top of page
Search

Top 100 Greatest Yacht Rock Songs of All Time


Top 100 Greatest Yacht Rock Songs of All Time

Yacht Rock, a term that has steadily grown in popularity, refers to the smooth, groovy rock music of the '70s and '80s that has been popularized over the recent years. Initially categorized as soft rock or adult contemporary, Yacht Rock places a stronger emphasis on the groove rather than the lyrics, making it some of the easiest and catchiest easy listening music for many rock fans. Interestingly, nearly all Yacht Rock songs were created 35-40 years before the genre was officially recognized as its own distinct style, leaving room for interpretation about what exactly qualifies as Yacht Rock. For our criteria, we analyzed the entire catalog of Sirius XM Yacht Rock Radio alongside Spotify and Apple Music’s Yacht Rock playlists and ranked the songs accordingly. Each song included has been deemed Yacht Rock by at least one of these sources and was scored against all other entries. Some songs may rank higher in a broader rock or soft rock sphere, but here are what we have deemed to be the 100 Greatest Yacht Rock Songs of All Time complete with a playlist of all 100 Songs. For a broader list across at songs across the rock realm, be sure to check out the Top 200 Greatest Rock Songs of All Time.

1. What a Fool Believes - The Doobie Brothers

Deemed almost unanimously as the quintessential Yacht Rock tune by the few publications that have taken the time to dive into this same endeavor , What a Fool Believes stands out as one of the grooviest rock tunes to ever achieve mainstream success. Featuring the quintessential Yacht Rock vocalist, Michael McDonald, the song topped charts across North America and became one of the most recognizable and frequently played songs of the '70s. Michael McDonald, who joined The Doobie Brothers in 1975, had become the band's primary vocalist by the release of Minute by Minute in 1978, which houses What a Fool Believes. With this album marking a new sound for the band, especially following the temporary health-related departure of Tom Johnston, the band's new sound was polished to perfection, a dramatic shift from the Toulouse Street sound of the early part of the decade. Nevertheless, What a Fool Believes is a serious earworm, a critically "perfect" pop-rock song, if you will, and a song that reinvented The Doobie Brothers.


2. Peg  - Steely Dan

One of the most talented groups on our list, if not the most talented, Steely Dan transcended the typical confines of Yacht Rock during their initial ten-year run. Covering genres from Yacht Rock to jazz rock, progressive rock, and funk rock, Steely Dan captivated audiences uniquely throughout the '70s and early '80s. Walter Becker and Donald Fagen consistently collaborated with the world's finest studio musicians, producing albums of perfectionist caliber. Within the realm of Yacht Rock, Peg takes their top spot, ranking just behind What a Fool Believes in the genre. Once again, Michael McDonald provides backing vocals, harmonizing behind Donald Fagen and Paul Griffin. The silky smooth vocals paired with top-notch instrumentals make Peg a standout track. Furthermore, Aja, the album that houses Peg, is one of the most impressive American albums of all time, beyond its Yacht Rock appeal.


3. Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)  - Looking Glass

Released in 1972, the one-hit wonder by Looking Glass, Brandy, established a much bigger name for itself than the band ever managed to achieve on its own. As one of the smoothest and catchiest songs of the ‘70s, Brandy consistently appears on nearly every Yacht Rock, adult contemporary, or easy listening playlist available. The song tells a melancholic tale that is open to interpretation, though it is generally understood to describe an attractive bartender based in Northern New Jersey. Featuring catchy harmonies, clean soft guitar, and subtle horn use, what's not to love about this song?


4. Sailing  - Christopher Cross

If it were up to us at Melophobe, the "Yacht Rock Crown" would go to San Antonio’s own Christopher Cross. Although Cross really shined with just his first two studio albums before his later releases (post-1983) fell into obscurity, his early work still grabs all the attention. From his self-titled debut album, Sailing stands out as a top ten hit that's the epitome of Yacht Rock. Interestingly, the term "yacht rock" itself is often linked right back to this song. His debut album is loaded with iconic tunes in this style, with Sailing rightfully taking its place at the forefront.

