When nature calls we must tend to its needs. Since the beginning of times, generation after generation, people gathered around campfires, everyone holding his or her important role. There’s the cook, the joker, and not least of them all, the musician. If you are in search of that perfect song that matches the ambiance of a beautiful night under the stars, this list should help. Any beginner or professional guitarist can dive in to learn some of the top campfires songs and show up to play the musician role with pride amongst their community.
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No matter what song you choose out of the bunch, the evenings you will share with your friends will be magical in every way, complete with singalongs, humming, clapping, and body rocking. Here is the list of the top 20 songs along with a brief anecdote about each to inspire your next campfire plans. Reorder to your ear’s delight, each song is its own special key to a memorable communal moment.
“Staring at the fire for hours and hours while I listen to you play your love songs all night long for me, only for me”. It seems this song was written specifically for a campfire atmosphere. Actually it tells the story of living a domestic life. To write the lyrics, Graham Nash was inspired by his time living with Joni Mitchell in LA. Thanks to the slow pace of the singing, it is quite easy to endeavor as a campfire chorus. When you listen to the track, the piano is an overarching component instrument. However, a simple guitar will sound just as smashing.
"Don't worry 'bout a thing, 'cause every little thing is gonna be alright" as Bob Marley once sang. He said he heard birds chirp these words around him during his time in Jamaica. From the album Exodus, this uplifting tune is a quite recognizable song in the 2007 movie I Am a Legend when Will Smith sang it off and on. Just as Marley got inspired by his surroundings, your rendering can be inspired by nature and the people around you.
As fine and original as the flute solo may be, the background guitar strikes a bigger impact. The couple, John and Michelle Philips, wrote the lyrics in 1963 during their stay in New York. They were originally only the backup vocals for the song but the single they released as lead singers, later on, was the best-known version. Its popularity took off after it played on the radio. As the title suggests, this song added another entry to the list of California storytelling. California Dreaming was certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America and then listed in the top 500 Greatest Songs of All-time by the Rolling Stones. Its nostalgic and distinctive melody felt like a new genre of music, which in many ways continues to provide a unique sensation today.
Green Day, one of the greatest bands of the 1990s, continues to enrich our musical ears with fabulous records still today. Their tracks will make you sing like there is no tomorrow, whether for stress release or a joyride. Good Riddance may not be as familiar as many others on this list but deservedly holds its spot as a piece of true musical art. This title sold over 2.6 million copies in the US alone, a must-listen, must-sing, must-play, must-repeat.
“This song put me in the middle of the road. Traveling there soon became a bore so I headed for the ditch. A rougher ride but I saw more interesting people there.” said Neil young in 1977. The story of a man who wanted to find a new crowd to surround himself with. A tranquil tune, Heart of Gold has the virtue of instilling a sense of peacefulness in the air. Use you pick “a la Young” and go find your heart of gold.
One listen of the song is enough to make you realize the skill Tom Petty has in stock. Free Falling reached 7th on the Top 100 billboard in 1989 an enviable position for any guitarist. The lyrics follow a common thread of the times, inspiration from the American landscape. For Petty, it was Ventura Boulevard. This hit song retained its fame thanks to several movies and series placements including The Sopranos and Jerry Maguire. Whether the song makes you reminisce scenes from those movies, or make you dream of hitting a Southern California boulevard, the strangely gorgeous sound of the guitar will set a groovy and heartwarming vibe within and all around you.
Not your typical or top of mind singalong but worth the detour. Recorded on a rainy Tuesday night, Wonderwall was a Brit-pop for the books. With an opening solo that is quasi-hypnotic, it was despised by its lead singer. Noel Gallagher hated the song as much as one hates an unreachable back itch. Similar to Kurt Cobain with Smells Like Teen Spirit, Gallagher hated the song’s popularity. Regardless, WonderWall will take your crowds on a listening session they will not forget. Both a delight for the listeners and the guitarist.
Jack Johnson, just like the Beatles, has some of the most amazing guitar solos and songs of his time. This singer made this campfire guitar songs’ list twice. Johnson said of Better Together, “It's been around for a little while. I had the first verse, and I was always tooling around with that. And then the second verse came along later […] It was really just a song that I wrote for my wife. The love songs always start out for her, but then I try to make them pretty broad so they're for everybody by the end." A truly moving gift to her and to the rest of us.
At first Neil Diamond said that the songs derived its inspiration from his second wife Marcia Murphey but then revealed the truth. The song is inspired by and dedicated to the young daughter of John F. Kennedy, Caroline Kennedy. He speaks of a time when he saw a photo of Caroline in 1960, put pen to paper, and wrote the song, Sweet Caroline.“I think there's a little bit of God in that song. I always have felt that” he would say. Neil Diamond brings in this song a very rhythmic movement and easy lyrics which are an ideal combination for group singing. Take your acoustic guitar and these music sheets with you on your next outdoor group adventures.
