probably got a playlist that’s been pretty consistent over the years, and it’s probably got some ‘yacht rock’ on it. For anyone uninitiated, yacht rock is the term for the quintessential soft rock jams that invaded every marina from ‘76-'84 (ish). Think Hawaiian shirts, white slacks, sunsets, daiquiris, and dock shoes. Think gentle rock grooves with a touch of R&B, smooth jazz, sun-soaked melodies, and lyrics overloaded with romantic escapism. The genre was all about good vibes. The term ‘yacht rock’ is actually relatively new, coined in 2005 for a YouTube web series of the same name. The show satirically portrayed the 80’s as the apex of bad style and ultra-lameness, but it spent an equal amount of time worshiping the soundtrack with genuine reverence. Boaters are comically guilty of this same worship- somewhere in the mid 80’s yacht rock became the definitive soundtrack to the boating lifestyle.

Yacht rockers include the legendary Jimmy Buffett, as well as second-level smoothies Michael McDonald, Hall & Oates, and The Doobie Brothers, among others. The Godfathers of Yacht Rock, for the artist who laid the groundwork for the genre’s respectful party vibes, likely goes to the Beach Boys, who taught everyone that although Kokomo was a fictitious place off the Florida Keys it was probably an ideal location for one of Buffett’s ‘Margaritaville’ restaurants. During yacht rock’s heyday, dock parties came with a Captain & Tennille guarantee from the DJ and record players spun tirelessly to Toto, Steely Dan, and Christopher Cross. While it’s impossible to capture all of yacht rock’s gentle jams and satisfy every boater’s taste, here’s a solid introduction to kickstart your summer playlist:

Christopher Cross- Sailing (1979)

Toto- Rosanna (1982)

Kenny Loggins- This Is It (1979)

Captain & Tennille- Love Will Keep Us Together (1975)

Hall & Oates- I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do) (1981)

Doobie Brothers- What A Fool Believes (1978)

Steely Dan- Hey Nineteen (1980)

Robert Holmes- Escape (The Pina Colada Song) (1979)

Player- Baby Come Back (1977)

Pablo Cruise- Love Will Find A Way (1978)

As a loosely defined genre, yacht rock also had a fringe collection of unofficial members. The cousins to yacht rock royalty include Bob Marley ( Jammin ’), Billy Ocean ( Caribbean Queen ), and a few other artists who flirted with the yachties including The Eagles, Boz Scaggs, and Fleetwood Mac. In the end, yacht rock was undone by its insatiable appetite for the saccharine, the breaking point arguably being Peter Cetera’s 1984 melodramatic synth-schmaltz ‘ The Glory of Love ’ from the Karate Kid soundtrack. After that, no number of roundhouse kicks in white slacks on the aft deck could bring the coolness back. The dream was dead. And so despite its sensual rhythms and sunset smiles, yacht rock faded into obscurity while New Wave commandeered the synthesizer. That being said, if you’d like to relive the magic 'yacht rock' is a searchable term on both Pandora and Spotify, so not all hope is lost.

Which brings us to now: the glory days are gone and sit sadly on the precipice of ‘dad rock’ territory. But like the return of 80's high-waisted jeans, a slow burning revival of yacht rock style has emerged from the ashes; a millenial revitalization that blends equal parts 70’s slow groove with contemporary pop and country. Research into terms like ‘boating music’ or ‘best boating songs’ will bring up the original jams, but The New Yacht Rock movement has taken the framework and added some zest (no sign of white slacks yet, though). The most obvious, and the strangest, new trait is that country music and boating have apparently coalesced. Where once country stood firm in its crooning about beloved pickup trucks and broken hearts through a crackly FM radio on a Tennessee backroad, it now twinkles with ballads about sandy beaches and nautical adventures. In fact, you could make an argument that a good chunk of country music has traded in its pickup truck for a pontoon boat. Simply put, you can’t search ‘boating songs’ from 2010-present without seeing country music sitting at the helm. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing; clearly they discovered that pickup trucks and powerboats offer comparable thrills. This new cooperative became formalized when The Zac Brown Band yanked Jimmy Buffett out of retirement for their 2010 dock party anthem ‘Knee Deep.’ It’s no big ruse either, they were looking to re-imagine Margaritaville in muddin’ country. Case in point: Buffett proclaims ‘(s)trummin’ my six string on my front porch swing’ while Brown counters with ‘is the tide gonna reach my chair.’ The cowboy boots have been traded in for sandals.

So with a new decade upon us and a catalogue of classics to draw from, the yacht rock revival has boaters poised for a new soundtrack to their dock party. Contemporary artists like Vampire Weekend, Thundercat, Foxygen, and Carly Rae Jepson (yes, of ‘Call Me Maybe’ infamy) have all infused some California calmness into their contemporary pop. Thundercat even pulled the ‘out of retirement’ trick, enticing Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald to appear on their 2017 slow jam ‘Show You The Way.’ There’s more ambient pop flair and slide guitar to the new stuff, but the heart and soul of the Reagan years is alive and well.

As the intermixing of young artists with old pioneers continues to usher in the new era, doing away with the original 'yacht rock' moniker seems necessary at this point. Today musical genres are more flexible than ever, and locking boaters into a small segment of musical preference isn’t fair (or as much fun). If you're looking at pop music from 2010-present to fill your boating playlist, you’ll find a consistent parade of songs from multiple genres carrying yacht rock’s torch of idealism. So let’s just call it ‘boat rock’ for now, until someone at Rolling Stone coins something more iconic.

Now, here’s the obvious disclaimer: suggesting music is an invitation to criticism. You cannot appease all genres, styles, and opinions. Therefore, in the name of inclusiveness, the new boat rock movement will cover as many genres as possible, consider mainstream popularity, and will give favour to tracks dubbed ‘summer songs’ by the popular press within the last 15 years (or so, let’s be flexible here. This is for fun). There are also considerations for any artist bearing yacht rock’s original influences including R&B, blues, jazz, reggae, and soft rock, and with lyrical content that promotes a good time. Here's a prototype playlist:

Thundercat ft. Kenny Loggins & Michael McDonald- Show You The Way

Kid Rock- All Summer Long

Chris Janson- Buy Me A Boat

Florida Georgia Line ft. Nelly- Cruise

Zac Brown Band ft. Jimmy Buffett- Knee Deep

Little Big Town- Pontoon

Sugar Ray- Highest Tree (from the Little Yachty homage to yacht rock album)

Zac Brown Band- Where The Boat Leaves From

Bedouin Soundclash- When The Night Feels My Song

Pharrell Williams- Happy

Nickelback- This Afternoon

As you can clearly see, country music has discovered its fondness for docktails and sandals. Honourable mentions go to Sublime, Weezer, Bob Marley’s entire catalogue, and everything Sugar Ray has released since their 1997 hit ‘Fly’ (which should be considered boat rock’s version of Margaritaville). The list could be endless with songs pulled from pop, reggae, indie, R&B, rock, and country. But as a starting point, the above track list should generate smiles while the kids are leaping off the swim platform and the smell of BBQ is wafting across the deck.

Going forward, the question to ask when deciding whether a song should enter the new boat rock pantheon is this: if I were enjoying a sunset over the water, would this song improve my vibe? If the answer is yes, it’s boat rock. The next time you're tied up at your local marina, or you’re anchored in a quiet bay watching the sun slip beneath the waves, try using the above playlist and let the good times roll. Whether it’s from the old era or the new, the key to any great adventure is a smoooooth soundtrack.

Honourable Mentions (Yacht Rock Era)

- Christopher Cross- Sailing

- Michael McDonald- I Keep Forgetting

- Ambrosia- Biggest Part of Me

- The Alan Parsons Project- Eye In The Sky

- Kenny Loggins- Heart To Heart

- Jackson Browne- Somebody’s Baby

- Toto- Hold The Line

- Hall & Oates- Rich Girl

- Steely Dan- Reelin’ In The Years

- Billy Ocean- Caribbean Queen

- Boz Scaggs- Lido

- Fleetwood Mac- Dreams

- Eddie Money- Two Tickets To Paradise

- The Eagles- Hotel California

- Peter Cetera (Chicago)- Glory Of Love

Honourable Mentions (Boat Rock Era)

- Sublime- Santeria

- Weezer- Island In The Sun

- Black Eyed Peas- I Gotta Feeling

- Sheryl Crow- Soak Up The Sun

- Kenny Chesney- No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problem

- Garth Brooks- Friends In Low Places

- Zac Brown Band- Toes

- Daft Punk ft. Pharrell- Get Lucky

- Florida Georgia Line ft. Luke Bryan- This Is How We Roll

- Robin Thicke ft. Pharrell & TI- Blurred Lines

- Bruno Mars- That’s What I Like

- The Black Keys- Gold On The Ceiling

- The Weeknd- I Feel It Coming

- Magic!- Rude

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Playlist of the Week: Top 100 Songs of Yacht Rock

Featured Playlist

Each week we’re featuring a playlist to get your mind going and help you assemble your favorites. This week we take a deep dive into the soft rock hits of the late ’70s and early ’80s, which have come to be known in some circles as Yacht Rock. The term Yacht Rock generally refers to music in the era where yuppies enjoyed sipping champaign on their yachts — a concept explored in the original web series Yacht Rock, which debuted in 2005 and has developed a cult following. Artists most commonly thought of in the Yacht Rock era include Michael McDonald, Ambrosia, 10cc, Toto, Kenny Loggins, Boz Scaggs, and Christopher Cross. Yacht Rock has become the muse of a great number of tribute bands, and is the current subject of a short-run channel on Sirius XM.

