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Pharrell Sets Sail on His Yacht Rock Era With Surprise New Album

By Jon Blistein

Jon Blistein

Pharrell appears to be celebrating his 51st birthday today, April 5, with a gift to fans — a new album that’s totally free to stream and download through one specific website .

To say there aren’t many confirmable details about the 10-track project is an understatement. Based purely on the album artwork, the project appears to be called Black Yacht Rock Vol. 1: City of Limitless Access and might be credited to a group called Virginia — though, for all we know, Virginia is part of the title. 

And while it’s definitely Pharrell singing on the album, his name isn’t attached anywhere to the project, not even the metadata of the Mp3s if you download the LP (it’s similarly unclear if he played all the instruments himself or brought in some collaborators). The musician hasn’t promoted the album on his website or social media.

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Black Yacht Rock Vol. 1 (if that is the official title) marks Pharrell’s first solo album (if we can actually consider this a solo album) since 2014’s Girl . He’s released two other collaborative singles this year, “Good People” with Mumford and Sons and “Doctor (Work It Out)” with Miley Cyrus. 

Pharrell also has a couple of movie projects in the works. The first, announced earlier this year, will be a biopic of sorts but told entirely through Lego brick animation (it’s fittingly called Piece By Piece ). The other is an as-yet-untitled collaboration with filmmaker Michel Gondry , which will be set in Virginia Beach, Virginia in 1977 (where Pharrell grew up) and feature a cast of Halle Bailey, Kelvin Harrison Jr., and Da’Vine Joy Randolph.

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black yacht rock artists

A track-by-track review of Pharrell Williams's new album 'VIRGINIA BLACK YACHT ROCK VOL. 1 CITY OF LIMITLESS ACCESS'

P harrell Williams celebrated his 51st birthday with a surprise album drop last Friday (April 5, 2024), titled VIRGINIA BLACK YACHT ROCK VOL. 1 CITY OF LIMITLESS ACCESS, which he released exclusively on a new website i.e.

The album wasn't officially announced on any of his social media accounts, but was instead circulated online through various news portals, who reposted the album cover.

Pharrell's BLACK YACHT ROCK VOL. 1 is a completely free to stream and download file, uploaded to this website. It features 10 self-produced tracks that are refreshingly different, capturing the songwriter's ranged vocal performance .

This surprise LP officially marks Pharrell's return to a solo project, following up on his 2014 album, Girl.

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You've heard of Yacht Rock? Now there is Yacht Soul

black yacht rock artists

Photo Credit: Greg Allen

(July 25, 2020) You’ve heard of Yacht Rock? Now there is “Yacht Soul.”

Visit just about any suburban boomer backyard summer party, and you’re likely to hear a healthy dose of “Yacht Rock.” The seemingly pejorative term was popularized in a series of parody videos more than a decade ago, and has stuck as a descripter of the smooth, California sound of the late 70s and early 80s from such artists as Christopher Cross, Toto and Michael McDonald. And it is huge with its middle-aged, mostly Caucasian demographic. The Yacht Rock playlist on Spotify has nearly 700,000 followers, and Sirius Radio dedicates an entire station to it.

More recently, there has been much talk about a similar style of R&B music that peaked about the same time, now labeled as “Yacht Soul,” and it got me wondering: Is that really a thing? For me, it began when I was invited to the Yacht Soul Facebook Group , and heard about a dedicated radio show in the UK. Paul Clifford (who himself discovered the term from a Katie Puckrick documentary ) created the Solar Radio Yacht Soul show , and he is passionate about the style of music that it represents: “ Smooth, well-crafted, super-engineered with the sprinkling of perfect musicianship. It is where soul music from the late 70s and album oriented rock collided to create a perfect blend that has stood the test of time - thanks in large part to the meticulous songwriting and producing of the era .” Clifford, with Richard Searing, compiled  a massive Yacht Soul playlist , and he believes that the most representative songs are “Turn Your Love Around” by George Benson, “After The Love Is Gone” by Earth Wind & Fire, and “Why I Came To California” by Leon Ware.

A “ highly subjectively selected niche of songs characterized by slick production, laid back grooves, and light sometimes romantic lyrics,” is how veteran music journalist A. Scott Galloway (who is less convinced that Yacht Soul is actually a separate music category) describes it. He also perceptively adds that “ Most key seems to be the factor of the songs either being by White artists that are soulful or Black artists dabbling in shades of groovy soft rock .”

black yacht rock artists

So is Yacht Soul really just rebranded Yacht Rock? Noted music lawyer (and SoulTracks contributor) Robb Patryk, says maybe not. “ The ‘soul’ often is found in the vocals, which tend to be similar to those heard on classic soul and R&B records of that same era ,” even if performed by white artists, such as Gino Vanelli. So, perhaps it is the combination of the slick production and the soulful vocal performance that makes something Yacht Soul. In other words, it is El Debarge’s singing that makes “ Someone ” Yacht Soul, while Christopher Cross’s “ Alright ” definitely isn’t. And it is the slick, pop production of Earth Wind & Fire’s  “After The Love Is Gone” that makes it a Yacht Soul exemplar, in contrast to the soulful vibe of the group’s classic ballad “Reasons.”

But our go-to soul music historian, record compilation guru Donald Cleveland, says that we have Yacht Soul question entirely backwards. “ To be honest, Yacht Rock should have been called Yacht Soul from the start. Anybody with ears knows that. The only thing ‘rock’ about Yacht is the label that was on the albums as originally released, so they could be filed separately from the ‘Soul’ albums. It was just easier for the White people listening to this music with obvious soulful stylings to just keep the White ‘rock’ labeling going, even if the musicians themselves were influenced by and working from a framework of Black Soul .” Mama’s Gun lead singer Andy Platts agrees. “ Really if we’re honest, you don’t get ‘Yacht Rock’ without the evolution of Black music in the first place, from which it borrows heavily, so perhaps this just underscores the issues with appropriating and using terms like the ‘yacht’ label .”

These are the kinds of discussions that have been swirling around social media over the past few months, as Yacht Soul groups developed. And if it feels like the debates are just so much inside baseball nonsense, Purpose Music co-CEO George Littlejohn takes a more positive view of what has been special about the Yacht Soul kerfluffel: “ I still really do not exactly know what Yacht Soul is, but I do know I am always happy to see people posting and talking about soul music intelligently. And I take great joy in seeing them uncovering rare grooves ,” citing songs like Brenda Russell’s " Hello People ," Sheree Brown’s “ Got To Get Away ,” and projects by Heat, Seawind and Donna Washington that have resurfaced in Yacht Soul musings.

