Yacht Rock Favorites: Volume 8 Songbook

Sail away with the Yacht Rock Favorites: Volume 8 songbook featuring ten ultra-smooth soft rock hits from the 1970s and 80s like "Caribbean Queen," "Leather and Lace," "Steppin' Out," and "Ride Like the Wind." These piano solo arrangements by Jennifer Eklund are appropriate for intermediates and up.

This post is part nine of the Yacht Rock Favorites Songbook Series.
Yacht Rock Favorites: Volume 8 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 8 Songbook

The following songs are included in the Yacht Rock Favorites: Volume 8 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. 99 (Toto)
  2. Caribbean Queen (Billy Ocean)
  3. Him (Rupert Holmes)
  4. If You Leave Me Now (Chicago/Peter Cetera)
  5. Into the Night (Benny Mardones)
  6. Leather and Lace (Stevie Nicks & Don Henley)
  7. Ride Like the Wind (Christopher Cross)
  8. Sara (Starship)
  9. Steppin’ Out (Joe Jackson)
  10. These Dreams (Heart)

🎹 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 8!

“Him” (Rupert Holmes)

I have a theory that this song is part of an unnamed trilogy of related tunes about the same relationship. The first would be “Answering Machine” which describes the path to marriage in the relationship. “Him” obviously describes trouble in paradise. Finally, the trilogy is capped off with “Escape (The Piña Colada Song) as the couple drifts apart looking for new mates, but in a happy-ending scenario end up back together. Do you subscribe to my theory?

“Him” is a song by British-American musician, singer, and songwriter Rupert Holmes, and is featured on his album “Partners in Crime” from January of 1980. It became the second single from the album and reached number six on the US Billboard Hot 100 on March 29, 1980, remaining there for two weeks. The song also performed well on the Adult Contemporary charts, reaching number four in both the US and Canada.

Originally, Holmes had intended “Him” to be the lead single from the album, but due to the unexpected success of “Escape (The Piña Colada Song),” which he hadn’t anticipated to be a hit, “Him” was released as a follow-up single and also became a hit.

The song’s perspective is that of a man who discovers cigarettes that don’t belong to him and suspects his partner of cheating. He plans to confront her and give her an ultimatum: “It’s me or it’s him.” The song’s midsection features a melodic and wordless chorus that’s reminiscent of the sunny pop sound of groups like The Beach Boys and The Association. This part contrasts with the main narrative of the song.

Overall, “Him” is a narrative-driven pop song with an intriguing storyline and catchy melodies that contributed to its success on the charts.

“Steppin’ Out” (Joe Jackson)

It’s a Neil Young tune originally, but it’s her version that made it big and landed her a spot on the boat.

“Steppin’ Out” is a song by English musician Joe Jackson, originally featured on his 1982 album “Night and Day.” Inspired by his experiences in New York City, the song captures the excitement and anticipation of a drive around the town. It became Joe Jackson’s highest-charting single in both the United States and the UK.

Released as a single in August 1982, “Steppin’ Out” achieved significant success on the charts. In the United States, it peaked at number 6 on the Billboard Hot 100, remaining in that position for four consecutive weeks from December 11, 1982, to January 1, 1983. The song also reached number 4 on Billboard’s Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks chart and number 7 on the Album Rock Tracks chart.

In the UK, the song reached number 6 on the Singles Chart in December 1982, becoming Jackson’s second biggest hit there after “It’s Different for Girls,” which reached number 5 in 1980. During a 2019 tour, Jackson revealed that he played nearly all the instruments on “Steppin’ Out,” with session drummer Larry Tolfree adding some real drum elements.

The music video for the song, directed by Steve Barron, depicts a hotel maid daydreaming about being a Cinderella figure. Filmed at the St. Regis Hotel in New York City, the video showcases the city’s nightlife and atmosphere. Despite the video’s success, Jackson expressed reservations about music videos and MTV’s influence on the music industry, perceiving them as contributing to the commercialization of rock music.

“Sara” (Starship)

A pretty swanky video:

“Sara” is a song by the American rock band Starship, reaching number-one on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart on March 15, 1986. Sung by Mickey Thomas, the lead vocalist of the newly renamed band Starship, the track comes from their debut album “Knee Deep in the Hoopla,” with backing vocals by Grace Slick.

The song achieved significant success, becoming one of the best-selling singles of 1986 in North America. It marked Starship’s second number-one hit, following “We Built This City,” which had reached number one a few months earlier in 1985. “Sara” also became the band’s first number-one song on the adult contemporary chart, maintaining that position for three weeks. Interestingly, although written by Peter and Ina Wolf, the song was named after Mickey Thomas’s wife at the time, Sara Kendrick.

Critics praised the song for its melodic ballad with a rock edge, highlighted by Mickey Thomas’s captivating vocals and an ethereal chorus accompanied by subtle guitars.

The song’s music video tells a story of a relationship’s end and features Mickey Thomas alongside actress Rebecca De Mornay, portraying the titular character “Sara.” Set on a Dust Bowl farm in the Midwest, the video incorporates flashbacks to the protagonist’s childhood, including memories of a tornado that took his mother’s life. The video ends with Thomas walking down a dirt road as Sara drives away, with the implication of another dust storm approaching. The flashback scenes were set in the 1950s and directed by Francis Delia.

“Ride Like the Wind” (Christopher Cross)

We have reached the end of this article series, so it feels apropos to end with Christopher Cross (which is where we started 7 volumes ago with “Sailing”). Who knows maybe there will be more volumes in the future!

“Ride Like the Wind” was released as the lead single from his self-titled debut album “Christopher Cross” in 1980. The song became one of Cross’s biggest hits and is considered a classic of yacht rock, a genre characterized by smooth, mellow, and often nautical-themed music.

Released in February 1980 it reached number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the United States, held back from the top spot by Blondie’s “Call Me.” Despite not reaching number one, the song is still one of Cross’s most recognizable and enduring hits.

“Ride Like the Wind” features a soft rock sound with elements of yacht rock and pop. It has a catchy melody, smooth vocals by Christopher Cross, and a driving rhythm. Lyrically, the song tells the story of a fugitive on the run, determined to escape his past and the authorities chasing him. The chorus, “I wanna ride like the wind,” reflects the protagonist’s determination to evade capture and keep moving forward.

Cross won the Grammy Award for Best New Artist in 1981, and his debut album also won several other Grammy Awards that year. This song’s success helped establish Cross as a prominent artist in the late 1970s and early 1980s music scene.

“Ride Like the Wind” is often associated with the yacht rock genre, which features smooth, polished sounds that are ideal for leisurely boating and coastal cruising. The song’s nautical themes and overall laid-back feel make it a quintessential example of this genre.

🌊 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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