Here is a stab at the Top 100 Songs of Yacht Rock — not necessarily in rank order, with a few more added for honorable mention. We welcome your comments. What songs are ranked too high? What songs are ranked too low? What songs are missing? Make your case. Also, please let us know concepts for playlists you’d like to see — or share a favorite list of your own.

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summer yacht rock songs

Entertainment News


The greatest Yacht Rock songs of all time

How does one describe yacht rock? The folks at MasterClass did a pretty good job. Essentially, it's a component of soft rock, adult contemporary, and Album-oriented rock (AOR) all rolled into one. Popular in the late 1970s and into the '80s, there are some notable tunes of the ilk (smooth rhythms, light or "breezy" vocals, well-polished and produced) from earlier in the '70s that fall into this category.

In the spirit of easy listening fare, here is our ranking of 22 great yacht rock tunes.

20. "Lonely Boy" (1977), Andrew Gold

The Southern Californian's biggest hit, reaching No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100. Yacht rock tracks often tell stories, and "Lonely Boy" is one of the great story songs. Whether it's autobiographical in nature has always been ripe for a casual argument. Though Gold, who passed away in 2011 at age 59, repeatedly claimed this song about a boy who felt left out following the birth of his sister was not depicting his life. The 1970s were ripe for one-hit wonders in the United States, and Gold is not still forgotten. 

19. "I Love You" (1981), Climax Blues Band

"I Love You"  is a sweet, endearing ballad. The kind of song that probably sounded great via that portable 8-track cassette player on a catamaran during an early '80s' summer. From England, Climax Blues Band scored a top-15 hit with "I Love You." Love was a dependable and generally successful topic for artists within the soft/yacht rock genre. In fact, the song is still quite popular on lite rock and adult contemporary radio stations on your FM dial for those who still like to hear their music that way. 

18. "Rosanna" (1982), Toto

Toto rightfully has a place in the yacht rock world, but the band also broke into the top-40, FM radio, and MTV mainstream with the release of 1982's Toto IV . "Rosanna" was a big reason for the album's success, peaking at No. 2 on Billboard 's Hot 100 and winning the Record of the Year Grammy Award. Sure, it's not typical yacht rock fare, per se. It's certainly heavier than other popular tracks on this list, but it's certainly a product of AOR and still routinely played in dentist offices throughout America. 

17. "Love Will Keep Us Together" (1975), Captain & Tennille

There are those historians who believe the first true example of yacht rock came with this popular '70s staple from the "Captain"   Daryl Dragon  and his wife Toni Tennille. Now, Neil Sedaka  wrote "Love Will Keep Us Together" and originally recorded the song two years earlier. Still, the duo's version was  more poppy, with a carefree vibe  that's ideal for FM radio. While Captain & Tennille's cover won a Record of the Year Grammy Award, Sedaka has noted that the Beach Boys were one of the inspirations for the tune. This makes sense since many music critics, professionals, historians, etc.. have credited the yacht rock genre as somewhat of an offshoot from the Beach Boys' collective sound. 

16. "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)" (1979), Rupert Holmes

This No.1 Billboard Hot 100 hit for England's Rupert Holmes has achieved a steady cult following over the years. Perhaps, because of the unique title and conjured images of some warm, beach-laden paradise. Yacht rock's association with summer, water, and care-free living, as a backdrop to a romantic story, is one of its appealing aspects. This song is about a couple who ultimately patch up a rough relationship through personal ads . Any time somebody of a certain age sips one of these drinks, ideally at some Caribbean resort with the warm winds off the ocean blowing, "The Pina Colada Song" should come to mind.

15. "Reminiscing" (1978), Little River Band

Formed in Australia, the soft/pop rock and often yacht rock stylings of LRB were a hit in the United States. " Reminiscing " was the band's biggest hit in America, reaching No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100. Like many songs of this genre, "Reminiscing" is paced by the electric piano. Which also happened to be a staple of the Little River Band. Sure, it's not "breezy" like other yacht rock tunes, but Will Ferrell's Det. Allen Gamble is a big fan in The Other Guys (2010).

14. "Africa" (1982), Toto

Yes, more from Toto. If there's one popular Toto hit that whole-heartedly falls under the yacht rock moniker, it's " Africa ." The group's only song to top the Billboard Hot 100, and made a resurgence with Weezer's popular cover in recent years , "Africa," is the proper combination of mellow and poppy. It continues the Toto tradition of shared vocals, while the consistent synthesizer and keyboard presence, though more pronounced than the typical soft rock/adult contemporary vibe. 

13. "How Much I Feel" (1978), Ambrosia

L.A.'s Ambrosia, co-founded by vocalist/guitarist/songwriter David Pack and bassist Joe Puerta was all about the soft rock sound that surfaced in Southern California during the early 1970s. "How Much I Feel," from the group's third album Life Beyond L.A. , might have more of an adult contemporary vibe but certainly falls into the yacht rock category. It was one of the band's biggest hits, reaching No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100. It's remained popular over the years, even being sampled by Kanye West.

12. "Peg" (1977), Steely Dan

Steely Dan was, in its prime, under the direction of celebrated songwriters Donald Fagan and Walter Becker, many things regarding a collective sound. Rock, pop, jazz, blues. Usually melodic, well within the soft-rock category. Songs like "Peg," from the 1977 masterpiece Aja , certainly has a yacht rock vibe, too. Perhaps most notably is that the great Michael McDonald, longtime frontman of the Doobie Brothers and driving singer-songwriter in the soft/yacht rock circles, provides backing vocals on the track. 

11. "Biggest Part of Me" (1980), Ambrosia

It really does get more yacht rock than this—smooth , with a flowing rhythm, precise, but not overbearing, harmonies . Not to mention the subtly stellar keyboard work from David C. Lewis. Throw in sessionist Ernie Watts' sax solo, and we have one great soft/yacht offering. It was the second of Ambrosia's two top-5 hits, reaching No. 3 on Billboard 's Hot 100. The version from the 1980s One Eighty  album runs about 5 1/2 minutes long. Talk about pure easy-listening joy.

10. "Summer Breeze" (1972), Seals & Crofts"

Long considered one of the great "summer songs" ever recorded. And summer-themed tunes from the 1970s tend to lend themselves to the yacht rock moniker. That said, Seals & Crofts were definitely a soft rock outfit, but with elements of folk and pop. "Summer Breeze" peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 during the 1970s and, again, is notable for being one of the earliest yacht rock offerings. Several other prominent artists, such as Ray Conniff, the Isley Brothers, and a stellar metal version from Type O Negative. 

9. "Ride Like the Wind" (1979), Christopher Cross

It's safe to say that Christopher Cross is the king of yacht rock. A brilliant songwriter and above-average guitar player, Cross could rock, but it's his definitive soft rock numbers that made him a star with lite-FM, adult contemporary and yacht rock fans. "Ride Like the Wind"  is the first single from Cross' stellar five-time Grammy-Award-winning self-titled debut from 1979. A more upbeat number about an outlaw running from the authorities, the track is less uplifting than other yacht rock tunes, but the vibe is the same. Of note, Michael McDonald provided backing vocals.

8. "Baby Come Back" (1977), Player

From John Friesen's steady drum intro to that durably underlaid bass line via Ron Moss to J.C. Crowley's keyboard presence begins the soft-rock brilliance of "Baby Come Back." With lyrics describing the yearning to reacquire a lost love and full-band harmonies, "Baby Come Back" just might be the quintessential offering of the yacht rock genre. It was the biggest hit for Player , the L.A.-based group that featured vocalist and song co-writer Peter Beckett, who was born in England. The tune topped the Billboard Hot 100 and still has a presence with its inclusion in films such as Transformers and  Black Adam.  Plus, various versions in popular TV shows like The Simpsons. American Dad  and King of the Hill.

7. "What a Fool Believes" (1979), The Doobie Brothers

The Doobie Brothers were a rather hard-rocking outfit before Michael McDonald joined up in the mid-1970s. The band was in need of an established songwriter, and McDonald delivered. However, with a more mellow, synthesizer/electric piano-driven sound that produced soft-rock gems like this one. Co-written by Kenny Loggins, who put out a version for himself, "What a Fool Believes" hit No. 1 on the Hot 100 in April 1979. Several critics have cited this as the best song in the vast Doobie Brothers catalog. 