Maybe that’s the key here. Love or hate the term, “Yacht Soul” has music fans talking passionately, and revisiting a series of terrific songs, many of which have been lost gems for decades – and, just as importantly, giving some long overdue shine to the artists who made them. And that right there makes it all worth it.

By Chris Rizik

Check out an episode of Paul Clifford's Yacht Soul radio show

Too Slow To Disco


Too Slow to Disco – Yacht Soul

Originals by Fleetwood Mac, Toto, The Doobie Brothers, Hall & Oates, The Beach Boys, Steely Dan a.m.m. Covered by Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan, Quincy Jones, Brothers Johnson a.m.m.

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  • TAVARES – I Hope You’ll Be Very Unhappy Without Me (BILL LABOUNTY)
  • THE EBONYS – A Love Of Your Own (NED DOHENY)
  • LESLIE SMITH – Nothin’ You Can Do About It (AIRPLAY)
  • BILLY PAUL – Let ‘Em In (WINGS)
  • SIDE EFFECT – Georgy Porgy (TOTO)
  • QUINCY JONES – Takin’ It To The Streets (DOOBIE BROTHERS)

The Cover Versions

“Wait… keep it on that station… is this the Doobies? That backbeat – it’s on fire! Whoa… that’s Aretha! Turn it up…”

It’s perhaps an obvious metaphor for us to reach for, but the whole Too Slow to Disco project has always viewed music a bit like ocean waves. They keep crashing back, slightly different, always bringing new things to the shore.

When we started out, our mission was to bring you the very best, over-musical-yet-under-remembered tunes – beautiful songs produced at incredible expense by the undersung geniuses of the 1970s and 80s. Next we wanted to share the musical story of the insanely talented, but often criminally overlooked, women writers and performers of that era. The waves kept crashing in though, and our story then moved bang up to date with our ‘Neo’ series, bringing you the best contemporary tune-makers who share our obsession with the AOR era.

But those beautiful waves keep crashing, and our latest project takes us to another delectably under-visited stretch of the shore: an incredible group of Black artists and their soulful takes on the smooth classics of those predominantly white Westcoast AOR/Yacht Laurel Canyon Hippies. Two worlds, paying their debts and respects to each other, in a series of brilliant covers that just jump out of the speakers. Ladies and gentlemen, be very reverent for the sound of Yacht Soul.

Our sherpa up this impressive musical mountain is none other than esteemed DJ, journalist, crate digger and renowned musicologist Greg Caz. Greg’s expertise at joining the dots of pop history made him the perfect guide for this new story and wonderful collection:

GREG CAZ: „The history of Black artists covering songs primarily associated with white writers and performers is a very long one, stretching all the way back to the early 20th century. These covers generally happened for a variety of musical and commercial reasons ranging from the desire to reach more white listeners to the simple fact that the performer really liked the song in question and felt they could find something personal and unique in it for their own version. Most popular music of the pre-Rock N’ Roll era was based on songs written for plays and films and that material, known today as the Great American Songbook, constitutes a large percentage of the midcentury Jazz repertoire. Names such as Rodgers & Hammerstein, Harold Arlen, George & Ira Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Johnny Mercer, Sammy Cahn and many others are all too familiar from the credits of Jazz albums. As time went on, revolutions in the music business brought about new generations and new forms of making music and the non-performing songwriter-for-hire gradually faded into the background (even without disappearing entirely) as artists became increasingly expected to generate their own material. Even with all this, Rock and Pop artists found covering Blues and R&B songs to be a reliable source both of great material and of artistic credibility. Meanwhile, Soul and R&B artists would routinely cover current Pop-Rock songs as a way of expending their audiences and crossover potential…which brings us to the material on this latest installment of the Too Slow To Disco series.

What the tracks on this compilation all have in common is that they are songs written and/or popularized by Pop/Rock artists. In some cases the performers here are tackling these songs because they genuinely like them and find that they give them something interesting to work with. In other cases the decision to record the song in question perhaps comes from a shrewd plan to cover all the market bases. But whether the motivation was purely creative or strictly mercenary, these recordings demonstrate the folly of arbitrary genre separation and also served to introduce these artists’ fan bases to great songs they might not necessarily have gone out of their way to find.

Take the Main Ingredient’s sublime cover of Seals & Crofts’ “Summer Breeze,” for instance, one of two songs by the duo covered on 1974’s brilliant Euphrates River LP. The Isley Brothers had put their indelible stamp on S&C’s hit the previous year, and in such a definitive way that one would think no further covers were necessary. But the MI’s version more than justifies itself and actually proves as essential as the Isleys’ by virtue of Bert DeCoteaux’s gorgeous and elegant arrangement as well as Cuba Gooding’s distinctively beautiful voice. 
The Pointer Sisters entered their period of greatest sustained success with their best-known lineup of Ruth, Anita and June starting in 1978 with the heavily Yacht Rock-oriented Energy LP, their first with producer Richard Perry. Their energetic cover of Steely Dan’s “Dirty Work” is one of the many standouts on an album that also saw them tackle Bruce Springsteen, Fleetwood Mac, Loggins & Messina and the Doobie Brothers.

Speaking of the Doobie Brothers, their “Takin’ It To The Streets” is brilliantly covered here by Quincy Jones and friends in a version taken from Q’s Sounds…And Stuff Like That album. Vocals are handled by a pair of veteran New York session vocalists, Luther Vandross and Gwen Guthrie, who would both soon afterwards make their mark as solo performers.
Another Michael McDonald/Doobie Brothers hit that appears here is R&B stalwart Peabo Bryson’s take on “Minute By Minute” from his Paradise LP (1980). McDonald’s voice and music were well-established on urban radio formats by this time which made this big Doobies hit from the previous year, co-written with Lester Abrams of Crackin’, a natural fit for Peabo. 
Michael McDonald’s colleague Kenny Loggins is represented here by a big hit he co-wrote with MM (once again), “This Is It,” which serves as a perfect jumping-off point for Millie Jackson to deliver one of her patented saucy sermons and soulful performances. It ends up sounding as if Kenny and Mike wrote it just for her.

In the case of Greg Phillinganes’ “Lazy Nina,” Donald Fagen DID write it just for him, and getting an exclusive song from Fagen (as well as getting Michael Jackson to guest on the same 1984 album) is the kind of feat that only a true studio-session MVP like Phillinganes could possibly pull off. His was a name that seemed to appear on almost every top-selling blockbuster album of the era and the stars he worked for and with were only too happy to return the favor. On many albums with Greg Phillinganes’ name in the credits you would also usually find the names of his colleagues, the members of Toto, who played a big instrumental role in shaping Michael Jackson’s world-beating success alongside Greg. “Georgy Porgy” is a song from Toto’s 1978 debut album that immediately became a big favorite on R&B stations with its hook sung by another Toto associate, Cheryl Lynn. It has been covered and sampled many times but Fantasy Records’ Jazz-Funk male-female vocal group Side Effect were perhaps the earliest to do it as it fit their style so well.

