Some Can Whistle: A Playlist To Don't Worry, Be Happy
It's often the little things that make our favorite songs our favorites - the curious, unforeseen additions of small touches like an understated bit of whistling. For those who like to categorize their playlists into themes, we present you with the Rocks Off approved Whistle Playlist.
The Scorpions, "Wind of Change":
This 1990 track from Germany's Scorpions oozes "power ballad." Luckily, it was among the last singles from the '80s hair-band movement--though we still hold a nostalgic appreciation for that classically cheesy whistle intro.
The Pogues, "Jesse James":
Though it's nearly drowned out by fiddles and the tin whistle, a short whistling riff can be heard around the 2:30 mark of this track from the Irish rockers' 1985 album Rum Sodomy & the Lash.
The Smiths, "How Soon Is Now?":
Whistling makes its brief appearance in this brooding Smiths classic at the 4:30 mark. Originally the B-side of 1984 single "William, It Was Really Nothing," "Now" reappeared on 1985's Meat Is Murder and became (arguably) the Manchester mopers' best-known song.
A jocular whistle riff opens this 1996 Odelay track.
Built to Spill, "Broken Chairs":
A whistling riff makes an unforeseen entrance in this otherwise gritty rock song from the Idaho band's 1999 album Keep It Like a Secret.
Bobby McFerrin, "Don't Worry, Be Happy":
This lighthearted 1988 single defines music's whistle accompaniment; the song was the first a cappella recording to reach No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Loose Fur, "The Ruling Class":
A bouncy whistle riff carries this merry Born Again in the USA tune, from the side project of Wilco's Jeff Tweedy and Glenn Kotche and collaborator Jim O'Rourke.
Paul Simon, "Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard":
From the singer-songwriter's 1972 self-titled album, the song has appeared on the soundtracks to such films as The Royal Tenenbaums and Real Women Have Curves.
Maria McKee, "If Love Is a Red Dress":
Introduced to us via the Pulp Fiction soundtrack, this haunting country song reels listeners in with its bare-boned vocals and languid whistle riff.
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, "Home":
The Magnetic Zeros' 2009 debut Up From Below contained this masterpiece of a single, which contained a faithful whistle riff, steady tambourine beat, and jangly piano parts.
Bernard Herrmann, "Georgie's Theme":
The famed composer is responsible for gifting us with this whistle-laden, tensely haunting score; it was originally penned for the 1968 psychological thriller Twisted Nerve and reused effectively in Kill Bill Vol. 1's maddening hospital scene in 2003.
Guns N' Roses, "Patience":
Because a whistling list cannot exist without the inclusion of the 1988 G N' R Lies ballad.
Andrew Bird, "A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left":
We had many Andrew Bird tracks from which to choose, as the whistle has become the songster's second trademark instrument after his violin, but we think this Mysterious Production of Eggs tune features the best swooping whistle accompaniment.
Peter, Bjorn & John, "Young Folks":
The 2006 Writer's Block single from the Swedish trio became an overnight sensation, thanks in large part to its flirty duet and infectiously catchy whistle riff. Perhaps the most instantly recognizable bit of pop whistling since "Don't Worry, Be Happy."
The Bangles, "Walk Like an Egyptian":
The Egyptian dance, the playful "oh-ay-oh," and a whistle solo to boot - it's no wonder this 1986 song became such an enormous hit.
The Pixies, "La La Love You":
Frank Black's flirtatious construction-worker whistle helps carry this 1989 Doolittle track.
Otis Redding, "Sittin' On the Dock of the Bay":
A song covered by numerous artists including Cat Power, Bob Dylan and Pearl Jam, it was originally recorded shortly before Redding's death in 1967. "Dock" ultimately became the first posthumous No. 1 single in U.S. chart history, achieving wild success just one month after Redding passed away.
Wilco, "Red-Eyed and Blue":
Jeff Tweedy flexes his whistling skills alongside a tambourine on this understated Being There track.
John Lennon, "Jealous Guy":
Lennon's 30-second whistle solo in this key Imagine track adds to the poignancy of such a candidly moving song. It's no wonder "Jealous Guy" is Lennon's most often-covered song, with nearly 100 recorded versions, including renditions by Roxy Music and Elliott Smith.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.