6. "Steal Away" (1980), Robbie Dupree

If you're going to be a one-hit wonder, why not make it count? More than 30 years since its release, " Steal Away " can still be heard in elevators and office buildings throughout the United States -- or in the third season of Better Call Saul . Undeniably yacht rock, Dupree, born in Brooklyn, enjoyed success with the song during the summer of 1980 -- always a perfect time to enjoy the smooth, soothing sounds of a piece within this genre that peaked at No. 6 on Billboar d's Hot 100.

5. "Moonlight Feels Right" (1975), Starbuck

Here's a case where middle-aged and baby-boomer music fans probably remember the song but perhaps not the group who performed the track. That's OK. Atlanta's Starbuck is essentially a one-hit wonder thanks to "Moonlight Feels Right," which topped out at No. 3 on Billboard 's Hot 100. For those who remember this track for its lite-flowing beat, with lyrical references to the ocean, "Baltimore," and 'Ole Miss," and band member Bo Wagner marimba   solo, it might take them back to a simpler, more laidback time in their lives.

4. "Heart to Heart" (1982), Kenny Loggins

Perhaps more so than the previously mentioned "This Is It," "Heart to Heart" truly has all the requirements of a great yacht rock/soft rock tune. It was co-written by Michael McDonald, who also played the electric piano and provided backing vocals. David Foster, of Chicago songwriting and '80s ballad fame, also helped compose the tune, which features David Sanborn on saxophone. The track is one of Loggins' best-known hits, cracking the top 20 of the Hot 100.

3. "Lowdown" (1976), Boz Scaggs

Co-written by David Paich and featuring Jeff Porcaro on drums -- both of whom who go on to form the aforementioned Toto. One of Scaggs most well-known hits, "Lowdown"  has a bluesy and almost disco vibe. And a number we can imagine being played at some swanky yacht club party where the dance floor is filled, and more than a few people are sporting captain's hats. The song reached No. 3 on Billboard 's Hot 100 and also topped the Billboard Cash Box chart in the United States.

2. "Key Largo" (1981), Bertie Higgins

Yacht rock and one-hit wonders seem to go hand-in-hand. Higgins scored one in the early 1980s with this number that reached No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100. The Florida native was inspired to write this song about trying to avoid a romantic breakup by the 1948 movie of the same name, starring Humphrey Bogart   and Lauren Bacall, who are referenced in the tune. Though Higgins never enjoyed the same individual success as a musician, the song has had a solid shelf life and remains a definitive moment in the yacht rock genre.

1. "Sailing" (1979), Christopher Cross

Sure, "Ride Like the Wind" is a gem, but the undisputed star of Cross' aforementioned debut album is the Hot 100-chart-topper "Sailing." It might be the definitive yacht rock song, capturing what Cross described, at the time, the "West Coast sound," which was long being composed, produced and performed, but maybe didn't have an appropriate moniker. The song won Grammys for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Arrangement of the Year, and was a big reason Cross earned the same award for Best New Artist.

A Chicago native, Jeff Mezydlo has professionally written about sports, entertainment and pop culture for nearly 30 years. If he could do it again, he'd attend Degrassi Junior High, Ampipe High and Grand Lakes University.

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The 25 Best Yacht Rock Songs Of All Time

Yacht Rock isn’t exactly a genre. It’s more a state of mind. It is the musical equivalent of a mid-afternoon mimosa nap in some nautical location—a cool breeze of lite-FM confection with the substance of a romance novel and the machismo of a Burt Reynolds mustache comb.

But what exactly is Yacht Rock?

Yacht Rock is ‘70s soft schlock about boats, love affairs, and one-night stands.

Typified by artists like Christopher Cross, Rupert Holmes, and Pablo Cruise, Yacht Rock is not only easy to mock, but it’s also deserving of the abuse. There’s a sensitive 70s male brand of chauvinism that permeates this material—like somehow because you could schnarf an 8-ball of cocaine and sail a boat into the sunset, your indulgences and marital infidelity were actually kind of sexy. Cheap pickup lines and beardly come-ons abound.

And yet, this stuff is irresistible on a slow summer day. It reeks of sunshine and laziness, and couldn’t we all use a little of both?

These are the 25 Best Yacht Rock Songs, in order. Zero suspense. (Sorry if that’s less fun for you).

If you would like to learn more about Yacht Rock without getting a sailing license, read on…

What are the qualifications for inclusion on our list?

So Yacht Rock refers to a type of soft rock, right? But there’s a ton of soft rock out there that doesn’t fit the bill. There’s no room on my boat for Barry Manilow. At the Copa? Sure. But not so much on my boat. So what makes a great yacht rock song exactly?

Ideally, one or more of these themes will be present:

  • Finding the love of your life;
  • Having a memorable one-night stand; or 
  • Doing something nautical.

These features pretty much capture everything that’s great about this milieu. But there’s also an important cheese factor at play here. While Steely Dan, Hall & Oates, CSN, and the Doobie Brothers all made songs that might qualify for inclusion here, the artists themselves are–let’s just say it–too good to be considered Yacht Rock.

We’ll make sure to include them in our deluxe playlist at the article’s conclusion.

But in order for a song to be considered for our list, it must be at least slightly embarrassing. Case in point, the top song on our list…

1. “Escape (The Pina Colada Song)” by Rupert Holmes

“The Pina Colada Song” is arguably the most perfect embodiment of yacht rock, fulfilling, as it does, all three of the qualifications cited above. Holmes sings about making love in the dunes, attempts to cheat on his wife, then ultimately, rediscovers that his “old lady” is actually the love he’s been searching for all along. That’s the holy trinity of Yacht Rock themes, all wrapped up in a breezy story of casual adultery. And at the turn of a new decade, listeners were feeling it. Released as a single in 1979, “Escape” stood at the top of the charts during the last week of the year. Falling to #2 in the new year, it returned to the top spot in the second week of 1980. This made it the first song to top the charts in two separate, consecutive decades. Fun fact: Rupert Holmes never drank a Pina Colada in his life. He just thought the lyric sounded right. Hard to argue that point.

2. “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl) by The Looking Glass

Formed at Rutgers University in 1969, Looking Glass topped the charts in 1972 with the tale of a lovelorn barmaid in a harbor town haunted by lonely sailors. It would be the band’s only hit. Lead singer Elliot Lurie would go on to a brief solo career before becoming head of the music department for the 20th Century Fox movie studio in the ’80s and ’90s. That means he was the musical supervisor for the soundtrack to Night at the Roxbury . Do with that information what you will. And with respect to “Brandy,” see the film Guardians of the Galaxy 2 for Kurt Russell’s surprisingly detailed treatise on its lyrical genius.

3. “Summer Breeze” by Seals and Crofts

The title track from the soft-rock duo’s breakout 1972 record, “Summer Breeze” is an incurable earworm, a bittersweet twilight dream that captures everything that’s right about Lite FM. From an album inhabited by Wrecking Crew vets and studio aces, “Summer Breeze” curls like smoke drifting lazily through an open window.

4. “Africa” by Toto

Toto singer David Paich had never been to Africa. The melody and refrain for this #1 hit from 1982 came to him fully formed as he watched a late night documentary about the plight of those living on the African continent. The lyrics touch on missionary work and describe the landscape as inspired by images from National Geographic , according to Paich’s own recollection. Putting aside its self-aware inauthenticity, “Africa” is an infectious, 8x platinum AOR monster.

5. “Reminiscing: by Little River Band

Released in the summer of 1978 and reaching up to #3 on the Billboard Hot 100, “Reminiscing” was guitarist Graeham Goble ‘s nostalgic take on the swing band era. Not only is it the only Australian song ever to reach five million radio plays in the U.S., but rumor is that it was among the late John Lennon’s favorite songs.

6. “Drift Away” by Dobie Gray

Recorded originally by a country-swamp rocker named Jeffrey Kurtz, Dobie’s 1973 cover became his biggest hit, reaching #5 on the charts. Though not explicitly nautical, “Drift Away” captures the distinct sensation of cruising at sunset.

7. “Love Will Find a Way” by Pablo Cruise

Pablo Cruise may have the most “yachty” of all band names on our list. And “Love Will Find a Way” is sort of the musical equivalent of a ketch skipping along a glassy surface on a crisp summer dawn. Pablo Cruise was formed in San Francisco by expats from various mildly successful bands including Stoneground and It’s a Beautiful Day. And there is a certain slick professionalism to the proceedings here. Of course, Pablo Cruise was never a critic’s darling. Homer Simpson once accurately classified them as wuss rock. Still, they perfectly captured the white-folks-vacationing-in-the-Caribbean energy that was all the rage at the time. Love found a way to reach #6 on the Billboard charts, remaining in constant radio rotation during the red-hot summer of ’78.

8. “Ride Captain Ride” by Blues Image

Blues Image emerged from South Florida in the late ’60s and served as the house band for Miami’s vaunted Thee Image music venue upon its inception in 1968. This gave Blues Image the opportunity to open for ascendant headliners like Cream and the Grateful Dead. The association landed them a contract Atco Records. Their sophomore record Open yielded their one and only hit, a #4 in 1970 about a bunch of men who disappear into the mists of the San Francisco Bay in search of a hippie utopia.

