It seems an odd thing to consider including someone whistling on a record these days with all the electronic sounds on offer. And that is without the sound-shaping we can use on our guitars, basses, and keyboards.
But, it can have a surprising effect, as we shall see as we take a look at some songs with whistling in them.
- Is It Always Just For Effect?
- White Christmas by Bing Crosby
- Singin’ In The Rain by Bing Crosby
- The Story of My Life by Michael Holliday
- Magic Moments by Perry Como
- Singing the Blues by Guy Mitchell
- Love Letters In The Sand by Pat Boone
- Daydream by The Lovin’ Spoonful
- Two Of Us (Remastered) by The Beatles
- Montego Bay by Bobby Bloom
- Clair by Gilbert O’Sullivan
- The Stranger by Billy Joel
- Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard by Paul Simon
- Love Is A Battlefield (Remastered) by Pat Benatar
- Walk Like An Egyptian by The Bangles
- Honorable Mentions
- Jealous Guy (Remastered 2010) by John Lennon
- (Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay by Otis Redding
- Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life (From”Monty Pythons Life Of Brian”) by Monty Python’s Flying Circus
- In Search of Interesting Songs?
- Songs With Whistling In Them – Final Thoughts
Is It Always Just For Effect?
If most people were, to be honest, then you might see that at times it has been a purely accidental thing. We shall look at songs where that was the case.
Where the singer-songwriter might have been struggling for a line or some words and whistled it instead. The producer says, “great, that works, leave it in.”
Put your lips together…
We will see that some of these songs with whistling have turned out to be some of the best songs we have. And, incidentally, some of the biggest hits. It can take a great song and just give it a little bit extra. Furthermore, whistling can fit into a range of styles and be performed in a variety of ways.
So, let’s see how whistling has made these songs better, and in some cases, been the standout feature. The start of our journey will take us way back in time to the 1940s with…
White Christmas by Bing Crosby
Some songs are eternal in our love for them, and this is certainly one of those. There is something about the song that, no matter how old you are, it conjures up visions of days long gone.
On Christmas Eve, with the snow falling, of getting excited as a child about the day to come. And of going out on Christmas Day morning in the fresh snow. It creates all of those images.
It was written by Irving Berlin and might be best known for its inclusion in the musical film “White Christmas” in 1954. But, it came out way before then as Crosby sang it in the 1942 film “Holiday Inn.” It has since been covered by too many people to mention.
Its romantic mood is heightened by Crosby gently whistling a harmony line to the girl’s chorus. What were we saying about whistling giving a great song just a little bit extra?
Singin’ In The Rain by Bing Crosby
Another classic song from what were some golden years in the history of American musicals and cinema. This well-known and well-loved song was written by Nacio Herb Brown.
Crosby wasn’t in the original 1952 musical of the same name. The song achieved its iconic status when performed with an umbrella by Gene Kelly. Bing’s version was recorded with Rosemary Clooney in 1962 for their TV show and was later released on an album with Clooney.
A great interpretation as you would expect from the “master crooner.” Even his whistle sounds like it’s crooning. He likes a little whistle does Bing. And that’s why it is on this list of songs with whistling in them.
The Story of My Life by Michael Holliday
Staying in that late 50s and very early 60s pre-Beatles period in the UK came this song from Michael Holliday. I was a child when this was played non-stop by my mother on our ‘radiogram’, as were one or two others we shall look at here.
A pleasant, typically 50s song that gives an impression of hope for the future. Not for Michael, unfortunately, who died very young. A nice song with good lyrics and that gentle whistle that answers every line in the verses.
A song that was one of the very early successes for Burt Bacharach and Hal David.
Magic Moments by Perry Como
Michael Holliday’s hit was followed up by another from Burt Bacharach and Hal David. Another song that our mother ‘brain-washed’ us all with. This was the B-side of a song called “Catch A Falling Star” from 1957, which also had a whistle in it. They were all doing it, weren’t they?
This proved to be just as popular and was released as a single in its own right. It went to number four and became one of the songs synonymous with Perry Como. It has since been covered by a variety of people. Another little whistle that just adds a little bit.
Singing the Blues by Guy Mitchell
Another song that made the speakers on that ‘radiogram’ want to give up. This is a little bit different, which makes it interesting.
Guy Mitchell’s 1956 song has a bluesy rhythm going on underneath with a nice clean ‘pop’ voice and smile over the top. Guess the world wasn’t quite ready for the Yardbirds just yet.
