The huge dork in me has been excited to notice that many currently popular songs feature whistling. Haven’t noticed? Maroon 5’s “Moves Like Jagger,” OneRepublic’s “Good Life,” Foster the People’s “Pumped Up Kicks,” and The Black Keys’ “Tighten Up” all feature whistling. I, for one, can’t get enough of it.
I’m what you might call a whistling enthusiast. I’ve even made mix CDs that exclusively feature songs with whistling in them, and though I don’t like to brag, I’m quite the whistler myself. (Don’t act like you’re not impressed.) It turns out that classic acts have been featuring whistling in their songs since long before the aforementioned whippersnappers came on the scene. Here are a few of my favorite examples.
“Jealous Guy” – John Lennon
If whistling is good enough for John Lennon, then it’s good enough for you. Apparently “Jealous Guy” is good enough to have spawned over 90 cover versions since its release in 1971 on Lennon’s Imagine album, making it his most-covered solo song. To me, John’s doleful whistling perfectly complements the song’s forlorn tone. He can’t help it — he’s just a jealous guy. Who likes to whistle.
“Walk Like An Egyptian” – The Bangles
Here in 2013, it’s hard to believe that a song called “Walk Like An Egyptian” could be a number one hit, but 1986 was a whole different world, kids. Politically correct or not, the song inspired a furious wave of enthusiasm and skyrocketed The Bangles to stardom. If there were a Catchiness Hall of Fame, “Walk Like An Egyptian” would be a shoo-in, and don’t think that sweet staccato whistling breakdown doesn’t have anything to do with it.
“Me & Julio Down By The Schoolyard” – Paul Simon
Another big-leaguer! Humble whistling has made many appearances with the great ones, and Paul Simon’s tale of no-goodery with Julio is no exception — in fact, an entire verse is whistled. Despite the questions the song’s lyrics raise (what, exactly, did your Momma saw? Yes, we heard you — it was against the law, but could you be more specific, Paul?), the song has an upbeat, rollicking feel that’s only amplified by the cheerfulness of the whistling.
“Goodbye Stranger” – Supertramp
Most people close to me know never to give me an excuse to talk about Supertramp, or any song off of their terrific 1979 album Breakfast in America. “Why doesn’t anyone care about Supertramp?” I’ll ask, to their rolling eyes and annoyed expressions. “Did you guys know that in France, Breakfast in America is the best-selling English language album of all time?” Of course, the conversation itself is just an excuse to play the album, which features the hit singles “Breakfast in America,” “The Logical Song,” “Take the Long Way Home,” and of course, “Goodbye Stranger.” Enjoy the improvisational whistling solo in this gem.
“Wind Of Change” – The Scorpions
The best-selling single of all time by a German artist, The Scorpions’ “Wind of Change” almost surely has whistling to thank for its success. If you ever doubt the power whistling can lend a sweet ’80s ballad, then listen to the first twenty-one seconds of “Wind of Change.” Now look down at your jeans. They spontaneously turned acid-washed, didn’t they? Thought so.
“Patience” – Guns ‘N Roses
Quite simply, GNR’s “Patience” is to songs with whistling what The Godfather is to mob movies. It’s the gold standard to which all other song with whistling are held and found wanting. “Masterpiece” is not too strong a word to describe Axl’s soulful whistled introduction, which sets the tone for the rest of the incredible song. I admit that I’m biased — as a sucker for ’80s bad-boy Axl, I promptly melt at any hint of his vulnerable, sensitive side. His odd, swaying Axl dance is the cherry on the whistling sundae.
Is your favorite whistling song missing from the list? Share your top whistling tunes in the comments!