5. Escape (The Piña Colada Song) - Rupert Holmes

The second tune in our top ten that found its way onto one of the three Guardians of the Galaxy soundtracks—as well as its original LP release—comes from yacht rock icon Rupert Holmes. Escape (The Piña Colada Song) tells a story that feels more comical today than it might have in the ‘70s, describing a personal ad in search of a like-minded, carefree, fun-loving companion. Beyond the quirky lyrics, the sounds of crashing waves and clean guitars have turned the tune into a timeless earworm, cementing its status as a yacht rock masterpiece long before the term even existed. Guardians of the Galaxy wasn't just a great series for action lovers; who would've guessed its soundtrack would become almost as iconic as the movies themselves?


6. Lowdown - Boz Scaggs

Part of the same studio musician collective that worked with Steely Dan, Boz Scaggs hit major commercial success in 1976 with the release of his richly decorated album Silk Degrees. Boz Scaggs found success as one of the few artists to achieve substantial mainstream success in the jazz rock world aside from Steely Dan, with both artists utilizing many of the same studio musicians. Released from Silk Degrees, the standout yacht rock tune is Lowdown, a tightly produced masterpiece. Similar to Christopher Cross, Boz's peak in the mainstream was relatively brief, with his fame primarily anchored to Silk Degrees and sporadic airplay of his other songs over about a decade.


7. Come and Get Your Love - Redbone

Yet another tune from the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtracks to make our top ten is Come and Get Your Love, released in 1975 by the swamp rock band Redbone. While often labeled as a one-hit-wonder, Redbone actually scored another American top 40 hit in 1971 and enjoyed scattered success in the R&B scene throughout the '70s. Come and Get Your Love has since been celebrated as one of the greatest pop songs of the '70s and also managed to somewhat subtly tap into the disco craze of the era.

8. Margaritaville - Jimmy Buffett

The question of whether Jimmy Buffett fits into the yacht rock category has stirred some debate lately, with the answer remaining somewhat unclear since the term itself is still relatively new. Most agree that Buffett's music is in a category of its own, but there are still those who argue that his unique sound has a place within yacht rock. Regardless, Margaritaville and a few other Buffett tunes are staples on yacht rock radio stations, so we've deemed them eligible. Buffett's music embodies a carefree lifestyle that mirrors the feel and attitude of yacht rock. His iconic song Margaritaville instantly puts listeners in a vacation mindset, a unique characteristic that has garnered it extensive praise and airplay over the years. The passing of Jimmy Buffett, an American legend, touched the hearts of many.


9. Africa - Toto

The first track from the 1980s to make our top ten is Africa from Toto's fourth album, aptly named Toto IV, released in 1982. Africa topped the charts across North America and performed exceptionally well worldwide with its powerful chorus, extensive keyboard usage, and subtle guitar playing. Alongside Rosanna, also from Toto IV, Africa has become a yacht rock staple, but it didn’t stop there—it transcended the genre to become one of the most iconic songs of the '80s. Today, it's still adored, nearing two billion streams on Spotify. The song has also become a favorite for covers, from bar bands to top-notch acts like Weezer.


10. Baby Come Back - Player

Player carved out a slice of mainstream success in the late '70s, as soft rock began to resonate with those not taken by styles like punk rock and disco. Their biggest hit by far was the North American chart-topper Baby Come Back. Aside from being a soft rock staple, the song has also gained a new life as a meme across the internet. While yacht rock songs typically shy away from overly heartfelt or emotional lyrics, focusing more on the groove, Baby Come Back manages to do both masterfully. The song blends notable emotional depth with an undeniably groovy beat, making it incredibly memorable—so much so that it's recognized by just about every American

