Camping out and having a traditional campfire, maybe with some sausages or burgers cooking, can be great fun. It does depend a little bit on where you live, of course. A night under the stars with the campfire roaring is good if the weather is fine. Not so funny if you are suddenly deluged and have to run for cover.
I am going to assume that the weather will be kind or that you don’t mind an impromptu shower. So, let’s come up with some of the best campfire guitar songs to sing late into the night.
- A Different Slant Maybe?
- Home On the Range – Traditional
- She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain – Traditional
- Country Roads – John Denver
- California Dreaming – Mamas and Papas
- Catch the Wind – Donovan
- Blowin’ In The Wind – Bob Dylan
- Fire And Rain – James Taylor
- Working Class Hero – John Lennon
- The Boxer – Simon and Garfunkel
- I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly – Burl Ives
- Wheels on the Bus – Nursery Rhyme
- Yellow Submarine – The Beatles
- All I Have To Do Is Dream – The Everly Brothers
- Sweet Caroline – Neil Diamond
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- Best Campfire Guitar Songs – Final Thoughts
A Different Slant Maybe?
You could do it slightly differently to some common campfire sing-a-long songs. You will have the traditional songs, of course. They are always good fun. But not all campfire sing-a-longs need to be “Yahoo.”
The kids will need some songs to sing, and what about some that are a little thought-provoking. Some old classic pop songs that everybody knows and can join in with wouldn’t be a bad idea either. Let’s make a few suggestions, but we’ll start with a couple of songs that are probably sung around most campfire settings.
Home On the Range – Traditional
There can’t be many on the planet who haven’t heard this song. It has a bit of a country feel to it, but the emotions go much further than that.
Is it written about missing home, or missing someone in particular? Or is it a comment on a utopian society that only exists in the imaginations of positive people? Probably the latter, but we don’t need to go into that. A very popular campfire song and always will be. Always reminds you of the old, more innocent cowboy movies of the 50s and 60s.
She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain – Traditional
This is certainly one of those old “yahoo” songs I mentioned in the introduction. But I have no problem with including it here. Another song that has been sung just about everywhere. It is simple and easy for everyone.
It has positive and negative in its structure. Because it has a repetitive refrain, it is so easy for even the smallest child to get to grips with. However, the negative side is that after a few rounds, it will be stuck in your head all night. Sweet dreams!
So, let’s have a change of style now and include a couple of great songs for an evening around a fire.
There are a lot of people who don’t know what to make of John Denver. But love him, or otherwise, he could write great songs. And he represented a genre of Country music that was dragging the old guard a little more up to date.
It is a song that crosses genres. His version had a country “back home” feel about it. Olivia Newton John’s version gave it more of a pop stance.
This is one of his classics and a song loved by everyone. It was written by John Denver with a couple of buddies and is about West Virginia.
Another song that needs no introduction. Whilst it has got the “California Dream” ideal about it, the song was not about that. It is more about going towards the “dream,” which was California, and then letting the lifestyle tear you to pieces.
It was written at a time when there was a sudden rush of people towards the Golden State. Musicians especially attempted to find fame and fortune. It worked for some like Don Henly, Glenn Frey, or Linda Rondstadt, to give a few examples.
But for every one that succeeded, thousands didn’t. So, the song is a word of warning. But let’s not dwell on that. It is a great song with a vibe that sits nicely with an evening around the fire.
I must admit to always feeling a little sorry for Donovan. Hailing from Glasgow, he was never taken seriously in the early days. He was laid open to some unfair criticism. As an example, he was taken to task because this single was less than two and a half minutes long. That wasn’t his fault.
Add on to that that a certain genius called Bob Dylan had arrived a few years earlier. Everyone who sang with a guitar and a mouth organ stuck in their face was immediately called a copy of the great man.
Not a Dylan KnockOff
He later proved he wasn’t with songs like “Colors” and “The Hurdy Gurdy Man.” This song, in my mind, was great, even though it was short.
First released in 1965, it is still popular today. And if you have someone who can play guitar and sing a bit, then this is a great song for campfire singing. Been covered by a few people in its day as well. Sammy Hagar being one, but perhaps more appropriately by the great Glen Campbell.
Talking of Mr. Dylan, it might be time to include one from him. Campfires are a great place to tell stories and so let’s include one from a man with plenty. Written in 1962 and released on his Freewheelin Bob Dylan album a year later, it was one of his early masterpieces.
It was one of the first of what came to be known as “protest songs.” It is a questioning song without answers. Rhetorical questions that are answered by saying the answers are “Blowin In The Wind.” The lyrics make it a great guitar song to play around a campfire.
I heard him say once when asked what he meant by saying the answers are not really there. He said, “no, just like the wind is in your face, so is the answer. But people like you are too stupid to see it”. Ouch. I suppose to enjoy one of the best campfire guitar songs like this one; you might need to have been a one-time hippy. Or, of course, just love Bob Dylan.
