Top 10 Classic Rock Whistling Songs

lassic Rock Whistling Songs

Feature Photo: 360b / Shutterstock.com

Did you know that whistling is good for you? According to research, whistling helps the brain under stress to simply relax. Instead of thinking about problems, the mind is diverted to letting out a tune that can also calm the soul down. According to personal experience and observation, folks who whistle often for apparently no reason at all tend to be happier people. Even some that were facing extreme adversities at the time were whistling as if they were no big deal.

Some of the coolest rock songs have been known to have some whistling involved. Isn’t it amazing how lips and lungs can so easily serve as musical instruments? Don’t take my word for it. Take the list of ten classic rock songs and listen for yourself.

Top 10 Classic Rock Whistling Songs

#10 – Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard (performed by Paul Simon)

“Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard” was a song written and recorded in 1972 by Paul Simon. Released from his self-titled studio album, this single became a number twenty-two hit on the US Billboard Hot 100. It was also at least a top twenty hit among the nations of Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, and the U.K.

When this song was first released, it was assumed it was about two boys who broke the law. It wound up becoming a source of debate until Simon pointed out that the subject behind the song focused more on something sexual. It had nothing to do with committing a criminal offense. In fact, the lyrics mentioned a possible love interest named Rosie. This was designed as a subtle tune about kids in school, that’s it. The whistle featured in the bridge of “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard” simply added to the innocence behind a song that became an easy-listening favorite.

In 1988, a music video for the song was released as he promoted his compilation album, Negotiations and Love Songs. Filmed at a park in Forest Hill Queens, this was the neighborhood Simon grew up in. This is also where he met fellow high school student, Art Garfunkel. The children featured in the video came from that same school. Upon the video’s intro, Big daddy Kane and Biz Markie were the hip-hop duo that also happened to be label mates with Simon while he was still signed with Warner Bros. Records.

#9 – Sisyphus (performed by Andrew Bird)

“Sisyphus” began with a distinct whistling performance before Andrew Bird’s classic rock tune about the founder and king of Ephyra. Now known as Corinth, the tale about King Sisyphus suggested he was punished by the Greek god, Hades, for cheating death twice. In the music video, Bird demonstrated this as a man wearing a boulder on his head as he had to climb his way to the top of a mountain. Each time he neared the top, he was forced to roll back down. This eternal suffering became a big part of modern culture’s take on tasks people carry out that seem to have the same effect.

In the album, My Finest Work Yet, independent rock musician Andrew Bird’s “Sisyphus” used the whistling as a great addition to a tune that looked upon mankind’s eternal cycle of pain and suffering, a condition they tend to burden themselves like a bad habit.

#8 – The Stranger (performed by Billy Joel)

“The Stranger” was the title track from Billy Joel’s album, which was released in 1977. When it was released as a single in Japan it became a number two hit on its Oricon chart and nearly sold half a million copies. The start of this song began with a quiet melody that was played on the piano, along with a whistle by Joel and his band. This was how the song ended as well. Originally, he wanted to use a wind instrument but after whistling a demonstration, it was agreed to stick to the whistle.

On several occasions, “The Stranger” was sampled by several recording artists, mainly in hip-hop. For Joel, the inspiration for “The Stranger” came from Carl Jung’s “The Shadow.” The psychological approach of these two titles came from the point of view of an alter ego that behaves like a person’s blindspot, behaving like a strange shadow that follows us everywhere we go.

Although this song wasn’t officially released as a single in North America, it still became a favorite among Billy Joel fans who recognize excellent songwriting when they hear it.

 

#7 – Golden Years (performed by David Bowie)

Released in 1975, “Golden Years” was the lead single from David Bowie’s tenth studio album, Station to Station. As a song, this was disco and funk jiving together as a tune that borrowed elements from several doo-wop songs that dominated the 1950s.

The start featured the snapping of fingers before Bowie’s lyrical performance dance its way through the song. The trademark shift from his baritone croon to a falsetto was at its best in “Golden Years.” The whistling near the end was a great way to finish off a song that deservedly earned its place as a cult classic.

On the US Billboard Hot 100, “Golden Years” peaked at number ten. On the UK Singles Chart, it became a number eight hit. Globally, it was at least a top twenty favorite among the nations of Belgium, Canada, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and Sweden.

#6 – Games Without Frontiers (performed by Peter Gabriel)

Released in 1980, “Games Without Frontiers” was a song released by Peter Gabriel that featured the backing vocals of Kate Bush. This hit came from his self-titled solo album as he made a lyrical commentary about war and conflict being treated like they were games played by children. In the song, there wasn’t just the occasional whistle that added even more drama, but the actual mention of whistling as part of a game too many world leaders like to play.

“Games Without Frontiers” was an anti-war song that featured a music video showing clips of Olympic events, as well as scenes of a cartoon turtle showing American schoolchildren what to do should a nuclear attack occur. This highly graphic music video, along with a rather eerie song to go with it, has been a solid favorite among fans who also happen to share Gabriel’s point of view when it comes to politically-fueled entanglements. In 2004, there was another music video was created for this song.

“Games Without Frontiers” was the first of Peter Gabriel’s songs to reach the top ten in the United Kingdom as it peaked at number four. In Canada, it was a number seven hit on its Top Singles Chart while on the US Billboard Hot 100 it peaked as high as number forty-eight.

