As a DJ and self proclaimed Musicologist – very much like John Cusack’s character in the movie High Fidelity – I find myself compelled to compile and organize music into lists and categories. This particular list is one that has been the source of heated debate amongst my office staff who are also DJ and music type people, and being that collectively we were unable to reach any sort of agreement, a completed ‘Happy Songs’ list was tabled and left unfinished primarily due to clear parameters of the term ‘happy songs’.
The object was to come up with a list of happy songs that referred to a sense of self-happiness, excluding songs that were based on happiness attained through love or relationship, therefore counting out tunes like ‘Happy Together’ by The Turtles or ‘You Make Me So Very Happy’ by Blood, Sweat and Tears. Although these songs had the word ‘happy’ in the title, the lyrics refer more to someone making another person happy, and not just being happy.
The other type of song that was carefully avoided was the ‘uplifting’ tune. There are countless more songs that talk about things looking up, or getting better than those that simply say happy, which include ‘I Can See Clearly Now’ by Johnny Nash, ‘Don’t Stop’ by Fleetwood Mac and ‘Here Comes The Sun’ by The Beatles. Although these, and many tunes like them promise good days ahead, they fall short of the “I am happy in the here and now”. Going down that road we could have mistakenly included ‘Tomorrow’ from Annie or ‘Over The Rainbow’, again, uplifting and encouraging, but not just plain happy.
So after long debates and deliberation with both my staff (Brian, Richie, Tony D. and Carl), along with my friend Dean, we were able to whittle away at what really made for a happy song. Of course – ultimately – I was the ‘editor in chief’ of the final outcome, I don’t think I could have come up with as definitive and narrow a song list, as specifically tweaked as I believe it is. Here are the final eight my brain trust and I came up with for happy songs. We aren’t saying that other songs aren’t capable of making you happy, we all have our personal favorites, we’re just saying these songs are pretty happy. 🙂
“Don’t Worry, Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin
Okay, so who didn’t see this one coming? Not only is this McFerrin’s biggest commercial hit, but if there were a nation of happiness, this would probably be its anthem. It is also rumored that it’s the song Bobby McFerrin likes least, which would be understandable if he’s had to perform it as often as most of us have heard it. Even so, it’s catchy, and we all know we find ourselves humming or whistling along.
‘Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive’ by Bing Crosby and The Andrews Sisters
Giving credit where credit is due, it was Johnny Mercer who not only recorded this first in October of 1944, but he also wrote the lyrics. Johnny Mercer and Bing Crosby were good friends, and Bing’s version released in December of the same year is my own personal favorite (although Mercer’s is still the bees knees as they say). The added goodness of The Andrews Sisters makes this version fun, and reminding a United States just free of the great depression and entrenched in World War II to”Accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative”, in other words… just be happy.
‘Joy To The World’ by Three Dog Night
If you had a very good friend, who happened to be a bullfrog, whom you shared an occasional drink of fine wine with, would you listen to him if he proclaimed joy to all the boys and girls? Well, in 1971 they were listening, and made this Billboard’s number one song of that year. Looks like bullfrogs know a thing or two about happiness and joy.
‘I Got You (I Feel Good)’ by James Brown
When the Godfather of Soul feels good, he says it loud and proud. Although this one kind of breaks the rules in that a lyric says “When I hold you in my arms, my love can’t do me no harm”, there is no doubt that James is keeping in character by saying she’s lucky to be with him because he’s the one that feels good. Take the top down, and take a drive on a sunny day with this tune turned up loud, smile, and perception becomes reality with a theme song.
‘Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life’ by Eric Idle/Monty Python
By far the most popular original song from a Monty Python film, Eric Idle wrote and performed this happy ditty for the film Life of Brian, and no surprise to its musical magic, former Beatles George Harrison was the films executive producer. Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life had become a novelty song – particularly in the U.K. – where it is sung at sporting events, and even funerals. The title speaks for itself.
‘Get Happy’ by Judy Garland
Although previously released, Judy Garland’s version from the 1950 motion picture ‘Summer Stock’ is the most memorable, and although this tune borders on encouragement vs. personal happiness, it’s still certain to put a smile on our face, and give us a quick reminder to forget our troubles, and get happy, not unlike Bobby McFerrin’s Don’t Worry, Be Happy. A little known factoid about this song is that it served as the original opening song for Warner Brothers ‘Merrie Melodies’ in the early 1930s.
‘Come on Get Happy’ by The Partridge Family
A.K.A. The Partridge Family theme song, although it initially underwent various incarnations, this song almost didn’t make our list due to it’s collective “We’d spread a little lovin’ then we’d keep movin’ on” was borderline love/happy. Yet, it isn’t happiness dependent on others, it was the family spreading happiness to others through song. Admittedly, Susan Dey – being one of my pre-teen crushes – will always be synonymous with happiness to me.
‘What a Wonderful World’ by Louis Armstrong
“And I think to myself, what a wonderful world”. Could there possibly be a more pure and happy thought? Trees of green, clouds of white, and Satchmo singing about it to us. The song has been used in countless films, and What a Wonderful World – originally recorded and released by Armstrong in 1968 – has become somewhat of a standard. It beckons us to appreciate the colors of the rainbow and the faces of children, and the lyric’s reference to babies crying who will learn much more then we’ll ever know metaphorically reminds us that life itself is eternal. It’s a song that softly asks us to stop and be amazed at the beauty all around us.
-Craig & Company
Some other obsessive DJ song lists you might enjoy: