Taking a boat out on the water for the day with friends and family is a great way to, as The Beach Boys sang, “get away from it all.” But while you’re out there, you’ll need some music to fit the occasion. A lot of musical artists have written songs about boating or have referenced boating but few have encapsulated the essence or the feeling of being out on the water on a warm day. With that, we’ll give our five songs that should be included in your boating music.
While many have struggled to find the sound that allows those on the water to feel at ease, some of made a career of it. Here are the top 10 songs to listen to when boating.
Son of a Son of a Sailor by Jimmy Buffett
Nobody encapsulates the feeling of the beach, an island, or boating than the leader of the parrotheads, Jimmy Buffett. Released in March 1978 on the album with the same name, Son of a Son of a Sailor’s subject is the grandson of a sailor as Buffett was. The opening verse of the song summarizes the feeling of freedom when heading out on the water.
“As the son of a son of a sailor,
I went out on the sea for adventure,
Expanding the view of the captain and crew,
Like a man just released from indenture.”
As with many of Buffett’s hits, Son of a Son of a Sailor is a soft tune that puts the listener at ease. It’s a perfect song for a relaxing time on the water.
Come Sail Away by Styx
Written by Styx lead singer Dennis DeYoung, Come Sail Away opens as a beautiful ballad with DeYoung alone on piano. That leads into a guitar-heavy section that takes over the second half of the song. Lyrically the song uses boating as a metaphor but it continues the theme throughout the song. In the early ballad section of the song, DeYoung sings of being free as he sets on the open course for the sea. In the next verse, he sings of the reflections off the water sparking memories from his childhood. As the rest of the band join in, the main chorus is repeated.
“Come sail away, come sail away,
Come sail away with me.”
Soak Up the Sun by Sheryl Crow
In 2002, Sheryl Crow owned the summer with her hit Soak Up the Sun. Despite its gloomy lyrical content, the upbeat tune ensured that it would become a staple of summer radio. As such, it’s a must-have on your summer boating playlist.
It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere by Alan Jackson featuring Jimmy Buffett
Originally offered to and declined by Kenny Chesney, country singer Alan Jackson found It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere as a chance to work with Jimmy Buffett. This laid back tune describes a man lethargically making his way through the work day until five o’clock arrives so he can get off work and attend his local watering hole for a drink. As the day drags on he keeps thinking that while it’s still early in his location, it’s five o’clock somewhere so he can have a drink. As fun as the music is, lyrically this song exemplifies why people go out on a boat. They just want to have fun and relax with a cold drink.
If I Had a Boat by Lyle Lovett
The 1988 Lyle Lovett song If I Had a Boat differs from Lovett’s typical cowboy image. Lovett claims that he song, which imagines Roy Rogers as a bachelor and Tonto losing patience with the Lone Ranger, came from a true story. The singer/songwriter was attempting to ride a pony across a pond and he wished he’d had a boat.
“And if I had a boat,
I’d go out on the ocean.
And if I had a pony,
I’d ride him on my boat.
And we could all together,
Go out on the ocean,
Me upon my pony on my boat.”
While still a country song, If I Had a Boat allowed Lovett to cross genres and reach a new audience. Another of the softer tunes on this list, it’s a great song for relaxing on a boat on a summer afternoon.
Sloop John B by The Beach Boys
You may not be on the beach but it’s hard to do anything nautical without The Beach Boys on your soundtrack. Coming from a Bahamian traditional folk song, Brian Wilson rearranged the song The John B. Sails in 1966 for their seminal album Pet Sounds. A fan of folk music, Al Jardine pushed Wilson to record the song based on the 1958 recording by The Kingston Trio which they titled The Wreck of the John B. Less than a day later, Wilson came back with the song completed and rearranged for The Beach Boys version entitled Sloop John B. When it comes to boating or beach going, you probably couldn’t go wrong with The Beach Boys’ 2003 album Sounds of Summer: The Very Best of the Beach Boys but to add variety, we’ll keep with Sloop John B for now.
When you’re out boating with family and friends, you can’t go without a soundtrack. This may not be your whole boating music list but it’s a jumping off point. And if you want to get out on the water without buying a boat, join 321 Boat Club.