9. “Eye in the Sky” by The Alan Parsons Project

This #3 hit from 1982 has nothing to do with sailing. But it’s infectiously smooth production sheen, layered synth, and dreamy vocals make it a perfect Lite FM gem–one cut from the stone that gave us yacht rock. The “Project” was actually a British duo–studio wizard Alan Parsons and singer Eric Woolfson. The title track from their sixth studio album is also their very best recording. It’s also often paired with the instrumental lead-in “Sirius,” a song famous in its own right for blaring over unnumbered sporting arena PA systems. If that tune doesn’t make you think of Michael Jordan, you probably didn’t live through the late 80s.

10. “Miracles” by Jefferson Starship

Marty Balin was a pioneer of the San Francisco scene, founding Jefferson Airplane in 1965 as the house band for his own legendary club–The Matrix. But in 1971, deeply shaken by the death of Janis Joplin, Balin quit his own band. Four years later, he was invited to rejoin his old mates on the already-launched Starship. He immediately contributed what would become the biggest hit by any Jeffersonian vessel. “Miracles” reached #3 in 1975. Gorgeous, elegant, and open, this is a complete anomaly in the Airplane-Starship catalogue. Listen closely for the NSFW lyrics that have often flown under the radar of some adorably innocent censors.

11. “Sad Eyes” by Robert John

In 1972, Robert John had a #3 hit with his cover of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” And yet, just before recording “Sad Eyes”, the Brooklyn-born singer was employed as a construction worker in Long Branch, New Jersey. By the summer of ’79, he would have a #1 hit. In fact, the charting success of “Sad Eyes” was part of a cultural backlash against the reign of disco. A wave of pop hits swept on to the charts, including this slick soft rock throwback. With his sweet falsetto and doo wop sensibility, Robert John knocked The Knack’s “My Sharona” from its 6-week stand atop the charts.

12. “Magnet and Steel” by Walter Egan

Before launching headlong into his music career, Walter Egan was one of the very first students to earn a fine arts degree from Georgetown, where he studied sculpture. The subject would figure into his biggest hit, a #8 easy listening smash from 1978. Featured on his second solo record, “Magnet and Steel” enjoys the presence of some heavy friends. Lindsey Buckingham produced, played guitar and sang backup harmonies with Stevie Nicks. By most accounts, Nicks was also a primary source of inspiration for the song.

13. “Lido Shuffle” by Boz Scaggs

Of course, not all yacht rock songs are about sailing on boats. Some are about missing boats. Boz Scaggs looks dejected on the cover of 1977’s Silk Degrees , but things turned out pretty well for him. This bouncy #11 hit is a classic rock mainstay today. The band you hear backing Boz–David Paich, Jeff Porcaro, and David Hungate–would go on to form the nucleus of Toto that very same year. Toto, as it happens, is essentially a recurring theme of the genre. Before rising to massive success in their own right, the members of Toto absolutely permeated rock radio in the 70s, laying down studio tracks with Steely Dan, Seals and Crofts, Michael McDonald, and more.

14. “What You Won’t Do for Love” by Bobby Caldwell

This smooth-as-silk tune reached #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 upon its 1978 release. It also reached #6 on the Hot Selling Soul Singles Chart. This is significant only because of Caldwell’s complexion. He was a white man signed to TK Records, a label most closely associated with disco acts like KC and the Sunshine Band. Catering to a largely Black audience, the label went to minor lengths to hide their new singer’s identity–dig the silhouetted figure on the cover of his own debut. Suffice it to say, once Caldwell hit the road, audiences discovered he was white. By then, they were already hooked on this perfect groove, which you might also recognize as a sample in 2Pac’s posthumous 1998 release, “Do For Love.”

15. “I Keep Forgettin’ (Every Time You’re Near)” by Michael McDonald

Technically, Michael McDonald’s “I Keep Forgettin’” is an adaptation of an earlier tune by the same name. In fact, the original “I Keep Forgettin” was conceived by the legendary songwriting duo Leiber and Stoller–best known for iconic staples like “Hound Dog”, “Kansas City”, “Poison Ivy” and much much more. The original recording is by Chuck Jackson and dates to 1962. But McDonald’s 1982 take is definitive. If that wasn’t already true upon its release and #4 peak position on the charts, certainly Warren G. and Nate Dogg cemented its status when they sampled McDonald on “Regulate”. Get the whole history on that brilliant 1994 time capsule here .

Oh and by the way, this tune also features most of the guys from Toto. I know, right? These dudes were everywhere.

16. “Baker Street” by Gerry Rafferty

To the casual listener, Gerry Rafferty’s name may sound vaguely familiar. Indeed, you may remember hearing it uttered in passing in the film Reservoir Dogs . In a key scene, the DJ (deadpan comedian Steven Wright) mentions that Rafferty formed half the duo known as Stealers Wheel, which recorded a “Dylanesque, pop, bubble-gum favorite from April of 1974” called “Stuck in the Middle With You.” In the same scene, Mr. Blonde (portrayed with sadistic glee by Michael Madsen), slices off a policeman’s ear. At any rate, this is a totally different song, and is actually Rafferty’s biggest hit. “Baker Street” is a tune that reeks of late nights, cocaine, and regret. Peaking at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100, “Baker Street” soared on wings of the decade’s most memorable sax riff. Raphael Ravenscroft’s performance would, in fact, lead to a mainstream revitalization of interest in the saxophone writ large.

17. “Wham Bam Shang-A-Lang” by Silver

There are several interesting things about Silver that have almost nothing to do with this song. First, bass guitarist and singer Tom Leadon was both the brother of Bernie Leadon from the Eagles and a member of Tom Petty’s pre-fame band, Mudcrutch. Second, the band’s keyboardist was Brent Mydland, who would go on to become the Grateful Dead’s longest tenured piano guy. Third, Silver put out their only record in 1976, and future Saturday Night Live standout Phil Harman designed the cover art. With all of that said, Arista executives felt that their first album lacked a single so they had country songwriter Rick Giles cook up this ridiculous, gooey concoction that I kind of love. Let’s say this one falls into the “so bad it’s good” category. Anyway, the song peaked at #16 on the charts. The band broke up in ’78, leading Mydland to accept the deadliest job in rock music. He defied the odds by playing with the Grateful Dead until an accidental drug overdose claimed his life in 1990.

18. “Biggest Part of Me” by Ambrosia

I admit, I’m kind of hard-pressed to make Ambrosia interesting. In fact, they were extremely prolific, and earned high regard in early ’70s prog rock circles. And in the 1990s, lead singer David Pack would actually be the musical director for both of Bill Clinton’s presidential inauguration concerts. But this Southern California combo is much better known to mainstream audiences for their top-down, hair-blowing-in-the-wind soft rock from the decade in between. Peaking at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1980, “Biggest Part of Me” is the group’s best-known tune–a seafoamy bit of blue-eyed soul served over a raw bar of smooth jazz and lite funk.

19. “Baby Come Back” by Player

Player released their self-titled debut album in 1977 and immediately shot up to #1 with “Baby Come Back.” Bandmates Peter Beckett and J.C. Crowley had both recently broken up with their girlfriends. They channeled their shared angst into this composition, a self-sorry guilty pleasure featuring former Steppenwolf member Wayne Cook on keys. Granted, Steppenwolf’s edgy disposition is nowhere to be found on this record, but it is pretty infectious in a late-summer-night, slightly-buzzed, clenched-fist sort of way. Player endured various lineup changes, but never returned to the heights of their first hit.

20. “On and On” by Stephen Bishop

Remember that scene in National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978) where there’s this dude in a turtleneck singing a super cloying folks song before John Belushi mercifully snatches away his guitar and smashes it to smithereens? That guy was Stephen Bishop, who was actually in the middle of enjoying considerable success with his 1976 debut album, Careless . “On and On” was the album’s biggest hit, a vaguely Caribbean soft-rocker that reached #11 on the Billboard Hot 100 in ’77. The gentle electric riffs you hear there are supplied by guitarist Andrew Gold–who wrote the theme song for the Golden Girls . (I freakin’ know you’re singing it right now).

21. “Chevy Van” by Sammy Johns

The classic tale of boy-meets-girls, bangs-her-in-his-van, and brags-to-his-buds, all with backing from the world famous Wrecking Crew studio team. In 1975, a lot of people super related to it. It sold over a million copies and reach #5 on the Billboard Hot 100. I can’t tell you this song is good. But I also can’t tell you I don’t like it.

22. “You Are the Woman” by Firefall

Firefall’s lead guitarist Jock Bartley perfectly captures this song’s impact, calling the band’s biggest hit “a singing version of [a] Hallmark card.” That feels right. The second single from Firefall’s 1976 self-titled debut was only a regional hit at first. But it was driven all the way to #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 on the strength of radio requests. As Bartley explained, “Every female between the ages of 18 and 24 wanted to be the woman portrayed in the song, and that caused their boyfriends and spouses to call radio stations and subsequently flood the airwaves with dedications of the song and the sentiment.”

