Yacht Rock Favorites: Volume 4 Songbook

Sail away with the Yacht Rock Favorites: Volume 4 songbook featuring ten ultra-smooth soft rock hits from the 1970s and 80s like "You Make Lovin' Fun," "Sweet Freedom," "I Can't Tell You Why," and "You're No Good." 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 4 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 4 Songbook

The following songs are included in the Yacht Rock Favorites: Volume 4 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. Breezin’ (George Benson)
  2. Human (The Human League)
  3. I Can’t Tell You Why (The Eagles)
  4. Never Be the Same (Christopher Cross)
  5. On and On (Stephen Bishop)
  6. Steal Away (Robbie Dupree)
  7. Sweet Freedom (Michael McDonald)
  8. The Lady in Red (Chris de Burgh)
  9. You Make Lovin’ Fun (Fleetwood Mac)
  10. You’re No Good (Linda Ronstadt)

🎹 Watch a performance of selections from this volume:

Let’s dive deeper with some more details about a few of my personal favorites from Yacht Rock Favorites: Volume 4!

“Sweet Freedom” (Michael McDonald)

He’s the king of smooth, and his voice is prevalent throughout the entire genre.

“Sweet Freedom” is a song by American singer-songwriter Michael McDonald. It was released in 1986 as a single for the soundtrack of the movie “Running Scared,” starring Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines. The song became one of Michael McDonald’s signature hits and is often associated with the mid-1980s pop and soul sound.

“Sweet Freedom” was a commercial success, reaching the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, where it peaked at number 7. It also performed well on various other charts, including the Adult Contemporary and R&B charts.The song is known for its upbeat and catchy melody, as well as its smooth vocal delivery by Michael McDonald. It falls into the pop and blue-eyed soul genres, combining elements of pop, soul, and R&B music.

Michael McDonald’s unique vocal style, which combines elements of soul, R&B, and pop, played a significant role in the song’s popularity. He had previously been a member of the bands Steely Dan and The Doobie Brothers before launching a successful solo career. “Sweet Freedom” is often remembered as a standout track in his discography.

“On and On” (Stephen Bishop)

Admittedly, I’ve only heard this song roll around on Yacht Rock radio a couple times, but it deserves a spot on the boat. It’s just a beautiful song!

“On and On” is a song by American singer-songwriter Stephen Bishop. It was released in 1977 as a single from his debut album, “Careless.” The song became one of Bishop’s most well-known and enduring hits, and it remains a popular soft rock classic. It was a commercial success, reaching the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, where it peaked at number 11. It also performed well on the Adult Contemporary chart, where it reached the number 2 position.

The lyrics of “On and On” reflect on the cyclical nature of life, love, and relationships. The song’s narrator contemplates the ups and downs of romantic connections and acknowledges the impermanence of certain moments, all while maintaining a somewhat bittersweet and resigned perspective.

“On and On” is considered one of Stephen Bishop’s signature songs and is often cited as an example of the singer-songwriter’s ability to craft heartfelt and emotionally resonant music. It remains a favorite among fans of soft rock and easy-listening music.

“You’re No Good” (Linda Ronstadt)

A live performance from The Midnight Special on December 21, 1973:

“You’re No Good” is a song originally written by Clint Ballard Jr. It became a massive hit for American singer Linda Ronstadt in 1975. It’s one of Ronstadt’s most recognizable songs and is considered a classic in the pop and rock genres.

The song was originally recorded by Dee Dee Warwick in 1963 and released as a single. While the original version received some attention, it was Linda Ronstadt’s rendition that brought the song to new heights of popularity.

Linda Ronstadt released her version of “You’re No Good” as the lead single from her album “Heart Like a Wheel” in 1974. Her version showcases her powerful vocals and the song’s fusion of rock and pop elements.

Linda Ronstadt’s cover of “You’re No Good” was a massive hit, reaching the number 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in February 1975. It remained on the charts for several weeks and helped elevate Ronstadt’s career to new levels of success. It was nominated for a Grammy Award for Record of the Year in 1976.

“Breezin’” (George Benson)

Grab a fizzy drink and chill out with this live performance from 1977 on “The Old Grey Whistle Test”:

“Breezin’” is the title track of the album “Breezin’” by American guitarist and singer George Benson, released in 1976. The song is a smooth jazz instrumental piece that has become one of Benson’s most iconic and recognizable tracks. It played a significant role in popularizing the smooth jazz genre and remains a staple in his repertoire.

“Breezin’” was composed by veteran singer-songwriter Bobby Womack. The track is characterized by its laid-back and breezy vibe, which perfectly captures the essence of its title. The song features George Benson’s melodic and soulful guitar work, combining jazz improvisation with accessible and soothing melodies.

The song showcases Benson’s exceptional guitar skills, emphasizing his ability to blend technical proficiency with emotive phrasing. His guitar playing on “Breezin’” is smooth, fluid, and showcases a balance between intricate solos and understated, yet engaging, chord progressions.

The instrumental track “Breezin’” became one of George Benson’s signature songs and played a crucial role in making the “Breezin’” album a commercial success. The song reached the top of the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart and became a hit on jazz and R&B charts as well.

“Breezin’” is often cited as a seminal track in the development of the smooth jazz genre. Its accessible and laid-back sound helped bridge the gap between traditional jazz and more contemporary styles, appealing to a wide range of listeners. The track won the Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance in 1977. This recognition further solidified the song’s importance in the world of music.

🌊 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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