Yacht Rock Favorites: Volume 3 Songbook

Sail away with the Yacht Rock Favorites: Volume 3 songbook featuring ten ultra-smooth soft rock hits from the 1970s and 80s like "Just the Two of Us," "Smooth Operator," "You Are the Woman," and "Biggest Part of Me." These piano solo arrangements by Jennifer Eklund are appropriate for intermediates and up.

This post is part four of the Yacht Rock Favorites Songbook Series.
Yacht Rock Favorites: Volume 3 Songbook

🛥️ What is Yacht Rock?

“Yacht Rock” wasn’t a thing when the music it describes was popular between 1975 and 1984. Imagine smooth tunes enjoyed by fancy yacht owners-that’s it. The term was cooked up in 2005 by J. D. Ryznar and his pals in a years-long online video series called “Yacht Rock.” Initially kind of an insult, it playfully referred to yuppie yachties grooving to mellow music at sea, often with lyrics about the ocean. Think Christopher Cross’s “Sailing” (1979). The genre got teased for being cheesy, but that’s less of a thing nowadays.

A music guru named Matt Colier defined yacht rock in 2014 with some cool rules: keep it smooth, catchy, and light even when it gets sad. Journalist Katie Puckrik added that yacht rock takes you on an aspirational escape, like in Cross’s “Ride Like the Wind” (1979).

The origins of the genre are often traced back to the Beach Boys as their vibes were “scavenged” by folks like Rupert Holmes. The 1970s were kind of a separate bubble from politics, and yacht rock captures that personal escape vibe, all boosted by F.M. radio. Popular yacht rockers included Michael McDonald, Kenny Loggins, Steely Dan, and Toto. So, picture breezy tunes, good times, and the open sea. The most important criteria? It has to be smoooooooooth (oh, and there’s a high probability you’ll hear the velvety vocals of Michael McDonald somewhere in the mix)!

There’s a lot of disagreement about which groups, artists, and songs actually belong to the genre because the definition is quite liquid (all pun intended). For my intents and purposes, I have included songs I’ve heard on the SiriusXM Yacht Rock station (channel 311).

🎶 Yacht Rock Favorites: Volume 3 Songbook

The following songs are included in the Yacht Rock Favorites: Volume 3 songbook. These are all available as separate singles, but you get the most value by purchasing the whole collection. All of these arrangements are appropriate for intermediates and up.

  1. Biggest Part of Me (Ambrosia)
  2. Any Major Dude Will Tell You (Steely Dan)
  3. Every Time You Go Away (Paul Young/Hall & Oates)
  4. Just the Two of Us (Grover Washington, Jr. & Bill Withers)
  5. Make It With You (Bread)
  6. Smooth Operator (Sade)
  7. So Far Away (Carole King)
  8. Year of the Cat (Al Stewart)
  9. You Are the Woman (Firefall)
  10. You Can Do Magic (America)

🎹 Watch a performance of the entire volume:

Let’s dive deeper with some more details about a few of my personal favorites from Yacht Rock Favorites: Volume 3!

“Smooth Operator” (Sade)

The ultra-smoothness of this 1984 hit earns it a spot on the boat!

“Smooth Operator” is a cool song by the English band Sade from their first album “Diamond Life” in 1984. It’s all about a smooth-talking guy who’s a bit of a trickster and knows how to charm his way into fancy circles. He’s a ladies’ man but not exactly the nicest dude. The song talks about his travels across the country, doing his thing and using women to make money. The video shows this guy doing some shady stuff and cheating on Sade with a waitress. But Sade ends up teaming up with the police to catch him in the act, and he meets a grim fate. The song is known for Sade’s cool spoken part at the beginning. It did really well, topping the charts and making Sade famous, especially in the US where it hit the top 10. Critics love how the song captures a suave lifestyle, even if the guy in the song is not the nicest character.

“Everytime You Go Away” (Paul Young version)

A video that seems to mostly celebrate his own stardom, but a great song nonetheless!

“Everytime You Go Away” is a song originally written by Daryl Hall. It was recorded by Hall & Oates in 1980 for their album “Voices,” but it wasn’t released as a single. However, a cover version by Paul Young in 1985 became a big hit, reaching No. 1 in the US and No. 4 in the UK.

In the Hall & Oates version, the song appeared on their album “Voices” and was also included in their 1985 concert album “Live at the Apollo.” The lineup included Daryl Hall on lead vocals and synthesizers, John Oates on backing vocals and guitars, and other musicians on bass, drums, and saxophone.

Paul Young’s version, recorded for his album “The Secret of Association” in 1985, had a unique sound with echoed piano, synthesizers, and distinctive instruments like fretless bass and electric sitar. His cover reached No. 4 on the UK Singles Chart and topped the Billboard Hot 100 in the US. It was a highlight of his Live Aid performance and earned him a Brit Award for British Video of the Year in 1986.

“Biggest Part of Me” (Ambrosia)

A remastered live performance from an episode of “Midnight Special” in 1980 (holy hair!):

“Biggest Part of Me” is a popular song by the American rock band Ambrosia. Released in 1980 as a single from their album “One Eighty,” the song became one of the band’s biggest hits and remains one of their most recognizable tracks.

Written by band member David Pack, it showcases Ambrosia’s blend of rock, pop, and progressive elements with its smooth melodies and lush harmonies.The song was a commercial success, peaking at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the United States in 1980. It also reached No. 1 on the Adult Contemporary chart, where it stayed for three weeks.

“Biggest Part of Me” is known for its soulful and heartfelt lyrics, accompanied by a soft rock arrangement with elements of yacht rock, a genre characterized by smooth melodies and laid-back instrumentation.

🌊 Ready to set sail with more great Yacht Rock?

👋 Did I miss one of your favorites? I’m always open to requests so drop me a comment!

Jennifer Eklund
Written by Jennifer Eklund
Jennifer Eklund holds a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in music from California State University, Long Beach. She is an avid arranger, composer, and author of the Piano Pronto® method books series as well as a wide variety of supplemental songbooks. She is also a Signature Artist with Musicnotes.com with a large catalog of popular music titles for musicians of all levels.


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