The Brothers Johnson were also key players on the LA session scene, and part of the same Quincy Jones team as Greg Phillinganes and the Toto guys. Three of the Toto guys, in fact (Steve Porcaro, David Paich and legendary drummer Jeff Porcaro) wrote “In The Way” for Louis and George, which the Brothers recorded for 1981’s Winners, their fifth album. It combines the patented BrosJo Funk with the kind of breezy LA Yacht-Rock sound that all of the record’s participants were right at the heart of creating.

That same sound is in full flow on “Nothing You Can Do About It,” a veritable West Coast/AOR classic by two of the chief architects of that sound, David Foster and Jay Graydon. First recorded by the Manhattan Transfer in 1979, it was then recorded the following year by its writers under their Airplay project, but the version we have here is the 1982 cover by Crackin’ vocalist Leslie Smith, a true Funk veteran (previously, like many of his Crackin’ bandmates, of the L.A. Carnival) who also embodies the genuine R&B side of the West Coast/AOR ethos. He is joined by many members of Crackin’ on his solo album Heartache, which also features a soulful Ned Doheny cover. And while we’re on the subject of soulful Ned Doheny covers (are there any other kind?), Trenton, New Jersey’s The Ebonys give us a smooth and spectacular version of “A Love Of Your Own,” best known of course via the version by the Average White Band, whose Hamish Stuart co-wrote the song with Ned. Jazz-R&B veteran Dee Dee Bridgewater takes a similar approach on her 1976 cover of Hall & Oates’ “She’s Gone,” which becomes “He’s Gone” in her amazing gender-switched rendition. As with many of the tracks on this collection it was recorded in LA and the seasoned players on this version include the likes of Joe Sample, Wilton Felder, Ed Greene and Ray Parker Jr. The song itself had just become a hit three years after its initial release on Atlantic, after Daryl and John had gone on to success on RCA. This self-titled Dee Dee album is on Atlantic so her being encouraged to cover it (as well as the fact that it’s a great song for her to tackle) makes a lot of sense.

The same core group of musicians could be found on Betty Everett’s Gene and Billy Page-produced final album, 1975’s Happy Endings, on which she turns in a stunning Modern-Soul version of the Beach Boys classic “God Only Knows” which bears many of the stylistic hallmarks of the main employer of the producers and players on the record: Barry White. It would be very interesting to know if Brian Wilson heard this version and what he thought of it!
Billy Paul had been searching for another hit like “Me And Mrs. Jones” since 1972 for about five years when he released this cover of Paul McCartney and Wings’ recent hit “Let ‘Em In.” Despite his status as a Jazz Lounge singer-turned-Soul man, Billy had always been open to material from a wide variety of sources and had even covered Steppenwolf’s “Magic Carpet Ride” on an earlier album. So “Let ‘Em In” fit him like a glove, especially as it allowed him to add extra social significance to the song by adding the names of assorted civil rights and political leaders to the lyrics.

Like Billy Paul and many other artists featured on this collection, Tavares were also adept at adding a soulful spin to Pop material, having released their own cover of “She’s Gone” around the same time as Dee Dee Bridgewater. Their cover of AOR stalwart Bill LaBounty’s “I Hope You’ll Be Very Unhappy Without Me” is yet another shining example of how R&B-influenced the “Yacht Rock” sound, always was at its core, because, once again, it sounds like it was written just for them and sounded equally appropriate on Pop and Urban stations.
Chaka Khan’s cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Everywhere” is natural and appropriate for many reasons. Both Rufus and the Buckingham-Nicks edition of the Mac rose to prominence simultaneously in the mid-70s and the two LA-based bands often seemed to be Pop-Rock/Funk/Soul mirror images of one another (I sometimes like to refer to Rufus as “Fleetwood Black”!). Chaka is known to have broad musical tastes so for her to cover a Fleetwood Mac song is simply par for the course.

The story told by all these cover versions is one of blurred lines between genres and how musical categories are often ultimately artificial constructs that melt away when either an artist is seeking for a way to expand their audience reach, or they just quite simply hear a song they really like and feel that it offers them the opportunity to stretch their creative wings, genres be damned. As we’ve seen, many of these cases of Black artists recording songs by white writers happened in a very direct and natural way, and for logical reasons. Further proof, as if further proof were even needed, of the unifying power of great music.”

Greg Caz New York City January 2021

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Too Slow To Disco

A compilation series of Late 70s Westcoast Yachtpop you can almost dance to.

Compiled by Dj Supermarkt

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pharrell williams

Pharrell Williams Dropped A New Album, ‘Virginia: Black Yacht Rock Vol. 1,’ While You Were Arguing About Kendrick Lamar And J. Cole

Aaron Williams

One of music’s biggest artists just pulled a Beyoncé, quietly dropping a new album without warning in the middle of the night. No, it wasn’t J. Cole, whose mixtape Might Delete Later has been dominating social media discussion today as a result of his “ 7 Minute Drill ” call-out of Kendrick Lamar. While y’all were arguing about whose entry in the Burn Book was more vicious (smh), Pharrell Williams released Virginia: Black Yacht Rock, Vol. 1 —City Of Limitless Access for his 51st birthday. It sounds exactly as its title suggests.

Of course, it’s fair if you didn’t realize such a thing happened. I myself didn’t catch on until Pharrell superfan Tyler The Creator posted about it on Twitter, at which point, I scrambled through the DSPs (yes, all of them, music writers can write off all those memberships on our taxes — this is me reminding myself to actuall do my taxes) only to find out that its only available on its own website. Hit up to hear it. Feel free to throw on a linen suit first, make yourself a tropical drink. You can also download it and take it on a yacht with you laters. Whatever… ahem… floats your boat.

caged bird free by virginia black yacht rock, great song — T (@tylerthecreator) April 5, 2024

Pharrell’s new album arrives, strangely enough, after news of friction between him and his former production partner, Chad Hugo, over the name of their production group, The Neptunes. You can read about it here .

Virginia: Black Yacht Rock, Vol. 1 — City Of Limitless Access is out now via .

All The Best New R&B Music From This Week

black yacht rock artists

Pharrell Williams surprise-releases new album Black Yacht Rock Vol 1

Connor Gotto

Pharrell Williams has surprise-released his new album ‘Black Yacht Rock Vol 1: City of Limitless Access’.

