20 Songs About Boats

Exploring the theme of navigation, adventure, and the call of the open sea, the following article casts its net to reel in 20 iconic songs about boats. Each track, from tales of historical voyages to whimsical and introspective journeys, reflects the unique allure and timeless fascination that the sea holds for musicians and listeners alike.

1. “Sloop John B” by The Beach Boys

“Sloop John B” by The Beach Boys is a stellar example of how a traditional folk song can be transformed into a pop music classic. Originating from a Bahamian folk song called “The John B. Sails,” its adaptation by The Beach Boys for their 1966 album “Pet Sounds” gave it a new lease of life. The band’s exceptional harmonies and Brian Wilson’s lush production elevated the song, embodying the essence of 60s pop while staying true to its folk roots. This track not only showcases The Beach Boys’ musical versatility but also their ability to bridge genres, turning “Sloop John B” into an enduring classic that resonates across generations.

2. “Come Sail Away” by Styx

“Come Sail Away” by Styx stands as an emblematic anthem of the 1970s, masterfully blending elements of soft rock with operatic grandeur. Released as part of their 1977 album “The Grand Illusion,” this song captures the spirit of adventure and the longing for transcendence beyond the mundane. Its gradual build-up from a gentle piano melody to a robust, dramatic climax showcases Styx’s ability to weave together diverse musical styles, making “Come Sail Away” a timeless sail-away anthem that continues to inspire listeners to embark on their own metaphorical journeys.

3. “Into the Mystic” by Van Morrison

“Into the Mystic” by Van Morrison serves as a magnificent embodiment of using nautical imagery to navigate the depths of a spiritual journey. Released in 1970 on his album “Moondance,” Morrison’s soulful voice, combined with the evocative sounds of horns and a gentle rhythm, guides listeners through a mystic voyage towards love and self-discovery. This song’s lyrical prowess lies in its ability to blend the literal with the metaphorical, inviting interpretations that transcend the physical act of sailing into a realm of mysticism and introspection.

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

“Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)” by Looking Glass is a storytelling masterpiece from the 1970s that explores themes of love, longing, and the sacrifices we make for our dreams. The song tells the poignant tale of Brandy, a barmaid in a harbor town, and her unrequited love for a sailor whose life and heart belong to the sea. With its catchy melody and vivid lyrics, “Brandy” captures the essence of human emotion and the complexity of choosing between love and passion. It remains a beloved classic, reminding listeners of the timeless stories that unfold by the sea.

5. “Southern Cross” by Crosby, Stills & Nash

“Southern Cross” by Crosby, Stills & Nash is an ode to the spirit of adventure and the allure of sailing the high seas. Released in 1982, the song is rich with references to nautical life and the quest for meaning amidst the vastness of the ocean. Its captivating melody and harmonious vocals evoke a sense of freedom and introspection, as the lyrics navigate through love, loss, and the rejuvenating power of setting sail under the Southern Cross constellation. This track remains a beloved anthem for those who yearn for the horizon, embodying the timeless allure of maritime escapades.

6. “Proud Mary” by Creedence Clearwater Revival

“Proud Mary” by Creedence Clearwater Revival began its journey as a narrative about life aboard a riverboat and evolved into an iconic staple of rock and roll. Released in 1969, this song quickly captivated audiences with its vibrant depiction of the working life on the Mississippi River, propelled by the band’s gritty sound and energetic beat. “Proud Mary”‘s transformation from a story about a steamboat into a rock anthem showcases Creedence Clearwater Revival’s prowess in blending storytelling with electrifying music, making it a timeless hit that continues to roll on the river of rock history.

