The 40 best songs about friendship
By Parker Hall
August 30, 2016
There’s nothing better in the world than a good friend – except, perhaps, a good song about friendship. A theme that spans all genres – from pop and rap to electronic and country – musical artists have been pondering and praising friendship since time immemorial. Alas, we don’t have recordings of ancient Etruscan or Sumerian odes to friendship, but we do have some other dope tracks on this Spotify playlist, by everyone from Biz Markie to Bette Midler. Grab a friend and take a listen.
“Deep Fried Frenz” by MF Doom (2004) [Amazon, iTunes]
“Deep Fried Frenz,” the fifth track off of MF Doom’s food-related 2004 albumÂ Mm.. Food, samples an old-school rap song by Whodini called “Friends,” so you’re kinda getting two friendship-themed songs in one. If you’re friends with the masked rapper, don’t worry: he doesn’tÂ really want to deep fry you. He does, however, want to know who his real friends are. Hip-hop can be a tough game, but it’s made better with some quality pals.
“Just A Friend” by Biz Markie (1989) [Amazon, iTunes]
Poor Biz Markie can’t catch a break in this 1989 lamentation of forlorn groupie love, in which the Clown Prince of Hip-Hop meets a girl while on concert and, after trying to date her, discovers she already has a man”“who she insists is “just a friend.” This single was a one-hit wonder and Biz Markie hasn’t been able to climb the charts since (appearing on reality shows and Men In Black II instead), but what a wonderful hit it is. “Just A Friend” is now a dancefloor sing-along staple and a reminder that friendship can be bittersweet.
“You’ve Got A Friend In Me” by Randy Newman & Lyle Lovett (1996) [Amazon,iTunes]
Speaking of bittersweet, theÂ Toy Story series and its theme song, “You’ve Got A Friend In Me,” take the cake, a very bittersweet cake. The song – written by Randy Newman and performed as a duet by Newman and Lyle Lovett – is a perfect to tribute to friends helping each other when times get tough.
“I’ll Be There For You” by The Rembrandts (1995) [Amazon, iTunes]
We go from the bittersweet to the syrupy with “I’ll Be There For You” by The Rembrandts, best known as the irritating yet catchy theme song for the TV showÂ Friends, making it a begrudgingly suitable track on this playlist. We’re really sorry. It has some nice and appropriate sentiments about friendship though, we promise!
“I’ll Be There” by The Jackson 5 (1970) [Amazon, iTunes]
“I’ll Be There,” The Jackson 5’s soul song about soul mates, catapulted the quintet beyond the realm of mere bubblegum pop and up into the stratosphere, according to no less an authority than Michael Jackson himself. If you want more “I’ll Be There” in your listening life, check out Mariah Carey’sÂ equally- powerfulÂ MTV UnpluggedÂ rendition.
“You’re My Best Friend” by Queen (1975) [Amazon, iTunes]
So far, our songs about friendship are pretty straightforward and “You’re My Best Friend” by Queen is no exception. Written by the band’s bassist John Deacon – who also provides those Wurlitzer piano notes – it’s a catchy pop ballad about Deacon’s relationship with his wife and the joys of a best friendship that endures into marriage.
“Stand By Me” by Ben E. King (1961) [Amazon, iTunes]
Ben E King’s R&B classic has scaled the Billboard charts twice in its lifetime: first when it was released in 1961, then in 1986 when it was re-released, coinciding with the blockbuster coming-of-age film of the same name, demonstrating the song’s timeless appeal. Both “Stand By Me” andÂ Stand By Me serve as anthemic monuments to childhood camaraderie.
“Lean On Me” by Bill Withers (1972) [Amazon, iTunes]
A friend in need is a friend indeed, as the saying goes, and “Lean On Me” by Bill Withers is a stirring expression of that sentiment. This song topped the Billboard charts twice: the Withers original went #1 in 1972, then the Club Nouveau cover reach the top spot in 1987, also winning the Grammy for Best R&B Song.
“With A Little Help From My Friends” by Joe Cocker (1968) [Amazon, iTunes]
“With A Little Help From My Friends” was first recorded by this British band called The Beatles – maybe you’ve heard of them. Alas, the Beatles original is not on Spotify, so we must make do with the Joe Cocker rendition, but that’s okay because his cover is a friendship-themed classic in its own right, slower and bluesier than the poppy Beatles version. “With A Little Help From My Friends” found new life 20 years after its release as the theme song of the nostalgic seriesÂ The Wonder Years.