The US star released his latest project directly via his on his 51st birthday and, at the time of writing, it’s not available via any other streaming platform.

The page also offers an option for fans to sign up to a new mailing list, with those who enrol receiving a “stay tuned” message

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A full list of credits has yet to be shared, however artists such as Tyler, The Creator and Pusha T have shared details of the album on their Instagram Stories.

As yet, it appears to be unclear who has worked with Pharrell on the album although artists including Tyler, The Creator and Pusha T have both shared details of the album on their Instagram Stories.

Others have speculated that ‘Virginia’ – which is credited on the artwork – could be the name of a group, although this has yet to be confirmed and Pharrell has shared no further details about the release at this time.

The singer-songwriter and producer released his second and most-recent studio album, ‘Girl’, in March 2014. He recently teamed up with Miley Cyrus on the single release Doctor (Work It Out) .

Connor Gotto

Founder and editor of RETROPOP. Self-proclaimed pop aficionado. Like to make my life look super cool and exciting online, but usually found at home, with my dogs, sipping wine and listening to Nicki French!


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Pharrell unveils 'Black Yacht Rock Vol. 1' in a birthday surprise release.

Pharrell Black Yacht Rock Vol. 1

On his birthday, April 5th,  Pharrell Williams has unveiled his latest project, ‘Black Yacht Rock Vol. 1,’ a 10-track homage to his Virginia roots, described as a “City of Limitless Access.” This surprise album diverges from the norm by being accessible exclusively through its dedicated website, BlackYachtRock , sidestepping traditional streaming platforms entirely.

Listeners of the ‘Black Yacht Rock Vol. 1’ will find themselves enveloped in a Pharrell-centric sonic experience, reminiscent of tuning into a radio station devoted solely to the artist’s new tunes. Featured tracks like “Richard Mille,” “Caged Bird Free,” “11:11,” and “Going Back to VA” showcase Pharrell’s versatility and deep connection to his hometown vibes. The album’s website is straightforward, offering audio recordings of each song for download, alongside the option to download the entire album. Fans joining the mailing list are teased with a cryptic “Stay tuned…” message, hinting at more to come.

As of now, Pharrell has chosen not to promote ‘Black Yacht Rock Vol. 1’ on his social media platforms, making the album a hidden gem for fans and music enthusiasts who stumble upon it. This release strategy adds an element of discovery and exclusivity to the experience of engaging with the album.

In addition to this surprise album, Pharrell, who is currently serving as the creative director of Louis Vuitton’s men’s line, is involved in several high-profile projects. In January, he has announced an extraordinary new biopic titled “Piece by Piece,” with LEGO . Pharrell is also collaborating with director Michel Gondry on a musical featuring Halle Bailey, Kelvin Harrison Jr., and Oscar-winner Da’Vine Joy Randolph , which explores themes of growing up against the backdrop of Virginia Beach in the summer of 1977, inspired by the Atlantis Apartments neighborhood from Pharrell’s childhood.

Meanwhile, his collaboration with Miley Cyrus , “Doctor (Work It Out),” released on March 1, marks their first project together since the 2013 album ‘Bangerz.’ The duo teased the song in January during the Louis Vuitton men’s fall winter fashion show in Paris, signaling another hit in the making.

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I downloaded this album but it’s really funny how we stopped downloading music and how this is a completely different way and actually our cake way of listening to music I do agree that streaming services are no good for the music industry and it’s better to give it out for free then to give those cents and well not cents to the music industry and streaming 😕

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so when does he get to design and when does he get to make music haha

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Ultimate Classic Rock

Yacht or Not?: Sailing the Seas of Yacht Rock

Louis Armstrong said, “If you have to ask what jazz is, you’ll never know.” Duke Ellington said, “There are simply two kinds of music: good music and the other kind.” Christopher Cross said, “If you get caught between the moon and New York City, the best that you can do is fall in love.”

What do these pieces of wisdom add up to? Music, like love, doesn’t follow rules. Musicians as diverse as Armstrong, Ellington and Cross don’t want to be boxed in by genre. They want to write, record and perform and not spend time deciding if they play bebop or hard bop, blues or Southern rock, funk or disco.

But as temperatures heat up and people think of sailing away to find serenity, yacht rock playlists start to float in on the breeze. And that means drawing boundaries with enough latitude that artists don’t object to being boxed in and  still foster playlists with a sense of meaning, a sense of continuity and depth. Peaks and valleys must be smartly balanced against the total annihilation of a common aesthetic. (Yes, despite a fascination with sailing and pina coladas, yacht rock can be taken seriously!)

And so, much to Armstrong’s chagrin, we have to ask, “What is yacht rock?” If it seems obvious, take a look at Spotify’s recent “Yacht Rock” playlist . Spotify is a global streaming leader with some 350 million monthly users, an army of music experts and cutting edge artificial intelligence, and yet the company filled its playlist with songs such as Tears for Fears ’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” Rockwell’s “Somebody’s Watching Me,” Van Morrison ’s “Brown Eyed Girl” and Bruce Hornsby ’s “The Way It Is.”

If somebody wants to create and enjoy a stack of songs that runs from tunes by the J. Geils Band , to the  Police , to Bad Company , to Talking Heads (yup, the company has all these artists on its playlist and even included Ray Parker Jr.’s “Ghostbusters”), they should do that with gusto! It sounds like an evening full of classic jams and fun left turns so cheers to the endeavor. But if a major player in the music business wants to do that and call it yacht rock, we need to take a step back and consider what is and isn’t yacht.

We know breezes, islands, keys, capes, cool nights, crazy love and reminiscing help define the yacht aesthetic (see works by Seals & Crofts , Jay Fergeson, Bertie Higgins, Rupert Holmes, Paul Davis, Poco , and Little River Band ). But let’s get beyond the captain’s caps and map the waters of this perfect-for-summer style.

Watch Bertie Higgins' Video for 'Key Largo' 

Yacht Rock Sets Sail With Help From a 2005 Web Series

Before 2005, people generally placed Toto ’s “ Africa ” and Holmes’ “Escape (The Pina Colada Song)” in the soft rock genre. Maybe if they were getting fancy, they’d call them AM Gold. But in 2005, the online video series Yacht Rock debuted. It fictionalized the careers of soft rock artists of the late ’70s and early ’80s. The cheeky show capitalized on the building renaissance of artists such as Steely Dan and Michael McDonald , who embraced the silliness of the series.

“When it came on I remember watching it pretty avidly,” McDonald admitted in 2018 . “My kids got a huge kick out of it. We would laugh about the characterizations of the people involved. At this point it’s a genre of its own. You’re either yacht or you're not.”

