Maybe I should have stayed with songs about singing songs, because this list, just out of the music in my own collection, was insanely long. Therefore, I got really fussy and culled it down to a long but fun list. Now, these are not songs about music or writing music, but the actual act of singing has to be at the core of the song. Getting rid of "music" songs did help. And songs about singers (like Smokey Robinson) were also not used. Not all of the songs in this list (one per artist, I need to like it, normal rules apply) are positive, but I still think it is a good list. And I've thrown an instrumental in at the end because I love it and its title is about singing.
So, songs about singing!
'Singin' In The Rain' by Gene Kelly (1952)
The title track from one of the best movie musicals of all time, this song is simply about how happiness can make even rain worth singing in. Singing is often associated with joy, while rain with depression, so that juxtaposition works nicely here. (I'm going to admit – I have a disco version by Sheila B. Devotion as well; stick with Gene, I reckon.)
'Sing (And Tell The Blues So Long)' by Johnny O'Keefe (1962)
The only thing that is keeping this man sane is singing. And that could well be a reflection of the life of Johnny O'Keefe himself, whose ups and downs, trials and tribulations, were the stuff of legend. I know this is a cover, though am unsure who did it first, but it just suits O'Keefe like a tailor-made suit.
'Sing A Simple Song' by Sly And The Family Stone (1968)
This song started life as a B-side, but it became popular in its own right as the years went on. It's basically about how sometimes singing a song is all we have to hold onto. That is slightly depressing concept, but the song is so very good. And there's no doubting who the band is!
'Make Your Own Kind Of Music' by Mama Cass Elliot (1969)
Sing for you and you alone, and ignore what others say and think. What better sentiment to put forth in a song about singing? I'd say this could be the theme song for those of us whose singing voices are terrible… but Mama Cass has such a magnificent voice that that idea seems almost a paradox.
'Song Sung Blue' by Neil Diamond (1972)
This song is one I missed for my songs based on classical music column, as it comes from a Mozart piano concerto. But the song is about how we all feel sad and singing about it is a way of coping. Neil Diamond is an underrated song-writer, as his way with a lyric is really strong, and this is such a good track.
'I'm Just A Singer (In A Rock And Roll Band)' by The Moody Blues (1972)
I should have included this song in my songs with great bass-lines list! It's about how being a singer actually doesn't change much in the grand scheme of things, but people expect it to. Maybe that's a sentiment some self-aggrandising singers should take note of. As a Moody Blues song, this is a real belter, and stands out from their more popular and better-known slower tracks.
'Piano Man' by Billy Joel (1973)
The title track from Joel's second album, and the song that was to give him his nick-name, is not a song about playing piano, but about actually singing songs for depressed and unhappy patrons in a bar. Of course, the piano playing is still great.
'Sing' by The Carpenters (1973)
When we did Singing & Listening back in primary school (in the 1970s), we learnt that this song came from the TV show Sesame Street. However, my dad told me it was by The Carpenters. I didn't know who to believe. Well, turns out they were both right. It was on TV in 1971, and The Carpenters covered it. And such a simple song – just sing. And it might be twee, but it has a nice place in my childhood.
'I'll Have To Say I Love You In A Song' by Jim Croce (1974)
While this song was released after Croce's death, it was recorded and completed beforehand. It's about a guy who can't admit his feelings unless he sings them, which is something a lot of writers I know can relate to (though for them it's often in poetry or the like). I always wondered where Croce would have gone had he lived; he was such a good talent.
'Looking For An Echo' by Ol '55 (1976)
One of the most beautiful songs about singing, reminiscing about being doo-wop singers in the 50s. this cover version by Australia's Ol'55 is, in my opinion, better than the original. The harmonies and music meld so well together and when they do that change up ("We've sung a lot of changes, since 1955"), I get goosebumps still. Just brilliant.
'If I Sing You A Love Song' by Bonnie Tyler (1978)
Bonnie Tyler has been releasing great music for many, many years, and this is one of those songs of hers that I am surprised more people don't know. It's about how love songs are timeless and so singing one shows how strong love is. But I do like Tyler's voice and there is so much emotion when she sings.
'Singing In The 80s' by The Monitors (1980)
Asking a legitimate question of the time – what will we be singing in the 80s? I don't think anyone would have seen the rise of the New Romantics, the growth of the NWOBHM, the creation of the Stock-Aitkin-Waterman factory style music, experimental music topping the charts and the dominance of the music video as an art form. Interestingly, despite the video clip, Kiss lost their make-up in the 80s…
'Edge Of Seventeen' by Stevie Nicks (1981)
From the album Bella Donna, this is still one of my favourite Stevie Nicks songs. Written following the death of her uncle and John Lennon, the song is about a dove singing, but also a person singing like that dove to search for peace. Such a great song.
'The Phantom Of The Opera' by Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman (1986)
While not the first Phantom (that would be Steve Harley, I believe), to my mind, Crawford was the best (Anthony Warlow second best) and no one could beat Sarah Brightman's Christine. Interestingly, for a musical about singing, only a few of the songs really pushes that aspect to the fore. This is the best of them. It possibly needs the context of the play to make sense, but… I don't care. Great track.
'How Can I Keep From Singing' by Enya (1991)
I was going to try to avoid religious songs on this list, but sometimes you can't help it when they are sung as beautifully as Enya does this old hymn. Her voice just carries this track above and beyond, so well done.
'…Someone's Singing New York New York' by The Ghostwriters (1991)
A town has changed irrevocably by progress, and yet some-one still sings the old songs somewhere. Music is the only thing of the past left. An interesting sentiment, but such a great song from an Australian band not enough people know about.
'The Song We Were Singing' by Paul McCartney (1997)
A song about what it was like to be young singers in the 1960s, written in the wake of putting together the Beatles' Anthology project. The unbridled joy of singing is what this song represents. And McCartney is still out there doing it to this day.
'As Long As I'm Singing' by The Brian Setzer Orchestra (1998)
I am fully aware Bobby Darin did this first, but I am a huge fan of the BSO and I don't care who knows it, so the Stray Cats front-man gets the nod. And this song is just such a joyous song about singing making everything right. So good.
'Sing' by Travis (2001)
Singing makes things better. If you do something that could be embarrassing, like singing, then the little things that annoy in a relationship aren't so bad. This song has a few meanings, but it does not take away from the fact it is a strong song from the Scottish band.
'Keep Singing' by Rick Astley (2016)
An autobiographical song about how singing made coping with a childhood he struggled with tolerable. And, even all those years after topping the charts as a young man, his voice still has "it". this is such a beautiful song and he is still an amazing singer.
Okay, now the instrumental. I am fully aware Louis Prima wrote and recorded it with lyrics first, but, sorry – this is better. I'm not going to comment on it except to say – this is fantastic. 'Sing, Sing, Sing' by Benny Goodman Orchestra (1937)
So, there we are, songs about singing, spanning 80 years of recorded music, and with enough styles there should be something here for everyone. So, thanks to all those who hassled me – this has been fun to put together. Two days of listening to music is something I really enjoy.
And I am sure my neighbours have not enjoyed my attempts at singing as I belted out all of these tunes and so many more.
And, please, feel free to add your own in the comments section. And if you have any other ideas for music columns – let me know. If I can (not guaranteed), I will try to put something together.