“Umbrella” by Rihanna (2007) [Amazon, iTunes]
“When the sun shines, we’ll shine together/Told you I’ll be here forever/Said I’ll always be a friend/Took an oath I’mma stick it out til the end.” Is there a better expression of friendship than that? Rihanna had a string of early successes before “Umbrella,” but this 2007 single was her breakthrough hit, turning her into the chart-topping titan she is today. It’s also an affecting and danceable tune about the everlasting bond between friends.
“I Will Remember You” by Sarah McLachlan (1995) [Amazon, iTunes]
Friendship is all about being honest with someone. For example, hypothetically, suppose you thought Sarah McLachlan’s “I Will Remember You” was super schmaltzy and corny, but cried every time they played it under those “In Memoriam” tributes at award shows, or every time they played it at graduation ceremonies. You’d want to be honest with your friend about that.Â Hypothetically, of course. “Weep not for the memories.” We’ll try, Sarah!
“Thank You For Being A Friend” by Andrew Gold (1978) [Amazon, iTunes]
Never take a good friend for granted. Always thank them for being a friend, as the 1978 Andrew Gold song reminds us. Later re-recorded by Cynthia Fee as the theme song of the NBC seriesÂ The Golden Girls, “Thank You For Being A Friend” includes such heartwarming notes of friendship as, “If it’s a car you lack/I’d surely buy you a Cadillac,” and some weirder lines like, “And when we die/And float away/Into the night/The Milky Way/You’ll hear me call.” Best friends forever, indeed.
“You’ve Got A Friend” by James Taylor (1971) [Amazon, iTunes]
The writing and recording of “You’ve Got A Friend” was an exercise in friendship. Written by Carole King, it was then recorded simultaneously for both her album,Â Tapestry, and James Taylor’s,Â Mud Slide Slim, with King and Taylor sharing the same backing musicians. NowÂ that’s a beautiful friendship.
“The Boys Are Back In Town” by Thin Lizzy (1976) [Amazon, iTunes]
So, you and your best buds are reuniting at a bar a few years after graduation. What’s the song you’re going to have the jukebox (if the bar even has one) play over and over? “The Boys Are Back In Town” by Thin Lizzy, of course. As you guys knock back some beers and reminisce about the old days, this hard rock classic will provide the perfect soundtrack.
“That’s What Friends Are For” by Dionne Warwick & Friends (1985) [Amazon,iTunes]
What are friends for? Listen to this touching song by Dionne Warwick & Friends to find out. The “& Friends” refers to Elton John, Gladys Knight and Stevie Wonder, which is a superb group of super friends if there ever was one. Alas, they gathered to record the single – co-written by Burt Bacharach – under less than cheerful auspices. The mid-1980s was the height of the AIDS epidemic, and “That’s What Friends Are For” was recorded to raise money for the American Foundation for AIDS Research. On the bright side, Dionne Warwick and her powerhouse pals raised over $3 million for the cause.
“I’ll Be Missing You” by Puff Daddy, Faith Evans & 112 (1997) [Amazon,iTunes]
Released only two months after the murder of famed rapper The Notorious B.I.G., “I’ll Be Missing You” by Puff Daddy, Faith Evans and 112 is a fitting tribute to their fallen friend and colleague. The track – which went on to be one of the best-selling singles of all time – samples The Police’s “Every Breath You Take,” and because the producers never thought to get the sampling rights beforehand, Sting rakes in 100% of the publishing royalties.
“Angel” by Shaggy & Rayvon (2001) [Amazon, iTunes]
“Closer than my peeps you are to me, baby.” Damn, that’s beautiful. “Angel” is a love letter to that special girl in your life who’s also your best friend, someone who’s by your side through thick and thin. To paraphrase Shaggy himself, show the nation your appreciation of your own “darling angel” and crank this tune up.
“Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine” by The Killers (2004) [Amazon, iTunes]
This is probably the darkest song on the playlist since it’s about a murder. Murder’s a pretty dark subject. Sung from the point of view of a boy who’s been taken in for questioning about the murder of the titular Jenny, the juxtaposition of the Duran Duran-y basslines with lyrics like “There ain’t no motive for this crime/Jenny was a friend of mine,” is haunting.