He might be right that you’re either yacht or you’re not. But calling it a genre doesn’t quite work (more on that in a minute).

Listen to the Doobie Brothers' 'Minute By Minute'

Riding the Waters From the Radical ’60s to the Sincere ’70s

By the late ’60s, rock ‘n’ roll had become “art.” The Beatles started as simple teen heartthrobs covering early rock ‘n’ roll, but graduated to the supreme weirdness of the  White Album . Chuck Berry gave birth to the Rolling Stones who gave birth to Led Zeppelin and the gonzo bombast of “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You.” And all sorts of acts went wild from the Grateful Dead , to Pink Floyd , to Frank Zappa  and beyond. The sunshine of ’70s AM Gold came as a reaction to these wonderful excesses. Singer-songwriters aimed to take rock and pop back to the simple pleasures of tight, light tunes such as Beach Boys ’ classics, Motown hits and Brill Building-crafted songs.

Hippies looking for revolution and Gen X-ers on the hunt for rage, irony and sharp edges bristled at the genuine lyrics of tenderness and heartbreak neatly packaged in finely-crafted Top 40. Where the stars and fans of '60s and ’90s rock wanted arty and experimental music, anger and angst, yacht took listeners on a voyage powered by pure earnestness: think of the sincere and intense conviction of Dave Mason’s “We Just Disagree,” Captain & Tennille's "Love Will Keep Us Together," and “Love is the Answer” by England Dan & John Ford Coley.

(Which is why placing the Police or Talking Heads on any yacht mix doesn’t work.)

Yacht rock embodies the final charge of unbridled, heartfelt pop.

“I think these songs remain so popular because they are unabashedly pop,” Nicholas Niespodziani, leader of the hugely successful tribute band  Yacht Rock Revue , explains to UCR. “They’re not self conscious. You couldn’t write a song like ‘Africa’ now. What are they even singing about? Who knows? But it’s fun to sing.”

Watch Captain & Tennille's Video for 'Love Will Keep Us Together'

Music That’s Jazzy, But Sure Isn’t Jazz

Yacht rock doesn’t just have an earnestness to its lyrics, the sax solos come with the same level of sincerity.

If the style was the last gasp of unadulterated pop, it was also the dying breath of jazz’s influence on rock. Jazz rock started in the ’60s with Zappa, Chicago , Santana and Blood, Sweat & Tears , but slowly simple drums and growling guitars stomped horn lines and rhythmic shifts into the ground. However, yacht rock features echoes of swingin’ saxophones, big band horns and Miles Davis ’ fusion projects.

Yacht rock is very pop, but legitimate musical talents made those hooks. Chuck Mangione logged time in jazz giant Art Blakey’s band then took what he learned and crushed complex harmonic ideas into the pop nugget “Feels So Good,” which is basically a Latin-bebop-disco-classical suite. (If you dig “Feels So Good,” dig deeper and groove to smooth jazz mini-symphony “Give It All You Got.”)

Nearly every classic from the style features either an epic sax solo or dazzling guitar part. For horn glory, go spin Little River Band’s “Reminiscing,” Gino Vannelli’s “I Just Wanna Stop” or Grover Washington Jr. and Bill Withers ’ “Just the Two of Us." For six-string wizardry as astounding as anything Jimmy Page came up with (and much more economical), try Atlantic Rhythm Section’s “So Into You,” Pablo Cruise’s “Love Will Find a Way” and pretty much every Steely Dan cut.

(Which is why placing Tears for Fears’ “ Everybody Wants to Rule the World ” and Rockwell’s “Somebody’s Watching Me” on any yacht mix doesn’t work).

Watch the Little River Band's Video for 'Reminiscing' 

A Vibe, Not a Genre or Gender or Demographic of Any Kind

Being a style, a feeling, an aesthetic, a vibe means that yacht rock can pull a song from a wide variety of genres into its orbit. It also means that it’s not just a catalog of hits from bearded white dudes. Yes, Kenny Loggins , McDonald and both Seals and Crofts helped define yacht rock. But quintessential songs from the style came from the women and artists of color, soul singers, folk heroes and Nashville aces.

For every Loggins' tune in a captain’s hat, there’s a Carly Simon track dressed up as your cruise director. Yes, there's Steely Dan's jazz influence, but also  Crosby, Stills & Nash 's folk legacy (“Southern Cross” remains definitively of the style). Yacht rock playlists should also be littered with appropriate R&B gems, such as the Raydio’s “You Can’t Change That” (which features Ray Parker Jr.!), Hall & Oates ’ “Sara Smile” and Kool & the Gang’s “Too Hot.” Likewise, country acts of the era tried to go Top 40 while attempting to retain some twang and managed to make Love Boat music (see Juice Newton’s “Angel of the Morning,” Eddie Rabbit’s “I Love a Rainy Night,” Dolly Parton & Kenny Rogers ’ “Islands in the Stream”).

It’s hard to tell if the Commodores’ “Sail On” is pop or R&B, harder still to know if George Benson’s “Give Me the Night” is pop, R&B or jazz. But they both feel yacht.

(Which is why Santana can do psychedelic Latin music and can do yacht on “Hold On,” and why the Pointer Sisters can do new wave disco with “Neutron Dance” and yacht with “Slow Hand.")

Wishing You a Bon Voyage on the Seas of Yacht

Spotify was right to think about diversity when making its playlist, though the company got the type of diversity wrong. Yacht has some pretty specific sonic parameters, but has no demographic restrictions when it comes to the kind of artists contributing to the style’s catalog. That means when you hit the high seas of yacht, you don’t need to be afraid to fight for your favorites to be included, just please don’t have one of those favorites be “Ghostbusters.”

We began talking about drawing boundaries with enough latitude that artists don’t object to being boxed in. The wide latitude yacht rock affords matters because music comes to define eras and outlines cultural trends (remember that yacht came in reaction to art rock and that says a lot about the swing from the late '60s to the early '80s). Calling Christopher Cross soft rock might feel right, but it doesn't tell us much about where he was coming from and what he was trying to accomplish. Calling Cross yacht rock, now that we know it's not a pejorative, illuminates his aesthetic.

Cross came out of the Texas rock scene that produced blues aces the Vaughan Brothers and guitar shredder Eric Johnson (who plays on a lot of his albums). He loves Joni Mitchell and that shows in his craft. He's jazzy but not jazz (see those horns and guitar on "Ride Like the Wind") with a vibe that's completely yacht -- developed from the scene that took '60s pop, updated it and sheltered it from the trends of punk, metal, new wave and hip hop. The same can be said for Loggins, McDonald, Simon, Lionel Ritchie and so many others.