23. “Sailing” by Christopher Cross

Arguably, “Sailing” is the single most emblematic song of the Yacht Rock genre. Its thematic relevance requires no explanation. But it’s worth noting that the song is inspired by true events. During a tough time in his youth, Cross was befriended by Al Glasscock. Serving as something of an older brother to Cross, Glasscock would take him sailing. He recalls in his biggest hit that this was a time of escape from the harsh realities of his real life. In 1979, Cross released his self-titled debut. In early 1980, “Sailing” became a #1 hit, landing Cross a hat-trick of Grammys–including recognition as best new artist. Though Cross and Glasscock would lose touch for more than 20 years, they were reunited during a 1995 episode of The Howard Stern Show . Cross subsequently mailed a copy of his platinum record to Glasscock.

24. “Steal Away” by Robbie Dupree

Apparently, this song was perceived as so blatant a ripoff of Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins’ “What a Fool Believes” that legal action was actually threatened. It never formulated. Instead, Robbie Dupree landed a #6 Billboard Hot 100 hit with the lead single from his self-titled 1980 debut. Critics hated it, but it was a dominant presence in the summer of 1980. It even earned Dupree a Grammy nomination for best new artist. He ultimately lost to the man just above–Christopher Cross.

25. “This is It” by Kenny Loggins

You didn’t think we’d get through this whole list without an actual Kenny Loggins tune. This song has the perfect pedigree, teaming Loggins and Michael McDonald on a 1979 composition that became the lead single off of Kenny Loggins’ Keep the Fire. Coming on the tail end of the ’70s, “This is It” felt positively omnipresent in the ’80s. I may be biased here. I grew up in Philadelphia, where a local television show by the same name adopted “This is It” as its theme song. But then, it did also reach #11 on the Billboard Hot 100.

And in that spirit…this is it, the end of our list.

But as usual, here’s a bonus playlist–an expanded voyage through the breezy, AOR waters of the mid-’70s to early ’80s.

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Ultimate Classic Rock

Rock’s 40 Best Summer Songs

The arrival of summer means warm weather road trips, beach excursions and temperatures that call for a dip (or several) in the pool. All of it is made doubly fun by a sizzling summer playlist.

You'll need songs to crank at full blast as you roll the windows all the way down in the car, songs to pump you up for a night out with friends, songs to play as you soak up the sun on the sand. Even songs that remind you of summers gone by can be a fun trip down memory lane.

Which one tops our list? Here's a look at Rock's 40 Best Summer Songs for your poolside pleasure, or wherever you get your summer on.

40. "Good Day Sunshine," The  Beatles (1966)

Paul McCartney tosses out delectably sunny melodies with the same ease that most people tie their shoes, and he delivers one of his most gloriously upbeat tunes ever with the aptly titled "Good Day Sunshine." You can practically see curtains being thrown open and feel yourself being bathed in sunlight as the opening piano chords build and Ringo Starr 's urgent snare roll gives way to those ebullient chorus harmonies. Producer George Martin 's rollicking piano solo adds to the song's whimsical nature, and in a flash, "Good Day Sunshine" is over. Time to play it again. (Bryan Rolli)

39. "Suddenly Last Summer," The Motels (1983)

Some things about "Suddenly Last Summer" make their own discrete sense. For instance, Martha Davis was inspired to write this summer's end-themed song after her mother's suicide – and there's a bittersweetness as the days grow shorter toward the cyclic dying of the year. On the other hand, "Suddenly Last Summer" has nothing to do with Tennessee Williams' well-regarded play of the same name – or the subsequent film starring Elizabeth Taylor, Katharine Hepburn, and Montgomery Clift. Instead, Davis pieced it together from her own memories over a period of years. "Suddenly Last Summer" finally came together when she returned to a long-ago sighting of the last ice-cream truck of the season. (Nick DeRiso)

38. "Long Hot Summer Night," The Jimi Hendrix Experience (1968)

Set against an ambling beat from drummer Mitch Mitchell, Jimi Hendrix spools out one of his better tales about a long hot summer night – but one which found his heart deep within a “ cold, cold winter storm .” His love had gone missing but thankfully, there’s a happy conclusion when she reveals herself at last. Calling from across the border, she admits her own anguish, pledging to be back with him soon. Respected musician and producer Al Kooper guests on the session, adding piano to the song. Hendrix was so appreciative of Kooper’s work that he gifted the player one of his Fender Stratocasters. (Matt Wardlaw)

37. "Kokomo," The Beach Boys (1988)

There may be no band more associated with summer than the Beach Boys. And while the SoCal group was always happy to rep their home state, they turned their attention further afield for the 1988 hit “Kokomo.” Exactly how far is up for debate; Kokomo is not a real place, though the Beach Boys do give several geographical clues in the song’s lyrics, suggesting the utopian island is somewhere off the Florida Keys. The breezy tune earned the Beach Boys a Grammy nomination and topped the Billboard chart, becoming their final Top 40 hit. (Corey Irwin)

36. "Dancing Days," Led Zeppelin (1973)

Inspired by a record Robert Plant and Jimmy Page heard in Bombay, Led Zeppelin tore through this strutting number on the Rolling Stones ' mobile unit outside Mick Jagger 's Stargroves country home in England, then tumbled outside to the lawn for a dance-along playback. Titling it "Dancing Days" suddenly seemed like a no brainer. Unfortunately, their affection this song led to a brief trip to the cutting-room floor for its parent album's title track. Led Zeppelin felt "Houses of the Holy" sounded too much like "Dancing Days," and saved it over for their next LP, 1975's all-but-the-kitchen-sink Physical Graffiti . (DeRiso)

35. "Summertime Rolls," Jane's Addiction (1988)

"Summertime Rolls" is the unabashedly romantic centerpiece of Jane's Addiction's first studio album. Tucked in between the hyperkinetic "Standing in the Shower ... Thinking" and the anthemic "Mountain Song," the song offers a six-minute-long escape to the perfect summer day, anchored by Eric Avery's emotive bass playing and Dave Navarro's impressively sophisticated and tastefully restrained guitar sculptures.  (Matthew Wilkening)

34. "Mary Jane's Last Dance," Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (1993)

It’s not quite a song for summer vacations and family reunion cookouts — those not-so-subtle marijuana references skew a bit too spaced-out. Plus, Tom Petty’s protagonist sounds pretty miserable on the chorus, complaining, "I feel summer creepin’ in, and I’m tired of this town again." The Heartbreakers match that bummed-out mood with some righteously stoned blues-rock riffing, from the lonesome harmonica to Mike Campbell ’s swarms of buzzing guitar leads. All in all, consider "Mary Jane’s Last Dance" a tribute to summer longing, more than celebration. (Ryan Reed)

33. "Blister in the Sun," Violent Femmes (1983)

There are endless fan theories about what "Blister in the Sun" is all about — from heroin addiction to masturbation. (On whether the latter concept is correct, Violent Femmes songwriter Gordon Gano told the Village Voice , "Not to me!") Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. The folk-punk band’s signature tune still holds up because it’s so ridiculously catchy: built on clever drumming, a hummable acoustic guitar figure and one of the most satisfying choruses of its era. "I don’t think anybody likes that song because they think the lyrics are deep," Gano added. (Reed)

32. "Magic," The Cars (1984)

It’s not just that “summer” is mentioned four times in the first nine words of the song ( Summer, it turns me upside down / Summer, summer, summer ). The Cars 1984 song “Magic” is a sweet slice of '80s new wave pop bliss. Written by frontman Ric Ocasek, the tune ruminates on a summer romance with one of the catchiest choruses of this, or any other era. “Magic” peaked at No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100, helping guide 1984’s Heartbeat City to multi-platinum sales. (Irwin)

31. "Summertime Girls," Y&T (1985)

As summer songs go, this one is especially big and anthemic, featuring choruses with layer after layer of harmony vocals. Packed with catchy guitar riffs and hooks in excess, “Summertime Girls” found plenty of airplay on radio and MTV in 1985. Lyrics like “ I’m in love, yeah, yeah / At least every minute or two / Until the next time a girl walks by / I think I love her too ” are pure sugar, but that was often ‘80s hard rock in a nutshell. It nabbed some screen time that same year thanks to the movie Real Genius . Now, “Summertime Girls” feels like a bit of an outlier in the catalog of San Francisco’s Y&T, but it remains a fun summer getaway. (Wardlaw)

30. "Blue Sky," The Allman Brothers Band (1972)

Part of the charm of the Allman Brothers’ “Blue Sky” is in the simple sweetness of its lyrics: " You're my blue sky, you're my sunny day / Lord, you know it makes me high when you turn your love my way ." Dickey Betts wrote the song for future wife Sandy "Bluesky" Wabegijig, but he purposefully left out any gender-specific lines. "Once I got into the song, I realized how nice it would be to keep the vernaculars — he and she — out and make it like you’re thinking of the spirit, like I was giving thanks for a beautiful day," Betts later said . "I think that made it broader and more relatable to anyone and everyone." "Blue Sky" is also an essential summer song for its solo sections: As Betts and Duane Allman trade off playing lead guitar, this becomes the perfect track for rolling down the windows and hitting the summer road. (Allison Rapp)