Just like the Everly Brothers sang, “Drea-ea-ea-ea-eam, dream, dream, dream”, go ahead and take your listeners on an evening dreamy ballad. The Everly Brothers’ 90s hit song is a staple for gatherings under the stars. Despite the short amount of time it took to write this song, it hit the charts like a burst of flames. So sit back, pick up your guitar, and sing Boudleaux Bryant’s All I Have To Do Is Dream. If you are lucky enough to be surrounded by good singers, challenge yourselves to a canon version.
A song that pleased the fans more than it did its creator. Van Morrison made this song to celebrate and promote the liberty of interracial relationships, however, he never thought it wasn’t his best song. Shortly after it’s release in 1967, Brown Eyed Girl thrived during the “Summer love” in the US. It’s one of those songs that simply cannot be overplayed. No hesitation to include on the campfire playlist. If it seems foreign at the start, as soon as the audience hears, “sha la la la la ti da” it will take a delightful life of its own.
We all heard of this one somewhere. You may be roasting marshmallows, it might be midnight, but the House of the Rising Sun will bring the sunrise front and center. Animals, a band of the 1960s, gives us an oldie but goodie that still runs shivers down your spine 60 years later. No more than two or three notes are needed to recognize this song and start the chorus. A great classic song to play with friends or family on the acoustic guitar.
This singalong is a catchy one. It tells the journey of a young man in search of his lover, a journey of crossroads, unfamiliar territory, and an unknown destination. Pick either a banjo, an acoustic guitar, or even a violin and country-rock your way to some pretty cool campfire musical chillin’. It is atypical.
This song will take you to the heart and soul of West Virginia. The lyrics paint the scenery of beautiful roads that stay engraved in your memory. The slow guitar melody of this country ballad grows on you in unexpected ways. Sang by the great environmentalist, activist, songwriter John Denver in 1971, Take me Home Country Roads has retained its popularity over the decades, and while it seems to be written for the lonely and sentimental musician, it is a fantastic song to sing along.
The most beloved musician of Hawaii, Kamakawiwo'ole was a humble singer who played the ukulele in a band of his friends. Sadly the song’s popularity skyrocketed just as he died at the age of 38 from a respiratory problem, a devastating end for one who loved to sing. He is remembered for his great singing and the inspiration imparted on the people of Hawaii to look deep into their heritage and Mana. Musician Del Beazley once said, “Mana is like an energy that you get. We believe we get ours from the elements first, the Earth, your sky, your ocean, your God, and all that is inside of us. And when we open our mouth to speak, to sing or to play, that's what we let out. But it's that that makes him [Israel] special, because his Mana always came out." As you gather around the campfire under bright moonlight and start humming Somewhere Over The Rainbow, feel your own Mana being brought out from within.
One of the most relevant backstories yet. Jack Johnson wrote this song about his interaction with someone who wanted him to make an appearance on television. Johnson had no interest in talking about himself or what he could become later on. The artist believed in Carpe Diem. He looked to enjoy the current moment. Good People zooms in on the happiness we once knew and now lost from our hypnotic fascination with TV. With the simplest of melodies and meaningful lyrics, this musical beauty attempts to bring out your true self, the pure good self.
It should come to no surprise that the Beatles hit this list more than once. Known for their great singalongs and amazing music, the Beatles held the king’s crown of music in the 90s. Hey Jude, written by Paul McCartney wowed millions of fans for many decades. Just as John Lennon, the lead singer of the Beatles, you may find a strong connection with the meaning of the lyrics and relate some of your own life experiences to the magical words of Hey Jude.
Stand By Me is a slow song by Ben E. King. Its lyrics are so easy to follow along they can be memorized within the first listen. This song is quite versatile. It is often played at school dances and events and is nonetheless a great song for campfires. A list of the best songs wouldn’t be near complete without this hit. Ben E. King’s masterpiece is sure to be fit for your close friends and just might be too inviting for neighboring groups to pass on the opportunity to join in with the singing.
The Beatles, The Fab Four, have written many hit songs including Yellow Submarine, Hey Jude, or All You Need is Love. But none can compare to the transporting harmony of Let It Be. The title alone will make you sing! Long after the killing of John Lennon, the surviving artists continued to play and sing, their own separate ways, the legendary song in honor of their friend, fellow artist, and iconic singer. Be sure to bring a nice acoustic guitar and a large group of friends along for this one. Even in the coldest nights, a Beatles song will warm you up spiritually and physically.
Born in the street of New York, American Pie was written in the 1970s by a young man by the name of Don McLean. A touch of nostalgia for simpler times, filled with memories of apple pies and happy living. Lyrics that give homage to the evolution of music and iconic musician. American Pie tells the story of the large changes in the music industry throughout the 1900s. When playing this song you will move melodiously through times of conflict and change.
If you want to play these songs on the beach, you need an acoustic guitar and maybe a guitar amplifier.
You can learn campfire songs on guitar with our guitar lessons.