Spotify needs to tweak its algorithm so it gets this right. Or, better yet, connect with the genre-crossing vibe that makes yacht so unique.

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Pharrell Williams surprise releases new album, ‘Black Yacht Rock, Vol. 1: City of Limitless Access’

The new 10-track album was quietly released and doesn't appear on any streaming platforms as yet

Pharell Williams

Pharrell Williams surprised released a new album yesterday (April 6), with fans only able to listen to the album on a new website.

  • READ MORE: Pharrell – ‘G I R L’ review

The new album, called ‘Black Yacht Rock Vol 1: City of Limitless Access’ is available to listen to here and is not, as the time of publishing, available on any other streaming platforms.

Those who visit the website to listen to the album can also sign up to a new mailing list. Fans who have signed up already receive a mysterious “stay tuned” message.

As yet, it appears to be unclear who has worked with Pharrell on the album although artists including Tyler, The Creator and Pusha T have both shared details of the album on their Instagram Stories.

There is some speculation that ‘Virginia’ could be the name of a group, although this is as yet unconfirmed. Williams has also not shared any information about the album on his Instagram account.

Pharrell Williams released his second solo studio album, ‘Girl’ , in March 2014.


The producer recently teamed up with Miley Cyrus on her latest single, ‘Doctor (Work It Out)’ .

He had previewed the single during a Louis Vuitton show in January before promising last week that the collab was “coming soon” .

In February, Williams also announced details of his forthcoming biopic Piece By Piece , which will be made out of Lego.

The musician took to social media to share the news, revealing that the film will land in theatres on October 11, 2024. “Who would’ve thought that playing with Legos as a kid would evolve into a movie about my life,” he wrote. “It’s proof that anyone else can do it too…”

In a press release, the movie is teased to be “an unparalleled motion picture experience that captures the magic and brilliance of Pharrell Williams’ creative genius, one Lego brick at a time.” The film is also said to defy “genres and expectations to transport audiences into a Lego world where anything is possible.”

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  • Mar 10, 2020

'The New Yacht Rock'- Reviving the Soundtrack to Your Summer

By: Scott Way

Yacht rock band playing concert

People never forget the song that played during their first dance, or the anthem to their high school years, or the songs that defined epic road trips with friends or family. Everyone has a soundtrack to their life. If you’re a boater, and depending on your age, you’ve probably got a playlist that’s been pretty consistent over the years, and it’s probably got some ‘yacht rock’ on it. For anyone uninitiated, yacht rock is the term for the quintessential soft rock jams that invaded every marina from ‘76-'84 (ish). Think Hawaiian shirts, white slacks, sunsets, daiquiris, and dock shoes. Think gentle rock grooves with a touch of R&B, smooth jazz, sun-soaked melodies, and lyrics overloaded with romantic escapism. The genre was all about good vibes. The term ‘yacht rock’ is actually relatively new, coined in 2005 for a YouTube web series of the same name. The show satirically portrayed the 80’s as the apex of bad style and ultra-lameness, but it spent an equal amount of time worshiping the soundtrack with genuine reverence. Boaters are comically guilty of this same worship- somewhere in the mid 80’s yacht rock became the definitive soundtrack to the boating lifestyle.

Yacht rockers include the legendary Jimmy Buffett, as well as second-level smoothies Michael McDonald, Hall & Oates, and The Doobie Brothers, among others. The Godfathers of Yacht Rock, for the artist who laid the groundwork for the genre’s respectful party vibes, likely goes to the Beach Boys, who taught everyone that although Kokomo was a fictitious place off the Florida Keys it was probably an ideal location for one of Buffett’s ‘Margaritaville’ restaurants. During yacht rock’s heyday, dock parties came with a Captain & Tennille guarantee from the DJ and record players spun tirelessly to Toto, Steely Dan, and Christopher Cross. While it’s impossible to capture all of yacht rock’s gentle jams and satisfy every boater’s taste, here’s a solid introduction to kickstart your summer playlist:

Christopher Cross- Sailing (1979)

Toto- Rosanna (1982)

Kenny Loggins- This Is It (1979)

Captain & Tennille- Love Will Keep Us Together (1975)

Hall & Oates- I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do) (1981)

Doobie Brothers- What A Fool Believes (1978)

Steely Dan- Hey Nineteen (1980)

Robert Holmes- Escape (The Pina Colada Song) (1979)

Player- Baby Come Back (1977)

Pablo Cruise- Love Will Find A Way (1978)

As a loosely defined genre, yacht rock also had a fringe collection of unofficial members. The cousins to yacht rock royalty include Bob Marley ( Jammin ’), Billy Ocean ( Caribbean Queen ), and a few other artists who flirted with the yachties including The Eagles, Boz Scaggs, and Fleetwood Mac. In the end, yacht rock was undone by its insatiable appetite for the saccharine, the breaking point arguably being Peter Cetera’s 1984 melodramatic synth-schmaltz ‘ The Glory of Love ’ from the Karate Kid soundtrack. After that, no number of roundhouse kicks in white slacks on the aft deck could bring the coolness back. The dream was dead. And so despite its sensual rhythms and sunset smiles, yacht rock faded into obscurity while New Wave commandeered the synthesizer. That being said, if you’d like to relive the magic 'yacht rock' is a searchable term on both Pandora and Spotify, so not all hope is lost.

Which brings us to now: the glory days are gone and sit sadly on the precipice of ‘dad rock’ territory. But like the return of 80's high-waisted jeans, a slow burning revival of yacht rock style has emerged from the ashes; a millenial revitalization that blends equal parts 70’s slow groove with contemporary pop and country. Research into terms like ‘boating music’ or ‘best boating songs’ will bring up the original jams, but The New Yacht Rock movement has taken the framework and added some zest (no sign of white slacks yet, though). The most obvious, and the strangest, new trait is that country music and boating have apparently coalesced. Where once country stood firm in its crooning about beloved pickup trucks and broken hearts through a crackly FM radio on a Tennessee backroad, it now twinkles with ballads about sandy beaches and nautical adventures. In fact, you could make an argument that a good chunk of country music has traded in its pickup truck for a pontoon boat. Simply put, you can’t search ‘boating songs’ from 2010-present without seeing country music sitting at the helm. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing; clearly they discovered that pickup trucks and powerboats offer comparable thrills. This new cooperative became formalized when The Zac Brown Band yanked Jimmy Buffett out of retirement for their 2010 dock party anthem ‘Knee Deep.’ It’s no big ruse either, they were looking to re-imagine Margaritaville in muddin’ country. Case in point: Buffett proclaims ‘(s)trummin’ my six string on my front porch swing’ while Brown counters with ‘is the tide gonna reach my chair.’ The cowboy boots have been traded in for sandals.