29. "Good Times," Chic (1979)

"Good Times" found new life a year after its release when the Sugarhill Gang built the genre-breakthrough single "Rapper's Delight" around a key Chic sample. In time, the songs became so indelibly linked that Niles Rodgers started segueing from his own song into the hip-hop classic during concerts – to the surprise and delight of crowd after crowd. The same bass line also served as inspiration for Queen 's "Another One Bites the Dust" and Blondie 's "Rapture." Only later did Rodgers admit that Chic actually lifted it from Kool and the Gang's earlier hit "Hollywood Swinging." One thing, however, was completely Chic's: " Clams on the half shell, and roller skates, ROLLER SKATES! " (DeRiso)

28. "Hot in the City," Billy Idol (1982)

If you can’t make it to the clubs, Billy Idol will bring the clubs to you. That’s the feeling that runs throughout “Hot in the City.” The background singers who usher in the song feel like a holdover from a discotheque somewhere in the ‘70s, but the synths quickly place the listener right in the middle of 1981 where Idol is holding court. Inspired by some of his own early nights out roaming through New York City late at night, the pacing of “Hot in the City” moves like a typical night out in the club. It starts out slow but as the hour grows late, things reach a fever pitch as Idol growls, “ New York!” Whether you stumble out looking for a cab now or a bit later, it’s been a great night. (Wardlaw)

27. "Rock Lobster," The B-52's (1978)

In the B-52’s’ surreal alternate universe, parties involve "earlobes [falling] in the deep," ocean visits incorporate giant clams and beach hangs include "matching towels" and venturing under docks. "Rock Lobster" isn’t an obvious pick for everyone’s summer barbecue playlist – in keeping with the band’s early New Wave style, the surf-rock guitar tone is a bit too wonky, the Swinging '60s-style Farfisa organ a touch too wild and Fred Schneider’s vocal delivery more than a little too unhinged. But for the weirdos among us, it’s the ideal choice: the soundtrack to whatever offbeat escapades may occur in your vacation rental love shack. (Reed)

26. "In the Summertime," Mungo Jerry (1970)

British band Mungo Jerry scored several early '70s Top 20 hits in the U.K. Yet they remain a one-hit wonder in America. That hit? The infectious 1970 tune “In the Summertime.” Structurally, the song pops along a simplistic yet undeniably catchy melody. Acoustic guitar, banjo, double bass, piano and – yes – even a jug fill out the instrumentation. Meanwhile, frontman Ray Dorset sings about carefree summer days, “when the weather is high.” (Irwin)

25. "Soak Up the Sun," Sheryl Crow (2002)

When winters are long, and sometimes even spring can feel like a drizzly haze, there is no better time to start fresh than the beginning of summer. Sheryl Crow was recovering from an operation when she penned "Soak Up the Sun" with collaborator Jeff Trot, and felt it better to find some joy amid less-than-perfect circumstances. " Don't have no master suite ," she sings, " but I'm still the king of me ." The video for "Soak Up the Sun," which become one of Crow's biggest hits, also screams summer with its surfers and beachside bonfires. Summer doesn't last forever, and Crow knows that: " I'm gonna soak up the sun while it's still free / I'm gonna soak up the sun before it goes out on me ." (Rapp)

24. "Hot Stuff," Donna Summer (1979)

When Donna Summer says she's looking for some "Hot Stuff," she's not talking about the temperature outside. But with her fitting last name and the song's irresistible rhythm, 1979's "Hot Stuff" is the perfect warm-weather track, guaranteed to get you ready for a night out. "Hot Stuff" hits the sweet spot between R&B feel, power rock and disco beat, while Summer's sizzling vocal takes it over the edge. That's probably why the song earned her a Grammy Award for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance. Jeff Baxter of Steely Dan and Doobie Brothers ) fame also stops by to provide a guitar solo, between those ascending synth riffs. (And if you want to keep the edgy attitude up after "Hot Stuff," give Summer's " Bad Girls " a spin next.) (Rapp)

23. "Born to Be Wild," Steppenwolf (1968)

No song reflects the primal thrill of hitting the open road quite like "Born to Be Wild." Listeners are powerless against Michael Monarch's primordial guitar riffs and John Kay's chest-beating exhortation to " get your motor runnin', head out on the highway ." Bikers and metalheads lay equal claim to "Born to Be Wild" thanks to its appearance in 1969's Easy Rider and its "heavy metal thunder" lyric in reference to motorcycles. But whether you're banging your head, revving your engine or prowling Facebook Marketplace for a half-priced Harley, it's all the same sound: freedom. (Rolli)

22. "Born to Run," Bruce Springsteen (1975)

"Born to Run" tells a specific story about a protagonist and his passionate pleas of affection for a girl named Wendy. As Bruce Springsteen has noted, however, it's not really about Wendy or anyone else, but instead about what many restless youth seek out as they come of age: endless possibility and the promise that all your wildest dreams are just over the horizon. He wrote the song when he was 24, but it isn't a song strictly for the young. "When I think back," Springsteen later said , "it surprises me how much I knew about what I wanted, because the questions I ask myself in this song, it seems I've been trying to find the answers to them ever since." For those long summer drives, "Born to Run" remains the perfect passenger: " Tramps like us, baby were born to run ." (Rapp)

21. "Yankee Rose," David Lee Roth (1986)

David Lee Roth had some big-time catching up to do after his former Van Halen bandmates and new singer Sammy Hagar took full advantage of a four-month head start with a hit single, chart-topping album and sold-out tour . Luckily, Roth connected on several big swings of his own while launching his post-Van Halen solo career with Eat 'Em and Smile . In addition to recruiting guitar hero Steve Vai , he hired the equally adept and flashy bass wizard Billy Sheehan . Roth then let the duo run wild trying to top each other while he wooed Lady Liberty herself on the oddly patriotic and undeniably summer-perfect "Yankee Rose." (Wilkening)

20. "Beautiful Girls," Van Halen (1979)

Van Halen might have been kings of the world by the time they released their sophomore album , but their brand of devilishly fun party-metal still gave the impression that even if you couldn't be them, you could still hang out with them. On "Beautiful Girls," their frontman and chief hedonist outlines his five-step plan for an endless summer: a drink, a smoke, the sun, the surf and, of course, a couple of beautiful girls to enjoy it all with. Michael Anthony offsets Roth's whip-smart raps with his sunny, splendorous harmonies, and Eddie Van Halen 's playful harmonic squeals are the sound of pure, unadulterated bliss. (Rolli)

19. "Holiday Road," Lindsey Buckingham (1983)

It’s impossible to hear "Holiday Road" without thinking of the Griswold family, piled into their station wagon and clunking down the highway toward their next misadventure. (The sound and image are forever intertwined, much more so than the track’s surprisingly dystopian video.) But this ditty was already destined for summer greatness. When Lindsey Buckingham's in the mood, he does the whole "bouncy pop-rock" thing better than anyone — and the Fleetwood Mac star brought his A-game here, piling twangy guitar riffs, hilariously '80s drum sounds and ornately stacked harmony vocals into the musical equivalent of a "West Coast kick." (Reed)

18. "Nightswimming," R.E.M. (1992)

After the sun sets, summer evenings often have a sense of tranquility about them, and no song has perhaps better illustrated this than "Nightswimming." Michael Stipe is accompanied only by R.E.M. bandmate Mike Mills on piano, a string arrangement by Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones and a memorable oboe solo by Deborah Workman in the second half of the song — all of it combines to produce a distinct sense of nostalgia for simpler times, plus the realization that summer will eventually come to an end. " September's coming soon / I'm pining for the moon ," Stipe sings, bringing to mind youthful innocence that is at once still fully intact and also slowly slipping away. (Rapp)

17. "Rockaway Beach," Ramones (1977)

Even though the Ramones hailed from cold-eight-months-out-of-the-year New York City, the majority of their songs are summery sounding. Their highest-charting single is even about the real-life Queens beach songwriter Dee Dee Ramone frequented. He framed "Rockaway Beach" from the band's third album, Rocket to Russia , as a Beach Boys and surf-rock homage. It barely breaks the two-minute checkpoint, but the Ramones make every second count. (Michael Gallucci)

16. "Summertime Blues," The Who (1967)

Eddie Cochran probably had no idea the many different ways “Summertime Blues” would be reinterpreted after he recorded the initial version in early 1958. For instance, Blue Cheer turned out a rendition in 1967 that employed funk and plenty of feedback, with a touch of “Foxy Lady” by Jimi Hendrix added in for good measure. The Who’s rowdy take is probably the most believable, with high vocals detailing the trials and tribulations of being young: Scheduling a date seems next to impossible because of having to work late. Blowing off the job only causes further issues when the parents refuse to grant access to the car as a result. In a word, summers are complicated. Don’t worry, kid, it gets better. (Wardlaw)

15. "Summer Nights," Van Halen (1986)