11. Just the Two of Us - Grover Washington Jr, Bill Withers

12. Southern Cross - Crosby, Stills & Nash

13. Take it Easy - Eagles

14. Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do) - Christopher Cross

15. Year of the Cat - Al Stewart

16. Hey Nineteen - Steely Dan

17. Still the One - Orleans

18. Sharing the Night Together - Dr. Hook

19. Sister Golden Hair - America

20. Dreams - Fleetwood Mac

21. Summer Breeze - Seals & Croft

22. Guitar Man - Bread

23. Thunder Island - Jay Ferguson

24. Lido Shuffle - Boz Scaggs

25. Give Me the Night - George Benson

26. How Much I Feel - Ambrosia

27. Reminiscing - Little River Band

28. Doctor My Eyes - Jackson Browne

29. Sara Smile - Hall & Oates

30. Rosanna - Toto

31. All Night Long (All Night) - Lionel Richie

32. I.G.Y. - Donald Fagan

33. Minute By Minute - The Doobie Brothers

34. If You Leave Me Now - Chicago

35. Time Out of Mind - Steely Dan

36. Kokomo - The Beach Boys

37. Eye in the Sky - Alan Parsons Project

38. Sentimental Lady - Bob Welch

39. Rich Girl - Hall & Oates

40. What You Won't Do for Love - Bobby Caldwell

41. Ride Like the Wind - Christopher Cross

42. I'd Really Love to See You Tonight - England Dan & John Ford Coley

43. Lovely Day - Bill Withers

44. Graceland - Paul Simon

45. Changes In Latitudes, Changes In Attitudes - Jimmy Buffett

46. Time Passages - Al Stewart

47. One of These Nights - Eagles

48. She's Gone - Hall & Oates

49. Silly Love Songs - Wings

50. Hold On - Santana

51. Steal Away - Robbie Dupree

52. Dance With Me - Orleans

53. Listen to the Music - The Doobie Brothers

54. How Long - Ace

55. So Into You - Atlanta Rhythm Section

56. Diamond Girl - Seals & Croft

57. Lotta Love - Nicolette Larson

58. We Just Disagree - Dave Mason

59. Mexico - James Taylor

60. Keep on Loving You - REO Speedwagon

61. Baker Street - Gerry Rafferty

62. Tender is the Night - Jackson Browne

63. Love Will Find a Way - Pablo Cruise

64. You Can Do Magic - America

65. Key Largo - Bertie Higgins

66. When You're In Love With a Beautiful Woman - Dr. Hook

67. Dirty Work - Steely Dan

68. All Out of Love - Air Supply

69. I Saw the Light - Todd Rundgren

70. Let Me Love You Tonight - Pure Prairie League

71. I Love You - Climax Blues Band

72. I Keep Forgettin' (Every Time You're Near) - Michael McDonald

73. This is It - Kenny Loggins

74. The Things We Do For Love - 10cc

75. Say You Love Me - Fleetwood Mac

76. Biggest Part of Me - Ambrosia

77. You're the Inspiration - Chicago

78. Dream Weaver - Gary Wright

79. Longer - Dan Fogelberg

80. You Are - Lionel Richie

81. Just a Song Before I Go - Crosby, Stills & Nash

82. Right Down the Line - Gerry Rafferty

83. New Frontier - Donald Fagan

84. I Love a Rainy Night - Eddie Rabbitt

85. Cool Night - Paul Davis

86. Get Down On It - Kool & The Gang

87. It's Raining Again - Supertramp

88. Vincent - Don McLean

89. Crazy Love - Poco

90. Spooky - Atlanta Rhythm Section

91. Vienna - Billy Joel

92. Cool Cat - Queen

93. Nothing's Gonna Change My Love For You - George Benson

94. Hypnotized - Bob Welch (Also Released by Fleetwood Mac)

95. Casablanca - Bertie Higgins

96. Think of Laura - Christopher Cross

97. Fooled Around and Fell in Love - Elvin Bishop

98. Private Eyes - Hall & Oates

99. Lonesome Loser - Little River Band

100. Moonlight Feels Right - Starbuck


All of the picks from this list have been compiled into a streamable Spotify Playlist below entitled Yacht Rock Top 100.


Comments


2000's alternative & indie rock playlist cover 2.JPEG
bottom of page