This is interesting because it’s a song with a lot of whistling. The whistles take the place of what would be the lead guitar intro in later years. Add on the answer backs in the verses, and that is a lot of whistling. Someone’s cheeks must have been sore after this session.
A chart-topping whistle…
However, it jogs along with a nice pace, and the whistles again make it a standout track. It was written by Melvin Endsley, and the first release of the song came from Marty Robbins.
It was number one in the UK and was also number one sung by Tommy Steele, again complete with the whistles. They both came out at the same time and swapped places at the top of the chart.
Love Letters In The Sand by Pat Boone
One last track from the 50s, this one from “teenage heartthrob” Pat Boone. It was first released as a B-side, but due to its popularity was then released in its own right.
It wasn’t a new song being first released in the 30s, but they needed something quick to be released with the A-side “Bernadine.” I don’t think anyone realized it would be the second biggest-selling record of 1957.
The whistling was done by Pat Boone himself, again as an afterthought.
Daydream by The Lovin’ Spoonful
Into the 60s now with this great track from 1966 by The Lovin Spoonful. John Sebastien wrote it and was trying to write a song a bit like “Baby Love” that had been a hit for The Supremes.
It came from their second album, which was significantly stronger musically than their first effort. Sebastien was a talented musician and possibly never received some of the acclaim that those who followed received.
A Novelty Act
He and the band were often viewed sympathetically by some as a bit of a ‘hippy’ group. Great for a one-off novelty act but not to be taken too seriously. But, he wrote some classic songs like “Summer In The City” and the tongue-in-cheek “Nashville Cats.”
“Daydream” still is the perfect song to lay back on a summer’s day with a glass of wine and watch the world go by. And the whistling plays a huge part in creating the right atmosphere.
Two Of Us (Remastered) by The Beatles
There is only one way to leave the 60s. That is with what the 60s in the UK and many other places were all about, The Beatles. This song is quite a throwback to the early days, and John and Paul are actually singing together. Believe it or not, that is something they used to do quite often.
This was released on the Let It Be album, which was their last album release. A nice little song but without too much to say we didn’t already know. The whistles at the end are a nice touch.
Montego Bay by Bobby Bloom
We’ve had some crooners and some polished and sparkly heartthrobs and a few hippies thrown in as well, but others were doing a bit of whistling. Time for a bit of reggae.
So, into the early 70s now with this track from Bobby Bloom. He performed and co-wrote the song about the city of the same name in Jamaica. It had that reggae feel that was added to by the calypso style of some of the instruments. The whistles only add to the intended laid-back feel of the song.
Clair by Gilbert O’Sullivan
Gilbert O’Sullivan was an interesting character in many ways. He wrote some truly great songs, but his image was not helped in some quarters.
At times he chose a rather stereotypical way to portray his Southern Irish birthplace and roots. This was at a time when there were some political tensions with the UK, which was his main source of income.
For those of us able to look further than all that nonsense, there was a sensitive, very talented singer-songwriter. This song was everybody’s favorite at the time.
It was written about his manager Gordon Mills’ daughter and the times he was a babysitter for her. Clare, therefore, was a real person. An innocent tune is made more so by the addition of whistles in the song.
The Stranger by Billy Joel
The 70s was when Billy Joel established himself as something special. “The Stranger” is one of those Joel songs where he gives us a little bit of confusion to think about.
It is a song that talks about keeping secrets. The confusing aspect is that he says we must be strangers even to ourselves.
The intro has an interesting backstory. Joel whistled the opening as a guide while they were beginning to put the song down. When they went back to it, he asked Phil Ramone what instrument he thought would be best for the opening. Ramone answered, “the whistle, leave it in.” It stayed.
Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard by Paul Simon
There can be no disputing Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel were great together. But, they also produced some memorable stuff separately. This is a track from Paul’s second album.
It is a strange tale about two friends who are arrested and then let free. The subject matter is probably just a bit of fun. The track, though, shows that Simon was beginning to try new ways, new things, and new styles of music. One of which was a Brazilian precision instrument on this song.
The whistles come in about halfway through and add a lighthearted feel to it. It’s certainly one of the most memorable whistles in a song.
Love Is A Battlefield (Remastered) by Pat Benatar
An interesting track for several reasons. This is a song about the trials and tribulations of growing up and those first relationships being like a battlefield. It is interesting because the producer decided to use a drum machine on this with the real drums.