7. “The Downeaster ‘Alexa'” by Billy Joel

“The Downeaster ‘Alexa'” by Billy Joel is a powerful tribute to the hardships faced by fishermen in the modern world. Released in 1989, this song combines Joel’s poignant storytelling with a haunting melody to convey the struggles of making a living off the sea in an era of industrial overfishing and environmental changes. Joel’s empathetic portrayal of the fishermen’s plight, paired with the narrative of his own vessel, “The Downeaster ‘Alexa’,” brings to light the enduring spirit and challenges of coastal communities. It stands as a testament to the complexities of modern life for those who depend on the sea.

8. “Banana Boat (Day-O)” by Harry Belafonte

“Banana Boat (Day-O)” by Harry Belafonte is a vibrant track that traces its origins back to a traditional Jamaican folk song. This work song, made famous by Belafonte in 1956, transcended its roots to become an international hit, capturing the essence of Caribbean life while bringing the struggles and joys of the island’s banana workers to a global audience. Belafonte’s rendition is not only memorable for its catchy refrain and rhythmic beat but also for shedding light on the laborious task of banana loading, transforming a work chant into a timeless piece of music that celebrates cultural heritage and the universal theme of toil.

9. “Sailing” by Christopher Cross

“Sailing” by Christopher Cross is a quintessential soft rock track that envelops listeners in its serene melody, transporting them to a place of calm and tranquility. Released in 1980, the song masterfully uses the metaphor of sailing to describe an escape from life’s troubles, where the act of setting sail on open waters symbolizes a journey to inner peace and solace. Cross’s smooth vocals, combined with the song’s lush production, create an immersive experience that has resonated with audiences for decades, making “Sailing” a timeless anthem of peacefulness and solace.

10. “Orinoco Flow” by Enya

“Orinoco Flow” by Enya captivates listeners with its ethereal quality, embodying the essence of freedom and exploration associated with sailing. Released in 1988, this new age track is celebrated for its enchanting melody and the seamless blend of synthetic and classical elements, guiding listeners on a journey across the Orinoco River and beyond. Enya’s soothing vocals and the song’s lush arrangement invite a sense of wanderlust, making “Orinoco Flow” a symbolic voyage into the unknown and a testament to the allure of navigating the world’s vast and mysterious waters.

11. “Redneck Yacht Club” by Craig Morgan

“Redneck Yacht Club” by Craig Morgan dives into the heart of a lakeside gathering, celebrating the communal joy and camaraderie of boating. This country anthem, released in 2005, paints a vivid picture of friends coming together to share in the simple pleasures of life on the water. Morgan’s lively lyrics and upbeat melody capture the essence of a sun-drenched day filled with laughter, music, and the unifying spirit of the “Redneck Yacht Club,” showcasing boating as not just a hobby but a way of life that brings people together in celebration.

12. “Rock The Boat” by Hues Corporation

“Rock The Boat” by Hues Corporation played a pivotal role in the disco movement of the early 1970s, embedding itself as a classic with its infectious rhythm and danceable beat. Released in 1973, this song is more than just a disco track; it carries a metaphorical message about shaking things up and challenging the status quo. Its catchy chorus and groovy melody not only got people moving on the dance floor but also resonated with listeners looking for a change, making “Rock The Boat” a timeless anthem of transformation and groove.

13. “A Pirate Looks At Forty” by Jimmy Buffett

“A Pirate Looks At Forty” by Jimmy Buffett is a deeply reflective song that delves into the life and dreams of a modern-day pirate looking back on his past. Released in 1974, Buffett’s storytelling prowess shines through as he crafts a narrative of longing, regret, and a yearning for the freedom of pirate life, even as the world around him changes. This introspective track captures the spirit of adventure and the realities of aging, resonating with anyone who has ever longed for a life unfettered by societal constraints, making “A Pirate Looks At Forty” a poignant ode to the swashbuckling dreamer in all of us.

