June 12, 2019, 3:16 p.m.
Summer is fast approaching and we are already planning our dream vacation.
We can imagine it now: lounging on a boat that floats on the water, sipping cocktails and working on our tan. Oh, and it’s the 1980s.
There is only one style of music that goes with this image: yacht rock.
What is Yacht rock, you ask?
Also known as West Coast Sound or adult rock, it is a style of soft rock from the late 1970s to early 1980s that featured elements of smooth soul, smooth jazz, R&B, funk , rock and disco.
Although its name has been used in a negative way, for us it’s an incredible genre that makes us feel like we’re in an episode of miami vice wearing shoulder pads and massive sunglasses.
Here are the best songs that could be placed in this genre:
1. Hall & Oates – “I can’t go (it’s not possible)”
This duo knew how to make eye-catching blow after eye-catching blow. This R&B-tinged pop track was co-written with Sara Allen (also the influence of their song “Sara Smile”). John Oates said the song was actually about the music industry. “This song is really about not getting pushed around by big labels and managers and agents and being told what to do, and being creatively true to yourself.”
Not only was the song sampled in De La Soul’s “Say No Go” and Simply Red’s “Home,” but Michael Jackson also admitted he did the bassline for “Billie Jean”!
2. Stranger – “Waiting For A Girl Like You”
A little softer than their biggest power ballads, this song had the misfortune to stay at number two for 10 weeks on the US charts, 9 of them behind Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical”.
Co-writer Mick Jones said of the song, “I had no idea what it meant, but it left such a deep impression on me. It ended up being a song that brought together a lot of people. I hear these days that it’s a song that a lot of people play at their weddings.
3. Eagles – “I can’t tell you why”
Many Eagles tracks could be categorized as yacht rock, but we feel their best example comes from this track from their The long term album in 1979.
Don Henley described the song as “straight Al Green”, and that Glenn Frey, an R&B fan, was responsible for the song’s R&B feel. Frey told co-writer Timothy B Schmit, “You could sing like Smokey Robinson. Let’s not do a Richie Furay song, Poco. Let’s do an R&B song.”
4. Michael McDonald – “Sweet Freedom”
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 like silk.
Perhaps his greatest solo piece, It was used in the movie Run in fear, and its music video featured actors Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines.
5. Toto – ‘Rosanna’
We almost picked ‘Africa’, but we feel that this track is just about the best in the yacht rock game.
Written by David Paich, he said the song was based on many girls he had known. As a joke, the band members initially toyed with the common assumption that the song was based on actress Rosanna Arquette, who was dating Toto keyboardist Steve Porcaro at the time and coincidentally had the same name.
6. The Doobie Brothers – “What A Fool Believes”
May be THE ultimate yacht rock song, and it’s that man Michael McDonald again.
Written by McDonald and Kenny Loggins, it was one of the few non-disco hits in America during the first eight months of 1979. The song tells the story of a man who finds an old love and tries to rekindle a relationship in love. with her before discovering that none really existed. Michael Jackson once claimed that he contributed at least one backing track to the original recording, but was not credited for doing so. This was later denied by the band.
7. Bobby Goldsboro – “Summertime (First Time)”
A bit of a moot point, 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 repetitive piano riff, 12-string guitar, and orchestral string arrangement, this song just screams yacht rock and everything great about it.
8. Boz Scaggs – ‘Lowdown’
We’ve stepped 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 will form Toto with vocals keyboardist David Paich, session bassist David Hungate and drummer Jeff Porcaro.
9. Steely Dan – ‘FM’
It’s hard to pick just one Steely Dan song for this list, but we’ve gone with this banger.
Used as the theme music for the 1978 film of the same name, the song is a jazz-rock piece, although its lyrics cast a disapproving look on the genre as a whole, which was in stark contrast to the movie’s celebration. Still, it sounds good guys!
10. Don Henley – “Summer Boys”
Mike Campbell wrote the music for 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 passage of youth and entering fifty, and 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.
11. Chicago – “Hard to say I’m sorry”
Chicago began to move away from its soft rock sound with its early 1980s output, including this powerful synthesizer-filled ballad.
The album’s version turned into a more traditional upbeat Chicago track titled “Get Away,” but most radio stations of the day opted to drop the song before it started. Three Toto members performed on the track. These guys are kings of yacht rock!
12. 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.
13. Kenny Loggins – “Heart to Heart”
If Michael McDonald is the king of yacht rock, then Kenny Loggins is his trusted adviser 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 don’t stand the test of time, but some do.
14. Airplay – “There’s Nothing You Can Do About It”
You may not remember the American band Airplay, but they had their moment on the yacht.
Featuring 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 nineteen eighty one.
15. Michael Jackson – “Human Nature”
A few non-rock artists came close to making it onto this list (George Michael’s ‘Careless Whisper’ and Spandau Ballet’s ‘True’ are almost examples, but not quite), but a large chunk of Polar strongly leaned on the sound of yacht rock.
Jackson proved just how popular the genre could become with several songs on the album, but this is the best example.
16. Christopher Cross – ‘Sailing’
We’re not putting this here just because it’s called “Sailing”, it’s also one of the ultimate examples of the genre.
It reached number one in the US in 1980, and VH1 later named it the most “softsational soft rock” song of all time.
17. Steve Winwood – ‘Valerie’
This song is probably as far into pop rock as you can get without totally leaving the rock yacht dock.
Legendary singer-songwriter Winwood recorded this gong on a man reminiscing about a lost love he hopes to find one day. Eric Prydz then 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 suit the track.