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

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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.

Yacht rock elements in the song

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.

Critical reception and awards

“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.

Yacht rock elements in the song

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.

Critical reception and awards

“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.

Yacht rock elements in the song

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.

Critical reception and awards

“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.

Yacht rock elements in the song

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.

Critical reception and awards

“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.

Yacht rock elements in the song

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.

Critical reception and awards

“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.

Yacht rock elements in the song

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.

Critical reception and awards

“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.

Yacht rock elements in the song

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.

Critical reception and awards

“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.

Yacht rock elements in the song

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.

Critical reception and awards

“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.

Conclusion

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.

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