“Best Friend” by 50 Cent (2006) [Amazon, iTunes]
In “Best Friend,” 50 Cent calls back to an earlier entry on this list, Biz Markie’s “Just A Friend,” when he begs his best (girl) friend, “Please say he’s just a friend.” You see, 50’s got a problem: he’s worried that he’s been put in the friend zone, locked up in Palcatraz, and he sure as hell doesn’t want to be. He lays out (in explicit detail) why he and this girl should be more than friends. Best of luck, Mr. Cent.
“Graduation (Friends Forever)” by Vitamin C (1999) [Amazon, iTunes]
Here’s a high-school graduation staple. It’s about moving on and growing up and getting the “big jobs” and “big money,” but still being friends with the people you palled around with in school. It’s both nostalgic about the past and excited for the future. And it’s based on a piece of classical music called Pachelbel’s Canon, so it’s timeless.
“No New Friends” by DJ Khaled, Drake, Rick Ross & Lil Wayne (2013) [Amazon, iTunes]
Friendship is very important to rappers. It’s so important, in fact, that they tend to be a little hesitant about making new friends, hence this collaborative track by DJ Khaled, Drake, Rick Ross and Lil Wayne. Sure, they might seem menacing and hard in the paint at first, but below the surface, they’re just a bunch of softies who love their friends. As long as they’re not new ones.
“Count On Me” by Bruno Mars (2011) [Amazon, iTunes]
What are friends supposed to do? Just ask Bruno Mars. “You can count on me like 1, 2, 3/I’ll be there/And I know when I need it/I can count on you like 4, 3, 2.” Good friends can count on each other in times of need, as this single from Bruno Mars’s debut album,Â Doo-Wops & Hooligans, reaffirms.
“Waiting On A Friend” by The Rolling Stones (1981) [Amazon, iTunes]
The members of The Rolling Stones, especially Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, must know a thing or two about friendship. After all, they’ve all been friends (or at least colleagues) for like half a century now. So, you can trust their words when Jagger sings, “I’m not waiting on a lady/I’m just waiting on a friend,” in this 1981 classic. By then, Jagger and Richards had mellowed out a bit, and were stopping to appreciate the finer things in life, like their partnership and friendship.
“Internet Friends” by Knife Party (2011) [Amazon, iTunes]
“Be careful of who you befriend on the Internet” is basically the message of this electro house/brostep dance track. That girl you try to pick up online might go crazy – especially if you block her on Facebook – and break into your house. Pump up the volume on this one and let the crunchy synths overwhelm you, bro.
“All My Friends” by LCD Soundsystem (2007) [Amazon, iTunes]
Another dance song about friendship, except this one doesn’t sound like your cat knocking all the pots and pans off the counter. Instead, “All My Friends” by LCD Soundsystem sounds like The Killers listened to a lot of Krautfunk, then decided to make a club banger, with some piano chords thrown in for good measure. The lyrics themselves are pretty great too, tracing the rise and fall of a friendship, with lines like, “It comes apart/The way it does in bad films.” Perfect for a melancholic dance party.
“Wind Beneath My Wings” by Bette Midler (1989) [Amazon, iTunes]
This 1989 hit, first recorded by Bette Midler for the movieÂ Beaches, takes friendship appreciation to a whole ”˜nother level. Midler sings: “Did you ever know that you’re my hero/You’re everything I wish I could be/I could fly higher than an eagle/For you are the wind beneath my wings.” That’s some high praise.
“My Best Friend” by Weezer (2005) [Amazon, iTunes]
Weezer has never really been known for their subtlety. They tell you straight up what they’re all about and there’s something refreshing about that. They keep that straightforward style for “My Best Friend,” with a chorus that goes, “You are my best friend/and I love you, and I love you/Yes I do.” That’s just great, Weezer. Thanks a ton.
“We’re Going To Be Friends” by The White Stripes (2002) [Amazon, iTunes]
Remember when you were young and all you cared about was the first day of school and making new friends. “We’re Going To Be Friends,” off The White Stripes’ third albumÂ White Blood Cells, captures that childhood anxiety and excitement perfectly. The lyrical and musical composition are simple, like a lullaby, and by the song’s end, you’re fully transported back to those early school and friendship days.