Moving on to another great songwriter and storyteller. It was always a difficult song for him as he tells about his trials in life. The song was prompted by the suicide of a close friend while he was away in London.
Her name was Suzanne, “Suzanne, the plans they made put an end to you.” He was distraught not only by that but the failure of his band, the Flying Machines. “Sweet dreams and flying machines in pieces on the ground.”
In reality, it is a sad song, and some might think it is not a good choice for a campfire. But it has a possible slant to it in that he came through it all. A good message to send to anyone in your group who may be struggling, but also a beautiful song.
Chords: Am-G-D, with nearly all of it on Am.
One that will come completely out of the blue for most people sitting around the fire. If there are kids present, you might need to adjust a few of the lyrics.
It wasn’t supposed to be John’s impersonation of Dylan. Although, Dylan did take it like that and answered John brusquely with his own song. However, it is very “Dylan-esque” in the way it is written and delivered.
This is John giving a poke to the things he disliked at the time. Pretend celebrities, social injustice, and a few other things. A song you can throw in round the fire if the mood takes you and them.
Chords (simplified): C-Am-G-C
An interesting backstory to this. The song came from the 1970 album Bridge Over Troubled Water. The subplot is that he and Art were breaking up again. And if he wanted to carry on performing, there had to be some new songs he could sing with a guitar.
Most of what they were doing at that time was big production stuff. This has a big production, but he could stand and play it on his own as we have seen him do.
It wasn’t about Joe DiMaggio or Joe Louis, as some have thought. It was about him. He was “the boxer” from New York City. And Paul was just tired of being criticized for everything and felt like he was in a corner fighting his way out.
Another little insight…
He wrote the song in England. Note how he uses the term “railway” instead of “railroad.” For my final choice for creating a contemplative mood for the campfire, a great song from one of the masters of songwriting.
Ok, so we’ve had a bit of a yahoo. We’ve sung a couple of classics. We have listened to some beautiful songs to make you think, so what next. What about the kids? Sitting there quietly, or probably not.
Chords: just two C-G.
A bit of fun to sing along to that the adults will probably want to join in. Burl Ives did a great job of this when he released this with his “grandfather” image.
It is what is known as a “cumulative song.” The accumulation in this being that she swallows increasing larger species to catch the one before. It goes back a long way and is a bit of a “nonsense” song. But that is why it is so much fun and one of the best campfire guitar songs.
Chords: again, can be played using just two chords D-G.
Another one for the kids that you can keep going forever. You can get them singing it all together or in a “round.” You can add a bit of fun to it by being creative with the lyrics:
- Kids sing – baby on the bus goes blah, blah, blah, etc.
- Adults answer with – adults on the bus go ssh, ssh, ssh, etc.
Chords: G-D-C-G, Em-Am-C-D
The kids, of course, may want something a bit more up-to-date. And although this goes back a long way itself, it is a song they will recognize as being from a more modern age.
It was never meant to be serious, just a bit of Beatles fun. The movie “Yellow Submarine” came out in 1968, the album a few months later in 1969. Yellow Submarine was sung by Ringo.
It is a kid’s story…
And introduces us to the “Blue Meanies” and a place called “Pepperland.” There the resident band is the Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
It received widespread appreciation in contrast to their previous attempt, “The Magical Mystery Tour.” It is a song that kids love to sing, and it is easy to play.
Okay, so now it’s getting late, and the kids are falling asleep after their visit to “Pepperland” and fighting off the “Blue Meanies.” Time for some great music to close the evening.
Everybody loved the Everly Brothers. Those that were around, of course. There was something remarkable about them and their harmonies.
This was recorded in 1958 and was completed in just two takes. That’s how good they were. Chet Atkins came along and played guitar. It was named as one of the top 500 songs that shaped rock ‘n’ roll.
Some may think they recorded better songs; maybe they did. But there is something very special about this and around a campfire, it is just great.
A-D-(D C# F#)-D-E
If you are looking for some modern songs that everyone knows and can join in with, look for Neil Diamond. The only problem is, which one of his do you choose?
This is one of those songs that everyone loves to join in and sing. It is going to send everyone back to their tents happy and probably still singing it. Released in 1969, it was inspired by JFK’s daughter Caroline.
Looking for Fun Music?
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Best Campfire Guitar Songs – Final Thoughts
There you go, fourteen songs to play and sing around the campfire. I have tried to stay away from the usual songs that are suggested. Everyone knows them, although I did include two at the beginning.
This list is an alternative list to offer some new ideas that hopefully people will enjoy. And, I have included the chords to the songs. Some are in a simplified version to make them easy to play.
Of course, it will depend on the people around the fire and their ages. But it is always a time when people can eat, have a few beers and enjoy a sing-song.
So, until next time, let your music play.