14. “Boat Drinks” by Jimmy Buffett

“Boat Drinks” by Jimmy Buffett uses vivid nautical imagery to encapsulate the deep-seated desire to escape the cold and retreat to a tropical paradise. Released in 1979, this song paints a picture of wintertime blues and the longing to sail away to where the weather is warm and the drinks are cold. Buffett’s whimsical lyrics and laid-back melody perfectly convey the fantasy of leaving behind the mundane for an idyllic life at sea, making “Boat Drinks” an anthem for anyone dreaming of their own seaside getaway and the liberating allure of the tropics.

15. “Sail On” by The Commodores

“Sail On” by The Commodores is a masterful blend of smooth soul and poignant lyrics, using sailing as a powerful metaphor for moving on from a relationship. Released in 1979, this track stands out for its silky melody and heartfelt delivery, capturing the emotional journey of letting go and setting sail towards new horizons. The Commodores’ ability to evoke the feeling of sailing away from past heartache, while looking forward to the promise of a new beginning, makes “Sail On” a classic anthem for anyone navigating the troubled waters of a breakup.

16. “Sea Cruise” by Frankie Ford

“Sea Cruise” by Frankie Ford is an electrifying rock and roll anthem that has captivated listeners with its infectious energy since its release in 1959. This classic hit merges the spirited essence of early rock with the timeless allure of setting sail on an adventure. Ford’s dynamic performance and the song’s catchy chorus make it impossible not to tap your feet or envision embarking on a sea voyage. Its enduring popularity is a testament to the song’s ability to resonate across generations, making “Sea Cruise” a staple of rock and roll music and a celebration of the joyous freedom found on the open water.

17. “Pontoon” by Little Big Town

“Pontoon” by Little Big Town encapsulates the quintessential summer experience, celebrating leisure, fun, and the simple pleasures of boating life. Released in 2012, this song quickly became a summer anthem, inviting listeners to kick back, relax, and enjoy a day on the water aboard a pontoon. With its catchy melody and laid-back vibe, “Pontoon” conjures images of sun-soaked afternoons and cool waters, making it the perfect soundtrack for a summer party or a leisurely boat ride. Little Big Town’s ode to boating culture and camaraderie on the water makes “Pontoon” an enduring favorite for anyone looking to embrace the joy of summertime.

18. “Barrett’s Privateers” by Stan Rogers

“Barrett’s Privateers” by Stan Rogers is a compelling folk song that narrates the harrowing tale of a privateering voyage that meets a disastrous end. This sea shanty, released in 1976, is steeped in historical context, vividly recounting the misfortunes of a crew enlisted by the fictional Captain Barrett to seize enemy ships during the American Revolution. Rogers’ powerful storytelling and the song’s rousing chorus capture the dangers and allure of maritime adventures in the 18th century, making “Barrett’s Privateers” a poignant exploration of hope, hardship, and the unforgiving nature of the sea.

19. “I’m On a Boat” by The Lonely Island feat. T-Pain

“I’m On a Boat” by The Lonely Island feat. T-Pain takes a comedic and satirical approach to the boating lifestyle and the clichés of luxury often depicted in hip hop culture. Released in 2009, this hip hop hit parodies the extravagance and opulence typically showcased in music videos, with its over-the-top lyrics and humorous portrayal of life at sea on a lavish yacht. The collaboration between The Lonely Island and T-Pain delivers a catchy and memorable track that not only entertains but also cleverly critiques the ostentatious representations of wealth and leisure in pop culture, making “I’m On a Boat” a standout piece of satirical music.

20. “Son of a Son of a Sailor” by Jimmy Buffett

“Son of a Son of a Sailor” by Jimmy Buffett delves deep into the singer’s personal connection to the lineage and lifestyle of sailors. Released in 1978, this reflective piece explores the legacy passed down through generations of seafarers, capturing the essence of a life intertwined with the sea. Buffett’s introspective lyrics and the song’s mellow melody pay homage to the adventurous spirit and the enduring call of the ocean that defines the sailor’s life. It stands as a poignant tribute to the heritage and the timeless bond between those who have navigated the vast, rolling seas.