It was one of her biggest selling singles and placed her firmly on the map of female rock singers. In some circles, she is an underrated talent. This song highlights her great voice and delivery.
The whistle probably didn’t contribute that much, but it is an interesting addition and one you would hardly expect.
Walk Like An Egyptian by The Bangles
This is another song with a bit of internal history. The song had been rejected by a few people, but the Bangles were persuaded to record it. The four of them each did a verse, but Debbi Peterson’s was rejected, so she didn’t get to sing a part. She was less than happy.
Then they removed her drums from the final cut in favor of a drum machine. That didn’t go down too well, either. Frictions emerged. In the TV appearances, you can see her playing the tambourine.
Whistling The Melody?
I can understand someone whistling a counter melody or as an answer back, as we have already seen. But to whistle the melody where the words should be? Is that a case of running out of words? Whether it is or isn’t, it worked well. The whistles were added by a computer.
They became an important part of a song that became a Bangles standard and a hit on both sides of the Atlantic.
Before we move on to a final couple of songs with whistling in them, I should mention some notable 80s songs with whistling I wanted to include but just ran out of space.
- Games Without Frontiers by Peter Gabriel and featuring Kate Bush.
- Centerfold by The J. Geils Band.
- Over My Shoulder by Mike and The Mechanics.
All have some great whistling parts that certainly enhance the song. Ok, let’s move on to the last couple.
Jealous Guy (Remastered 2010) by John Lennon
It would be very difficult to make a list of the best of anything without including a song from John Lennon. Either as a solo artist or with The Beatles. This is a track from his Imagine album from 1971.
It may have been released in 1971, but John had this one lying around for a while. He hoped it would be included on the White album in 1968, along with “Dear Prudence.” That never transpired, the reasons for which are not relevant here.
It is a touching insight into the life of a man who some thought of as indestructible. But, to those who knew him, he was quite insecure and vulnerable. It is a song about jealousy, of course. But also ‘his’ kind of jealousy and his admission to that emotion.
The whistling just made a perfect addition to what was already such an innocent song. Another track of pure genius from an album that was overflowing with it.
(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay by Otis Redding
This song holds bittersweet memories for me. I had been a great blues fan, but Otis Redding and a few others of his ilk changed that a bit. They introduced me to what wasn’t really soul music.
It was a combination of Blues and Soul. A few of us went to see him live at the Hammersmith Odeon in 1967 in London.
Triumph followed by tragedy…
He was with Sam and Dave and a few others. And he was just sensational. Sadly, he was killed in a plane crash when he continued his tour in America a few weeks later. This song came out just after. He had recorded this song just a few days before the accident.
A song that has got that easy style he could generate, as he just sits on the dock watching the ships in San Francisco. And the whistling? Did a whistle ever become the most important part of a song? If it does, it could be on this one. The interesting thing is he whistles like he sings. Full of feeling.
On a list about whistling on songs, how could this not be the last one? Normally, it would, but I apologize in advance; I cannot resist the urge. So… “And Now For Something Completely Different.”
Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life (From”Monty Pythons Life Of Brian”) by Monty Python’s Flying Circus
This song closed the film “The Life Of Brian” to a fanfare of amusing complaints. The song represents not giving up and facing up to adversity. However, it is set in rather a strange setting and certainly an unusual setting. But that was Monty Python for you.
This song was written and performed by Eric Idle. It encourages you to have a little whistle to cheer yourself up. And there is a chorus of whistling to emphasize the point.
“When you’re feeling in the dumps, don’t be silly chumps. Just purse your lips and whistle.”
Great fun and not a bad sentiment.
In Search of Interesting Songs?
We can help. Take a look at our detailed articles on the Best Songs About Dreams, the Best Songs About Change, the Best Songs About Walking, the Best Songs about Fighting, the Best Songs about Friday, and the Best Songs About Friendship for more great song selections.
You’ll want to listen to them So, check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Smart Speakers, the Loudest Portable Bluetooth Speakers, the Best Headphones for Music, the Best Headphones with Volume Control, and the Best Sound Quality Earbuds you can buy in 2022.
Songs With Whistling In Them – Final Thoughts
So, there we have a list of great music with whistling. Some fun, some serious, some with a message. But, all of them are enhanced by the simplest of things, a whistler.
So, here’s a good idea someone once said for when you might be feeling a little down. “Just purse your lips and whistle.” It’s bound to make you feel better.
Until next time, let the music play.