We are not short of songs with references to food in the titles or the lyrics. Of course, they do not always refer to the food itself. They are often used metaphorically to represent something else. This can be a passion, anger, happiness, or just portraying a feeling.
Some will be direct references to food or spices. Most, as I say, will not be about food at all, but using it just to represent something else. So, let’s have a little taste of some songs about food, starting with…
- Brown Sugar (2009 Remaster) by The Rolling Stones
- Cinnamon Girl by Neil Young
- Savoy Truffle (Remastered) by The Beatles
- Honey Pie (Remastered) by The Beatles
- Tangerine (Remaster) by Led Zeppelin
- The Lemon Song (Remaster) by Led Zeppelin
- Honey, Honey by ABBA
- A Spoonful of Sugar by Julie Andrews from “Mary Poppins”
- Polk Salad Annie by Tony Joe White
- Red Red Wine (Remastered) by UB40
- Tutti Frutti by Little Richard
- The Onion Song by Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
- Honorable Mentions
- Boiled Beef and Carrots by Harry Champion
- Strawberry Fields Forever (Remastered 2009) by The Beatles
- Spam Song by Monty Python’s Flying Circus
- Food, Glorious Food from “Oliver”
- Searching for Songs About Different Subjects?
- Songs About Food – Conclusion
Brown Sugar (2009 Remaster) by The Rolling Stones
One of the Stones’ most popular songs, this is from their 1971 Sticky Fingers album.
So many interpretations as to what the lyrics are all about, and there is no need to go into all of them. The most common reference attached to the song is that it is about heroin addiction. Whatever the cryptic lyric might want to hide, one thing is for certain. It is not about sugar.
The song has taken its fair amount of criticism over one interpretation that accuses it of sexualizing black women. Whether that is the case or not, these days, they have withdrawn it from their stage show.
Cinnamon Girl by Neil Young
Taken from his second album, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, this is a typical Young composition. The Crazy Horse backing added plenty of overdrive on the guitar, so it jogs along at a nice pace.
Once again, the use of the word Cinnamon is unlikely to refer to the spice but refers to something else. Not his best track, but when you listen to the album, you sense that he is going to give us a lot more. After The Goldrush was the next album, say no more.
Savoy Truffle (Remastered) by The Beatles
Our first visit to the Beatles catalog and not a Lennon and McCartney song. This was written by George Harrison. Taken from the White album, it is a song about a box of chocolates. As I understand it, one of George’s favorite mixes was Mackintosh’s Good News.
He lists all the chocolates that are shown on the box. Montelimar, Creme Tangerine, Ginger Sling, Pineapple Heart, and plenty of others. But, then ends the song with a warning about eating too much chocolate being not good for you.
Honey Pie (Remastered) by The Beatles
Same band, same album, it is one of those changes of direction musically the Beatles were famous for and no one else could achieve. A throwback in style to the 30s and 40s, it is almost a slow Charleston dance song.
Written by Paul McCartney, it is a song inspired by the music his father would listen to. He seems to have captured the mood perfectly. A song where the food, honey, is used as a description of his girlfriend who is far away. He just wishes she would come home.
Tangerine (Remaster) by Led Zeppelin
The first of two “fruity” songs from Led Zeppelin. This has always been one of my favorite Led Zeppelin tracks. It is taken from Led Zeppelin 3.
Much of the second side of Led Zeppelin 3 was acoustic and came from a time known as the ‘Bron-Yr-Aur’ period. That was when Page and Plant retreated to a small Country cottage in North Wales.
The song goes way back before then and was recorded by the Yardbirds in 1968 when Page was with them. It was under a different title then and was rehashed to be included on LZ3.
A Unique Guitar Sound
The guitar sound is special and was created by Page playing two guitar parts. One on a 12-string, the other on a six-string. He also added a pedal steel guitar with a wah effect. They were matched together by the studio engineer to form a unique sound.
To complete “Tangerine,” John Paul Jones played the mandolin. He might as well, he plays everything else, and the kitchen sink was being used elsewhere.
Whilst this is a beautiful song about food, the lyrics are sometimes overlooked. Straight to the point and full of sadness in remembrance of a lost love. Excellent words that complement the music perfectly.