“Happy Together” by The Turtles (1967) [Amazon, iTunes]
Okay, listening to this sunshine-pop oldie is a bit like chugging maple syrup, but whatever, it’s a cute and catchy song about love and friendship. When you and your friend are so happy that “the skies’ll be blue” when you’re together, you know you’ve got a good thing going on.
“Wannabe” by Spice Girls (1996) [Amazon, iTunes]
“If you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends.” SayÂ what, Spice Girls? If you insist. “Wannabe” was an anthem of the Girl Power philosopher the pop group espoused, a song about female friendship and empowerment. It was written in less than 30 minutes, which just shows how creatively inspiring friendship can be.
“Clique” by Kanye West, Jay-Z & Big Sean (2012) [Amazon, iTunes]
Big Sean would like to remind you that no group of friends comes close to his group of friends, which includes members of GOOD Music (like Big Sean and Pusha T), Jay-Z and label head Kanye West. If you and your friends want to feel like the GOOD Music clique, turn on and turn up “Clique.” Ain’t nobody fresher.
“Big Brother” by Kanye West (2007) [Amazon, iTunes]
Kanye West again. From his 2007 albumÂ Graduation, “Big Brother” is a touching tribute to his mentor and friend, Jay-Z. In the song, Kanye discusses how Jay-Z inspired him in the early days, giving him a shot at producing and rapping, then how a friendly sibling rivalry pushed Kanye to develop as an artist. “Big Brother” is a rare thing: a quality, heartfelt rap song about brotherly love.
“Friends” by Elton John (1971) [Amazon, iTunes]
“Friends” was the only single of the albumÂ Friends, the soundtrack to an obscure film calledÂ Friends. So, if you were wondering what it’s about, wonder no more. It’s about friends. Recorded shortly before Elton John and collaborator Bernie Taupin made it big in the USA, “Friends” is a short and sweet salute to friendship.
“Stay Free” by The Clash (1978) [Amazon, iTunes]
You don’t expect a snarling, snarky punk outfit like The Clash to record a typical song about friendship, and don’t worry, they didn’t. In “Stay Free,” they detail a childhood friendship full of causing mischief during and after school, playing pool and smoking cigarettes. Then one of the friends punches the wrong guy and goes to jail. The song’s ending is both ominous and hopeful: “Go easy ”¦ step lightly ”¦ stay free.”
“Never Had A Friend Like Me” by 2Pac (1997) [Amazon, iTunes]
Rappers are a boastful lot. Swagger’s just something that comes with the territory. However, usually they brag about how many cars or gold chains they have, not about how great and unique a friend they are. In “Never Had A Friend Like Me,” 2Pac does exactly that. Allegedly, he wrote it for his close friend and boss at Death Row Records, Suge Knight.
“New Friends” by Pinegrove (2016) [Amazon, iTunes]
As we get older, it can be harder and harder to make new friends. Pinegrove’s excellent track on the subject is the solution to that problem, a new social beginning that starts with a resolution to meet new people. As the song says, “What’s the worst that could happen?”
“Real Friends” by Kanye West (2016) [Amazon, iTunes]
When you ascend to any form of success, it can be hard to tell who your true friends are. The subject of Kanye’s classic-era-sounding new single is the kind of friendship where one party actually cares about the other’s feelings and emotions, not about what they can get from them.
“Summer Friends” by Chance The Rapper (2016) [Amazon, iTunes]
Chance The Rapper’s song highlights the fleeting nature of warm-weather friendships, where people meet on the street, interacting in a happy universe that seems to disappear come fall.
“ToÂ You” by Andy Shauf (2016) [Amazon, iTunes]
A song about a disagreement between two pals at a party that leads to a cathartic late-night smoking session,Â To You is a pleasant-sounding and somewhat corny love letter to friendship which perfectly encapsulates the emotionally awkward person inside each of us.
“Thank You Friends” by Big Star (1978) [Amazon, iTunes]
It’s never the wrong time to thank your friends for aiding in your successes, and that’s just what iconic classic rockers Big Star do here. A rocking jam which highlights all the people responsible for their good times, this song is the perfect thing to put on when you are surrounded by the ones you love, but just don’t quite have the right words.