#5 – Centerfold (performed by J. Geils Band)

Released in 1981, “Centerfold” became the most successful single from the album, Freeze Frame, as well as the J. Geils Band’s career. On the US Billboard Hot 100, it climbed straight to number one and stayed there for six weeks. The song was about a man’s shocking discovery of a high school crush appearing as a centerfold model in a men’s magazine. As a man dealing with disappointment and lust at the same time, this also became a number-one hit in Australia and Canada.

On the UK Singles Chart, it peaked as high as number three. It was also a top ten hit among the nations of Belgium, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, and Switzerland. In Australia, “Centerfold” also became certified gold after selling over fifty thousand copies in that nation alone. As a music video, “Centerfold” became a staple after it was first aired on MTV.

So where is the whistle? It’s at the tail end of the song as the music fades, giving way to the collection of lips to finish it off.

#4 – Patience (performed by Guns N’ Roses)

In 1988, G N’ R Lies released the single, “Patience.” For Guns N’ Roses, this ballad became one of the band’s biggest hits. The inspiration behind the song came from memories of a troubled relationship. As Axl Rose came up with the lyrics, the song’s melody and the starting whistling became some of its best highlights. If anyone is looking for a good apology song in an attempt to fix the wrongs, “Patience” is definitely it. The whistle at the start already defined this song as a cult classic. The short whistle at the end gave a perfect finishing touch. In between, Rose was at his best as a vocalist.

On the US Billboard Hot 100, “Patience” became a number four hit. Globally, it was at least a top-ten hit among the nations of Belgium, Canada, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and the U.K. With the Recording Industry Association of America, “Patience” was certified gold. This was also the case with the Australian Recording Industry Association. The British Phonographic Industry certified it silver.

#3 – (Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay (performed by Otis Redding)

Where would classic rock be without Otis Redding? “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay was recorded just three days before his death when his plane crashed on December 10, 1967. The world was robbed of a talent that played an instrumental role that would pave the way for rock and roll to become what we recognize today.

Released in 1968 by Stax Records, it became a number-one hit on the US Billboard Hot 100 and the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles chart. Globally, it was a number three hit on the UK Singles Chart, as well as in New Zealand and South Africa. It was certified platinum three times by the Recording Industry Association of America, and twice by the British Phonographic Industry. It was also certified gold by Italy’s Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana.

The whistling heard in the song and the crashing of waves against the shore added even more depth to Redding’s performance. Both the man and the song are legendary. “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” became a haunting favorite as fans of Otis Redding who know a thing or two about the man knew him to be an R&B icon that dominated soul music charts clean through the sixties.

#2 – Walk Like an Egyptian (performed by The Bangles)

“Walk Like an Egyptian” became more than a hit song after it was released in 1986. From the Bangles’ album, Different Light, this single peaked at the top of the US Billboard Hot 100, as well as on the music charts belonging to Australia, Belgium, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, South Africa, and Spain. With the Recording Industry Association of America and Music Canada, “Walk Like an Egyptian” was certified gold. In the Netherlands, it was certified platinum and with the British Phonographic Industry, it was certified silver.

“Walk Like an Egyptian” became a cult classic due to its culturally themed music style. The catchy lyrics, plus the whistling, the drum machine, and the tambourine gave this song a unique flavor that easily won over a global audience who couldn’t get enough. Even today, this remains an incredibly popular song that continues to rev up the dance floor with a bunch of wannabe Egyptians who can’t seem to help themselves.

The inspiration behind this song came to songwriter Liam Sternberg as he was crossing the English Channel by ferry. When it hit some rough water, the passengers adopted a walking style just to maintain their balance. This caused Sternberg to think about the ancient tomb paintings that became such a big part of ancient Egyptian culture.

#1 – Wind of Change (performed by Scorpions)

Recorded and released from Crazy World in 1990, “Wind of Change” was a power ballad that became the biggest hit for the West German rock band, Scorpions. The inspiration for this song came after the band’s lead singer, Klaus Meine, visited the Soviet Union during the height of a communist political movement that subsided concurrently with capitalists. There was a large socioeconomic reform that was taking place in the nation at that time. The Soviets were in the middle of a tremendous transition, giving Meine material to use in what became the group’s most successful song in their career.

When it was released as a single in 1991, “Wind of Change” became a worldwide hit. Interestingly enough, the Soviet Union’s reign came to an end and Russia embarked on a new road as a nation. Not only did “Wind of Change” become a number one hit in Germany and its European neighbors, it also became a number two hit on the UK Singles Chart and a number four hit on the US Billboard Hot 100.

With over fourteen million copies of this single sold worldwide, it became one of the best-selling singles of all time. It was certified gold among the nations of Australia, Denmark, France, Russia, and the United States. In Austria, Germany, and Italy it became certified platinum. The British Phonographic Industry certified “Wind of Change” as silver.

The whistling began at the start of the song before Meine sang about Russia and the major changes that would dictate the direction of a nation that’s still undergoing issues that keep the world on its toes. It was also heard again at the end for the beautiful closer it was designed to be.

Readers Picks

From Paul

“Sail Away” – David Gray

From Robert P

“The Whistling Song” –  The Meat Puppets

From Michael C

“Hocus Pocus” – Focus

Top 10 Classic Rock Whistling Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022

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