The Lemon Song (Remaster) by Led Zeppelin
Let’s stay for one more from the “Noisy Boys.” That was what they were often called in West London at the time of the first album.
Taken from Led Zeppelin 2, we were all surprised when the album came out with the change of title. Before they became big time, this song was called “Killing Floor” in the live shows.
An excellent example of JPJ’s talent…
The change of tempo for the solo was always a high point in the live performances. Not because of Page’s work, which by his standards is very ordinary. But more for Bonham and John Paul Jones, and their driving rhythm.
Again John Paul Jones, in the section where it all goes quiet, demonstrates his great bass playing. The song itself is about a man who is rather angry with his girlfriend and is deciding to leave her. There are one or two more interpretations of certain sections of the song, but we won’t go into those.
Honey, Honey by ABBA
Time to lighten the mood a little. The writing combination of Benny Andersson, Bjorn Ulvaeus, and Stig Anderson is known for producing some memorable tracks. Unfortunately, this was not one of them.
It is a simple pop song made for the consumer market. It talks about the sweetness that someone can bring into the life of another.
Released on the 1974 Waterloo album and as a single, it was also recorded in Swedish for their home market. It was the last song they did in their native tongue. They didn’t need to anymore after that period as the world claimed them.
A Spoonful of Sugar by Julie Andrews from “Mary Poppins”
Here is a good idea. Let’s include a song about a foodstuff, that is about the food in question. There are some interesting facts surrounding Mary Poppins and “The Sound Of Music.”
Mary Poppins was a children’s series comprising eight books. They were written by P. L. Travers who was an Australian-British writer, and the first was published in 1938. Contrary to what some believe, “Mary Poppins,” released in 1964, came before the 1965 “The Sound of Music.”
There are parallels between the two stories. Not the least of which is that Julie Andrews plays a nanny to a group of children in both films.
The song was composed by Robert B. Sherman and Richard M. Sherman. It was inspired by Roberts’ son taking his polio vaccine with a spoon of sugar to take away the taste. I expect a lot of us did that. So, the spoonful of sugar is what it says it is and did help the medicine go down.
Polk Salad Annie by Tony Joe White
Not a food that might be so well-known in most parts of the world, Tony Joe White introduced us to “pokeweed,” or poke as it is often called, through this song. Although it is about a poor girl from Louisiana, Annie, there is a lot of Tony Joe White’s early life in the lyrics.
He lived the early part of his life down that way. The alligators were all around and were pretty mean, and the family would eat “poke” when food was in short supply.
A Late Starter
The song had been released for nine months before it finally caught on. In UK clubs, it was a hugely popular song because of the driving, infectious rhythm and that deep, deep voice.
I saw him twice. Once at the Isle Of Wight Rock Festival in 1970 and again about three years later. A hugely talented songwriter, “swamp rock,” as he called it, was only a part of what he was capable of.
Now, let’s add a bit of diversification here and quickly mention some songs about food from other genres.
Red Red Wine (Remastered) by UB40
This was a song written and originally recorded by Neil Diamond in 1967. UB40 did their reggae version in 1983. Successful in the UK, it has always been a popular radio song about food and occasionally still is.
It is a song about someone who finds that drinking red wine helps him forget his troubles. That is a sentiment a lot of people can relate to. Some years later, the band brought out their own bottled red wine, a Bordeaux.
Tutti Frutti by Little Richard
We haven’t had some “in your face” straight rock n roll yet, so here we go. “Tutti Frutti” is an Italian expression meaning “all fruits.” Additionally, Tutti Frutti is an ice cream flavor. But, it is also one of the most famous rock n roll songs of all time.
It has been recorded and played by too many people to mention, even Mr. Presley. But, it is the Little Richard version that stands head and shoulders above all the others. Pure undiluted rock n roll from one of the greats.
The Onion Song by Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
So what about a food song from Motown. This is from Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell. A song that was their biggest hit in the UK in 1969.
At the time, there was a shift, even in Motown, about writing songs that focused on social conscience. “Cloud Nine” by the Temptations was on the horizon, as was “War” by Edwin Starr. This is a song along those same lines.