Reportedly the first song Van Halen worked on after recruiting Hagar, "Summer Nights" doesn't aim for the concise keyboard pop nirvana of 5150 's biggest hit singles. Instead, the newly reconfigured group confidently lays back in the groove created by a typically excellent Eddie Van Halen guitar riff while telling the story of a totally aimless but equally unforgettable summer night. (Wilkening)

14. "Lovely Day," Bill Withers (1977)

Bill Withers built his early career on deep — and occasionally dark — introspection (see: "Use Me"). But in the late '70s, he moved toward the lighter, sweeter vibe that defines this 1977 single. (Other song titles from the associated LP, Menagerie : "Lovely Night for Dancing," "Then You Smile at Me," "Let Me Be the One You Need.") The breeziness suited him. "Lovely Day" is all groove and warmth, allowing Withers to showcase his elite vocal sustain over a gently funky bass riff. No need to decode the choruses, in which he sings the title phrase roughly 9,000 times. Why complicate such a pure feeling? (Reed)

13. "Here Comes the Sun," The Beatles (1969)

Things had been particularly grim as George Harrison wrote "Here Comes the Sun," both in terms of the British weather and the Beatles' business dealings. But he was having a good day, strolling around Eric Clapton 's garden with an acoustic under a cloudless spring sky. It all inspired a lyric that tumbled out in this quite linear way: Harrison started with a " long, cold lonely winter ," then the " ice is slowly melting " and finally " smiles returning to the faces ." He switched the second and third verses, however, when the Beatles recorded "Here Comes the Sun" the following summer. Now their smiles seemed to be directly linked with the melting ice that followed, underscoring just how contagious Harrison's optimism really was. The results deftly brush aside pop-up summer showers, too. (DeRiso)

12. "(Sittin' On) the Dock of the Bay," Otis Redding (1968)

Some summer songs are party anthems, while others embrace the season’s long gentle glow. “(Sittin’ On) the Dock of the Bay,” Otis Redding's classic track from 1968, fits in the latter category. An ode to warm summer nights and the gentle passing of time, the tune was a hit upon release, reaching No. 1 on the Billboard chart. Tragically, Redding wasn’t around to enjoy the song’s success; he died in a plane crash on Dec. 10, 1967. The single was released posthumously months later. “(Sittin’ On) the Dock of the Bay” has forever been tied with Redding’s legacy and continues to be ranked among the greatest songs of all time. (Irwin)

11. "Surfin' U.S.A.," The Beach Boys (1963)

One of Brian Wilson ’s many early odes to the surfing lifestyle, this rollicking single borrows heavily from another rock classic, Chuck Berry ’s 1958 hit "Sweet Little Sixteen." The songs are almost identical in structure: the same start-stop churn, the same straight-ahead blues progression and melody. Even Berry’s place-specific lyrics, which look out on all the "rockin’" locales throughout the U.S., are molded into surfing spots. Still, the Beach Boys crafted "Surfin’ USA" into their own beach party vibe, from that breezy vocal blend to the persistent kick drum urging you to dust off your board. (Reed)

10. "Hot Fun in the Summertime," Sly & the Family Stone (1969)

Sly & the Family Stone released one of the all-time greatest summer songs in July 1969, just a month before their career-exploding performance at Woodstock . It peaked at No. 2 and ended up as one of three new tracks on their excellent  Greatest Hits  album from 1970. There's no hidden agenda or any deep meaning behind "Hot Fun in the Summertime." It's a celebration of warm-weather revelry and the memories it makes. (Gallucci)

9. "Summer of '69," Bryan Adams (1985)

Bryan Adams has since admitted that the year revisited in his best song was picked for its sexual connotation rather than any personal attachment. The Canadian was just 9 years old during the summer of 1969, making most of the song's events not exactly age-appropriate (" Me and some guys from school had a band ... Jody got married "). No matter. That hook and Adams' impassioned delivery beam with the carefree feel of summer. (Gallucci)

8. "Saturday in the Park," Chicago (1972)

Breezy observations from Robert Lamm combine with the joyful spirit of this song to masterfully illustrate how the perfect summer day feels. “Saturday in the Park” bottles the feeling of watching different cultures converge all around you, each enjoying the moment in their own ways. The sounds of various conversations blend as a man playing guitar adds to the soundtrack; elsewhere there’s another who is selling ice cream while singing Italian songs. As Lamm’s steady, amiable piano line and upbeat vocal meet Chicago’s signature horns, it's easy to visualize the band themselves playing in the midst of this welcoming scene. (Wardlaw)

7. "California Girls," The Beach Boys (1965)

After racking up a slew of simple, sunny surf anthems, the Beach Boys began venturing into new sonic territory on "California Girls." The call-and-response vocals, airtight harmonies and lovesick lyrics are still positively euphoric, but the composition is decidedly more nuanced — even a touch bittersweet — than their previous hits. The Beach Boys were growing up, and their vision of summer was evolving accordingly. "California Girls" is still mostly a fun-in-the-sun romp, but its complex musicality reflects a knowledge that cloudy days might be ahead, even if they hadn't arrived yet. (David Lee Roth's successful 1985 cover , on the other hand, is no nuance, all libido.) (Rolli)

6. "Summer Breeze," Seals & Crofts (1972)

Seals and Crofts turned soft rock's So-Cal trope on its ear, hailing from a dusty West Texas oil patch. Then they turned soft rock's teary emotionalism on its ear by writing songs of stirring spirituality. In between, they released a track so evocative of summer that its jasmine could almost be smelled, its slamming screen door almost heard. Seals and Crofts had been trying to nail "Summer Breeze" for years, attempting it during sessions for three consecutive LPs. Finally, they brought in bassist Harvey Brooks, and he possessed the needed touch to complete a signature riff played by Dash Crofts on mandolin and a Toys "R" Us piano. Then the Isley Brothers helped Seals and Crofts turn R&B on its ear with their own funky-soulful 1974 update of "Summer Breeze," featuring a scorching turn by guitar-playing younger sibling Ernie Isley. (DeRiso)

5. "Mr. Blue Sky," Electric Light Orchestra (1978)

Without sunshine, the world wouldn’t have this cloud-parting prog-pop classic. The scene: Jeff Lynne is hunkered down in a Swiss chalet, struggling to write songs for what became ELO’s seventh LP, 1977’s Out of the Blue . The weather showed him a path forward. "It was dark and misty for two weeks, and I didn't come up with a thing," he told the BBC . "Suddenly the sun shone and it was, 'Wow, look at those beautiful Alps.' I wrote 'Mr. Blue Sky’ and 13 other songs in the next two weeks." ELO were already beloved — and occasionally dismissed — for their overt Beatles worship, but "Mr. Blue Sky" took it to a new level, blending up and caffeinating bits of several Fab Four classics ("Penny Lane," "I Am the Walrus," "A Day in the Life") from their psychedelic era. It’s almost absurdly peppy. (Reed)

4. "Vacation," The Go-Go's (1982)

For music supervisors, "Vacation" is the gift that keeps on giving: Over the years, the Go-Go’s’ breezy new wave hooks have soundtracked an absurd number of road trip and party scenes, from gleefully foul-mouthed sitcoms ( It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia ) to comedy documentaries where people annihilate their bodies for laughs ( Jackass 4.5 ). It’s a clear choice, as everything about this song screams escapism: the lyrics, the windows-down chorus, even the nostalgic water skiing image on the album cover. The listening public couldn’t resist such charms, and the song peaked at No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 — fittingly, in the heart of the summer. (Reed)

3. "School's Out," Alice Cooper (1972)

With "School’s Out," Alice Cooper captures one of the greatest annual traditions of any kid's life: the end of the last day of school. "You're sitting there, and it's like a slow fuse burning," he later reflected . "I said, 'If we can catch that three minutes in a song, it's going to be so big.'" Anchored by Glenn Buxton's buzzsaw guitar riff and Cooper's sneering vocal, "School's Out" is a perfect distillation of adolescent angst, rebellion and freedom. The singsong children's chorus adds to the air of bratty defiance, and snarky double entendres like " Well, we got no class / and we got no principles " prove that, contrary to the marks on his report card, Cooper was damn clever and knew his way around a hook. (Rolli)

2. "Summer in the City," The Lovin' Spoonful (1966)

You can practically smell the city in the Lovin' Spoonful's No. 1 hit from summer 1966. From the honking horns to the busy, sweaty pace at which the song travels, "Summer in the City" sounds like both a celebration and a lament. (They recorded this song in cold New York City the previous March.) The Lovin' Spoonful even gave the track a tougher sound than their previous hits to fit the sunbaked frustration. (Gallucci)

1. "The Boys of Summer," Don Henley (1984)

Don Henley was 37 when he released "The Boys of Summer," a meditation on his transition into middle age co-written with Heartbreaker Mike Campbell. In a stroke of either genius or missed opportunity, the single came out at the end of October, somewhat fitting for the song's end-of-summer theme. The former Eagles star has nothing but scorn for the failings of his generation (" I saw a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac "), which would only get worse as they got older and abandoned their values. (Gallucci)

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I can go for that: five essential yacht rock classics

Katie Puckrick’s new TV doc reappraises the smooth, sad and seedy side of the maligned genre. Here she reveals the best tracks

  • Modern Toss on yacht rock

Christopher Cross: Ride Like the Wind (1979)

With its urgent pace and aim to “make it to the border of Mexico”, Cross sums up the exhilaration of escape so essential to yacht. The power of the genre lies in the longing, so it’s most effective when heard in a landlocked location a million miles away from the nearest marina. Since aspiration crosses class, it doesn’t matter whether one’s home turf is the country club or a trailer park: listening to this song has the same effect – it nurses that ache for freedom.