So with a new decade upon us and a catalogue of classics to draw from, the yacht rock revival has boaters poised for a new soundtrack to their dock party. Contemporary artists like Vampire Weekend, Thundercat, Foxygen, and Carly Rae Jepson (yes, of ‘Call Me Maybe’ infamy) have all infused some California calmness into their contemporary pop. Thundercat even pulled the ‘out of retirement’ trick, enticing Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald to appear on their 2017 slow jam ‘Show You The Way.’ There’s more ambient pop flair and slide guitar to the new stuff, but the heart and soul of the Reagan years is alive and well.

As the intermixing of young artists with old pioneers continues to usher in the new era, doing away with the original 'yacht rock' moniker seems necessary at this point. Today musical genres are more flexible than ever, and locking boaters into a small segment of musical preference isn’t fair (or as much fun). If you're looking at pop music from 2010-present to fill your boating playlist, you’ll find a consistent parade of songs from multiple genres carrying yacht rock’s torch of idealism. So let’s just call it ‘boat rock’ for now, until someone at Rolling Stone coins something more iconic.

Now, here’s the obvious disclaimer: suggesting music is an invitation to criticism. You cannot appease all genres, styles, and opinions. Therefore, in the name of inclusiveness, the new boat rock movement will cover as many genres as possible, consider mainstream popularity, and will give favour to tracks dubbed ‘summer songs’ by the popular press within the last 15 years (or so, let’s be flexible here. This is for fun). There are also considerations for any artist bearing yacht rock’s original influences including R&B, blues, jazz, reggae, and soft rock, and with lyrical content that promotes a good time. Here's a prototype playlist:

Thundercat ft. Kenny Loggins & Michael McDonald- Show You The Way

Kid Rock- All Summer Long

Chris Janson- Buy Me A Boat

Florida Georgia Line ft. Nelly- Cruise

Zac Brown Band ft. Jimmy Buffett- Knee Deep

Little Big Town- Pontoon

Sugar Ray- Highest Tree (from the Little Yachty homage to yacht rock album)

Zac Brown Band- Where The Boat Leaves From

Bedouin Soundclash- When The Night Feels My Song

Pharrell Williams- Happy

Nickelback- This Afternoon

As you can clearly see, country music has discovered its fondness for docktails and sandals. Honourable mentions go to Sublime, Weezer, Bob Marley’s entire catalogue, and everything Sugar Ray has released since their 1997 hit ‘Fly’ (which should be considered boat rock’s version of Margaritaville). The list could be endless with songs pulled from pop, reggae, indie, R&B, rock, and country. But as a starting point, the above track list should generate smiles while the kids are leaping off the swim platform and the smell of BBQ is wafting across the deck.

Going forward, the question to ask when deciding whether a song should enter the new boat rock pantheon is this: if I were enjoying a sunset over the water, would this song improve my vibe? If the answer is yes, it’s boat rock. The next time you're tied up at your local marina, or you’re anchored in a quiet bay watching the sun slip beneath the waves, try using the above playlist and let the good times roll. Whether it’s from the old era or the new, the key to any great adventure is a smoooooth soundtrack.

Honourable Mentions (Yacht Rock Era)

- Christopher Cross- Sailing

- Michael McDonald- I Keep Forgetting

- Ambrosia- Biggest Part of Me

- The Alan Parsons Project- Eye In The Sky

- Kenny Loggins- Heart To Heart

- Jackson Browne- Somebody’s Baby

- Toto- Hold The Line

- Hall & Oates- Rich Girl

- Steely Dan- Reelin’ In The Years

- Billy Ocean- Caribbean Queen

- Boz Scaggs- Lido

- Fleetwood Mac- Dreams

- Eddie Money- Two Tickets To Paradise

- The Eagles- Hotel California

- Peter Cetera (Chicago)- Glory Of Love

Honourable Mentions (Boat Rock Era)

- Sublime- Santeria

- Weezer- Island In The Sun

- Black Eyed Peas- I Gotta Feeling

- Sheryl Crow- Soak Up The Sun

- Kenny Chesney- No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problem

- Garth Brooks- Friends In Low Places

- Zac Brown Band- Toes

- Daft Punk ft. Pharrell- Get Lucky

- Florida Georgia Line ft. Luke Bryan- This Is How We Roll

- Robin Thicke ft. Pharrell & TI- Blurred Lines

- Bruno Mars- That’s What I Like

- The Black Keys- Gold On The Ceiling

- The Weeknd- I Feel It Coming

- Magic!- Rude

Yacht rock poster

#culture #news #music #yachtrock

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That '70s Week: Yacht Rock

David Dye, host of World Cafe.

Talia Schlanger

black yacht rock artists

Donald Fagen (left) and Walter Becker of Steely Dan. Danny Clinch/Courtesy of the artist hide caption

Donald Fagen (left) and Walter Becker of Steely Dan.

  • The Doobie Brothers, "What A Fool Believes"
  • Christopher Cross, "Sailing"
  • Sade, "Smooth Operator"
  • Nielsen/Pearson, "If You Should Sail"
  • Ned Doheny, "Get It Up For Love"
  • Iron & Wine, "Desert Babbler"
  • Young Gun Silver Fox, "You Can Feel It"

What's the best way to become the unchallenged expert on a particular genre of music? Invent it. Enter JD Ryznar, Hunter Stair, David B. Lyons and Steve Huey: coiners of the description "yacht rock," creators of a hilarious web series of the same name and now de facto captains of the genre. Broadly speaking, yacht rock is an ocean of smooth, soft-listening music made in the late '70s and early '80s by artists like Toto, Hall & Oates and Kenny Loggins — music you can sail to. But as David and Talia learn in this conversation with the arbiters of Yacht Rock , the waters are much murkier than that.

For example, according to Ryznar, "There's also a common misconception that just because it's about a boat, or the ocean, or sailing, that it's yacht rock. That is most definitely nyacht true." Thankfully, on their Beyond Yacht Rock podcast, our guests have developed a sound system of logical criteria to define what is "Yacht" and what is "Nyacht." They employ their patented "Yachtzee scale" to examine a song's "Yachtness" based on a number of factors, including its personnel (is there a Doobie Brother in there?), amount of jazz and R&B influence, geographic origin (Southern California is a plus) and lyrical obtuseness.

Listen as Ryznar and Lyons steer us towards the musical marina with a buoyant "Yacht or Nyacht" debate that includes Michael McDonald, Christopher Cross, Sade and the most serious discussion you can have about the proper soundtrack for standing shirtless on a deck wearing boat shoes and a sailor cap. Dive on in --the water's great.