It uses the example of an onion making us cry when things go bad. Looking around the world and what was going on, it was an interesting analogy to say that the world was an onion. Nothing much has changed.
Tragedy stalked the song…
Tammi Terrell died of a brain tumor before the song was released in the US at the age of 24. A great voice and a tragic loss.
As usual, I am running out of space, and there are so many more great food songs to mention. Let’s just have some titles and artists before we move on to the last three on the list.
- “Blueberry Hill” by Fats Domino.
- “Sugar, Sugar” by The Archies.
- “A Taste of Honey” by The Beatles and Herb Alpert.
- “Blackberry Way” by The Move.
- “Life Is a Minestrone” by 10cc.
- “Lady Marmalade” by LaBelle.
- “Mean Mr. Mustard” by The Beatles.
- “Glass Onion” by The Beatles.
And if you want to go back in time, how about this from 1910.
Boiled Beef and Carrots by Harry Champion
Great musical hall comedy imploring “don’t live like vegetarians on food they give to parrots. From morn to night blow out yer kite on boiled beef and carrots”.
It extols the good old cockney London dinner of the time. Probably wouldn’t go down so well today. And so on to the final three.
Strawberry Fields Forever (Remastered 2009) by The Beatles
Is this about food? It might be about a Liverpool orphanage, but it’s got Strawberry in the title. That makes it referring to food good enough for me to include.
With Revolver finished and selling like crazy, EMI was demanding new material for both a single and a new album. It was a period in the life of The Beatles when they realized they were not in control of themselves. The first seeds of the soon-to-be Apple Corp were sown.
This was the first song they recorded after Revolver and was earmarked for the Sergeant Pepper album. EMI demanded a single, and they got this with “Penny Lane” to make a double A-side. But, The Beatles refused to put it on “Pepper” as the band had a policy of not putting singles on albums.
The song was written by John Lennon about the garden of a Salvation Army orphanage for young girls near his home. It was called Strawberry Field. He used to play there as a child.
John had effectively lost both parents, so maybe he felt some affinity with the girls. He was in the same familial situation even though he lived with his aunt. It was his love song for the park, the area, and his youth.
George Martin did a staggering job with the recording, and the mix as the song opened up a new adventure for the band. When asked once what my favorite Beatles record was, I answered immediately without thought. “Strawberry Fields Forever.” Thanks, John.
And So To Finish
Because I am getting hungry talking about all this food. What about something a little more light-hearted to end our look at songs about food.
Spam Song by Monty Python’s Flying Circus
Some people love them; others don’t. Looking back on it, I suppose it was like the 60s. You just had to be there. Not all of the stuff Monty Python produced was hysterically funny, although some of it most definitely was. This falls into the latter category.
A song about a food product that was first introduced in America in the 1930s. It is a processed ham with some rather nasty additives. It was later proven to be more than a little unhealthy. This song was making fun of it and, to an extent, the people that ate it.
Ah yes, a song about the food we can eat. Well, almost eat, but only if you are very brave.
Food, Glorious Food from “Oliver”
There probably isn’t a better place to end this list than with this memorable moment from Lionel Bart’s “Oliver.” Set in Victorian London, England, it is the opening song sung by the boys in the workhouse as they go to get their “gruel.” What is that? Don’t ask.
They are dreaming about getting some “real” food someday, and whilst it is a musical, there is a lot of truth in the story. The musical was taken from the book “Oliver Twist” by Charles Dickens, who saw the poverty in London and the deprivation firsthand.
Subject matter aside, it is a rousing way to finish this list and another song that is about food instead of its metaphorical substitute.
Searching for Songs About Different Subjects?
We have you covered. Take a look at our detailed articles on the Best Songs About Ice Cream, the Best Songs About Friendship, the Best Songs About Clouds, the Best Songs about Friday, the Best Songs About the Sun and Sunshine, and the Best Songs About Dreams for more great song selections.
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Songs About Food – Conclusion
There are plenty of them, crossing most genre boundaries and spread over one hundred years. And that is just the selection that I have chosen.
Most of the songs use food in a metaphorical sense or as an example, but that doesn’t matter. It is a great source of material and, in some ways, gives us food for thought.
Who would have thought that food could inspire such great music? It did and still does.
Until next time, let the music play.