The Doobie Brothers: What a Fool Believes (1979)

A YR hallmark is “upbeat-downbeat”: an approach that folds life’s bittersweet complexities within happy-snappy musical flourishes. A great example of upbeat-downbeat is this Doobie Brothers classic, showcasing the misplaced optimism of a wounded romantic. Singer Michael McDonald is in full fuzzy-throated throttle. Those are his BVs on Ride Like the Wind, and on any number of Steely Dan tracks, including …

Steely Dan: Hey Nineteen (1980)

The frisson of yacht rock derives from its blend of bourgie feelgood bounce crossed with a shiver of thwarted desire. Steely Dan self-deprecatingly called their work “funked-up muzak” but, lyrically, there are none more acidic than these egghead jazzbos with tales of grown-up screw-ups. Thanks to LA’s session musician elite, Hey Nineteen is polished to a sheen, but the narrator’s regretful realisation that he is too old to mack on teenage girls makes for uneasy listening.

Joni Mitchell: The Hissing of Summer Lawns (1975)

Generally, female musicians didn’t focus their talents on the yacht genre: its palette was too limiting for the era’s sophisticated female artists beyond a song or two. In 1975, Mitchell made what’s considered “accidental yacht rock”. This chilly saga of tarnished love concerns a woman trapped in a big house and a loveless marriage. Mitchell made the misery of rich people seem glamorous, creating “dark yacht” in the process.

Toto: Africa (1982)

By the time the 1980s rolled around, black musicians had reclaimed the surging soul and quiet storm of yacht that was rightfully theirs. Artists such as George Benson, Lionel Richie and Raydio raised the bar by turning this “funked-up muzak” into a dance party. Ironically, an anthem called Africa turned out to be helmed by a clump of the whitest dudes going. With its questing lyrics and triumphant chorus, it became a blockbuster smash for the ages, proving that yacht rock is for ever.

I Can Go for That: The Smooth World of Yacht Rock begins Friday 14 June, 9pm, BBC Four

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5 of The Greatest 5 Yacht Rock Songs Ever Made

Y acht Rock, a subgenre prominent in the 1970s and 1980s, has recently witnessed a surge in popularity. Its unique combination of jazz, R&B, and soft rock elements has captivated audiences and spawned a new fan base. Because of its peaceful melodies, layered harmonies, and catchy songs, Yacht Rock has become the go-to music for people wishing to unwind and escape from the stresses of everyday life.

In this article, we'll examine in more detail five of the best Yacht Rock songs that have become timeless favorites. These songs, which range from the comforting melodies of The Doobie Brothers' "What a Fool Believes" to the memorable hooks of Toto's "Africa," have withstood the test of time and continue to enthrall listeners. We'll discuss what makes these songs unique and ideal for those long days spent on the lake or leisurely evenings on the patio, whether you're a lifelong admirer of the genre or new to it. Take a drink, relax, and join me as we embark on a musical tour of the best Yacht Rock has to offer.

1. "Sailing" by Christopher Cross

An undeniable Yacht Rock classic, " Sailing " won Christopher Cross the Grammy for Record of the Year in 1981. The song's dreamy lyrics and soothing melody perfectly encapsulate the feeling of being at one with the water. It is the ideal soundtrack for an afternoon spent sailing or simply enjoying the ocean breeze. With its gentle instrumentation and Cross's calming vocals, "Sailing" transports listeners to a peaceful, sun-drenched world where worries and stress drift away.

2. "What a Fool Believes" by the Doobie Brothers

Written by Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins, " What a Fool Believes " showcases The Doobie Brothers' signature sound with smooth, soulful vocals and intricate keyboard work. Released in 1979, this Grammy-winning song topped the charts and remained a fan favorite for its catchy melody and relatable lyrics about unrequited love. With its polished production and infectious energy, "What a Fool Believes" remains a Yacht Rock staple that continues to captivate audiences.

3. "Love Will Keep Us Together" by Captain & Tennille

Captain & Tennille's 1975 hit " Love Will Keep Us Together " is a quintessential Yacht Rock ballad celebrating love's power. The song's upbeat tempo, irresistible hook, and Daryl Dragon's masterful keyboard playing make it a timeless classic that resonates with listeners today. It's difficult not to get carried away by this uplifting hymn to love and dedication as Toni Tennille's sincere vocals flawlessly meld with the song's infectious tune.

4. "Steal Away" by Robbie Dupree

A prime example of Yacht Rock's laid-back vibe is " Steal Away " by Robbie Dupree, a smooth and sultry hit that made waves in 1980. The song paints a picture of a spontaneous, romantic escapade with its memorable chorus, funky groove, and Dupree's soulful vocals. From its breezy synths to its driving beat, "Steal Away" encapsulates the carefree spirit of Yacht Rock, making it a must-listen for fans of the genre.

5. "Africa" by Toto

" Africa " by Toto, released in 1982, is a beloved Yacht Rock anthem that has stood the test of time. The song's unforgettable melody, lush harmonies, and captivating storytelling have made it a favorite for listeners worldwide. With its vivid lyrics and soaring chorus, "Africa" transports listeners to a vast, uncharted landscape of adventure and romance. Its distinctive blend of rock and world music elements makes this track an enduring classic.

To see the list of 10 of the best Yacht Rock songs, visit this link .

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Train – Summer Road Trip 2024 with Yacht Rock Revue at Ben & Jerry’s Concerts on The Green at Shelburne Museum

$66 + $1 charity advance | $70 + $1 charity day of show

All Ages, Children 12 and under are FREE

Train is a multi-GRAMMY and Billboard Award-winning band from San Francisco that has had 14 songs on Billboard’s Hot 100 list since the release of their debut self-titled album. Train’s climb to the top began in 1994, as the original 5-member band tenaciously built a loyal hometown following, leading up to their debut album, released by Columbia in 1998. The tumbling wordplay of “Meet Virginia” gave them their first unlikely radio hit and 2001’s  Drops of Jupiter  broke them to multi-platinum status thanks to the double-Grammy Award-winning title song that spent 10 months in the Top 40, has been certified 7x platinum in the US, and earned the 2001 GRAMMY Award for Best Rock Song. The group won another GRAMMY Award in 2011 for their global hit “Hey, Soul Sister” from their multi-platinum album  Save Me, San Francisco . “Hey, Soul Sister ” was the No.1 best-selling smash and most downloaded single of 2010, achieved RIAA Diamond status in 2021 and now 11x platinum, and in 2022 surpassed one billion streams on Spotify. Train has sold more than 10 million albums and 30 million tracks worldwide, with multiple platinum/gold citations, including three GRAMMY Awards, two Billboard Music Awards and dozens of other honors. They’ve had 12 albums on the Billboard 200 albums chart with their 2014  Bulletproof Picasso  reaching No. 4 in 2012 and 2017’s  a girl a bottle a boat debuting  at No. 8. “Play That Song,” the lead single from  a girl a bottle a boat , went platinum in four countries including the U.S., hit Top 5 on the US iTunes chart, Top 10 at Hot AC radio, and charted at Adult Top 40. Train’s highly anticipated 11th studio album,  AM Gold , was released on May 20, 2022.

Train have partnered with housing organization Family House San Francisco to donate $1 (one dollar) from each ticket sale to help provide temporary housing to families of seriously ill children receiving treatment at the University of California San Francisco Benioff Children’s Hospital. 

Children 12 and under are FREE ( + do not need a ticket )! Glass, pets, & outside alcohol are prohibited. Blankets and food are permitted. All events are rain or shine. All dates, acts, and ticket prices subject to change without notice.


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  1. Feature: The 101 GREATEST YACHT ROCK SONGS OF ALL TIME for Your Summer

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    Seals & Crofts - 'Summer Breeze'. Summer Breeze - Seals & Croft #1 Hit (1972) Before The Isley Brothers recorded a slick cover, 'Summer Breeze' was an irresistible folk pop song by Seals & Crofts. While mostly a folk song, its summer vibes and gorgeous melody make for a perfect yacht rock number.

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  5. 60+ Best Yacht Rock Songs of All Time

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  17. ‎Summer Yacht Rock by Various Artists on Apple Music

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  18. Rock's 40 Best Summer Songs

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  24. Train

    Train - Summer Road Trip 2024 with Yacht Rock Revue at Ben & Jerry's Concerts on The Green at Shelburne Museum. ... Train is a multi-GRAMMY and Billboard Award-winning band from San Francisco that has had 14 songs on Billboard's Hot 100 list since the release of their debut self-titled album. Train's climb to the top began in 1994, as ...