Listen: JD Ryznar's Yacht Rock Primer

Episode playlist.

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Feature: The 101 GREATEST YACHT ROCK SONGS OF ALL TIME for Your Summer Playlist - featuring Michael McDonald, Kenny Loggins, Christopher Cross and Steely Dan

What Yacht Rock Classic Hit #1?


Yacht Rock is not for everyone. If you like your rock Cannibal Corpse intense or your hip hop extra Onyx edgy, then Yacht Rock will indubitably be your Kryptonite.

Some people consider this genre akin to musical wallpaper, marshmallow fluff, whiter-than-white bread snore-tunes or sax-heavy Sominex-inducing elevator muzak. They consider it slick, soulless pablum, even though true Yacht Rock vibrates with liveliness. Yes, it can be slow but it should never be sleepy; it should be relaxed and chill but never boring. Unfortunately, it's oft mistaken for any East Listening or Adult Contemporary tune (although, to be fair, many of the songs on this list do fall in these categories). But true Yacht Rock will not cause you to yawn; so don't worry, you won't find Air Supply, Barry Manilow or Dan Fogelberg anywhere near one of these rockin' yachts.

But what exactly is "Yacht Rock"? For those who don't know, it includes pop-rock songs from the late 1970's/early 1980's that would sound great on a yacht as you sip your pina coladas and get caught in the rain. Yacht Rock was not designed as thus; forty years ago, these songs that joyously filled the airwaves were called "soft rock" or "blue-eyed soul." It wasn't until the early 2000's when the term "Yacht Rock" was coined and the genre's guidelines were determined by the great J. D. Ryznar, Steve Huey, Hunter Stair, and David Lyons. Now it's everywhere, including on your SiriusXM radio app where a really bad Thurston Howell III soundalike introduces these Doobie-bounced ditties.

How can you identify a potential Yacht Rock classic? You can use Justice Potter Stewart's famous "I know it when I see it" (or, in this case, "hear it") dictum. To my ears, Yacht Rock is slick as an oil spill, part smooth pop, part light rock, both funky and jazzy. Most of the songs have tight harmonies, strong background singers (oftentimes sounding like Michael McDonald lost in an echo chamber), with added horns or strings. It's not lounge music, but it's music to lounge to. It's not disco, so you don't dance to it, but it's music where you can't help but tap your feet.

The joy of Yacht Rock is just that...its joyousness. This is bubblegum music for the jet set or the wannabe Richie Rich's. Its delightfully shallow, and part of its vibrancy is that it doesn't have a bad thought in its head. (Some of the songs obviously don't have any thoughts in their head, but if you want to have an intellectually stimulating conversation about, say, Toto's "Georgy Porgy," then have at it.) But never forget that part of its charm lies in its inability for deeper analysis; it's quite a stretch to compare some of these songs to a Winslow Homer painting or a Thomas Pynchon novel, but I'll try.

Officially, to be considered Yacht Rock, the song must have been released between 1976 and 1984, and I adhere to this rule for the 101. That means no songs that are proto-Yacht Rock, such as Seals & Crofts' "Summer Breeze," Ace's "How Long," or Steely Dan's "Dirty Work," are included. Neither did post-yacht rock favorites ("fire keepers") like Michael McDonald's "Sweet Freedom" (1986) get a chance. Some singers or groups, who are nowhere near Yacht Rock when looking at their oeuvre, may have a single YR classic in their midst; artists like Michael Jackson, Andy Gibb, the Eagles, and Earth, Wind and Fire have at least one Yacht Rock goodie on the list. And then there are those tunes that are not Yacht Rock: Nyacht Rock, which I tried but failed to avoid, but debates will happen nonetheless. For example, is "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)" true Yacht Rock? Purists may say no, but I think there are few songs more yachty than the Rupert Holmes earworm.

Who would be on the Yacht Rock Mount Rushmore? Certainly Michael McDonald, whose presence is everywhere on this list with the Doobie Brothers, solos, duets, and as a backing vocalist on many of these tunes; he has 8 entries (not counting his prolific background singing). Kenny Loggins also epitomizes the genre (with 4 songs on the list, plus he co-wrote the #1 tune), as does Christopher Cross (with 5 songs on the list). But who gets that final position? Steely Dan (6 songs), Toto (6 songs), or Boz Scaggs (5 songs)? I'll let you try to settle on the filling of the fourth Rushmore slot.

And shouldn't there be a Yacht Rock Broadway musical? There are Yacht Rock tours, online series, books, websites, radio stations, podcasts, Spotify playlists; why not an official jukebox musical?

Lastly, you may ask: What makes me, a theatre reviewer, a Yacht Rock expert? For starters, I lived through these songs during my teenage years; they are the soundtrack of my younger self, especially when listening to Casey Kasem every Sunday morning on American Top-40 on CK-101. No matter how cheesy, I have a place in my heart for them. And on my 60 th birthday, I hope to rent a yacht, invite friends, don an ascot and captain's hat, and while enjoying mounds of caviar, listen to the soothing sounds of my youth. I'll use this list, my YACHT ROCK 101, as our guide, and hopefully you will too. (And hopefully if a song is unfamiliar to you, then you'll seek it out on You Tube or Spotify.) So, without further ado, counting down Kasem-style from #101 to #1, let's climb aboard...


101. NOTHIN' YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT [Airplay; 1980; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: N/A]

We start our three-hour tour here, Mr. Howell, with Airplay's little-known yachter, "Nothin' You Can Do About It," featuring David Foster, who peppers much of the following 101, and Jay Graydon, who played guitar on the Yacht Rock classic, "Peg." And as you'll find in so many songs here, the session musicians from Toto play the instruments and lift this horn-pocked One-Off into the stratosphere. It's poppy and breezy and everything that a YR hit should be. And its lyrics could be the Yacht Rock credo: "Relax; enjoy the ride!"

100. GEORGY PORGY [Toto; 1978; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #48]

This sounds like an outtake from a lost Boz Scaggs album. I have a place deep (very deep) in my heart for this. Yes, it's annoying, and Cheryl "Got to Be Real" Lynn's "Georgy Porgy, pudding pie/Kissed the girls and made them cry" refrain will get horrifically stuck in your head, but my oh my, how I love its glorious badness. (Some might claim that this isn't Yacht Rock, it's Yuck Rock.) No other chart would dare unearth this lost remnant that many think should remain lost, but it's too late baby, yes, it's too late. And if you want a sign of the coming Apocalypse: The endearingly ridiculous "Georgy Porgy" is more popular and beloved now than when it was first released.

99. THE THEME FROM "THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO" (BELIEVE IT OR NOT) [Joey Scarbury; 1981; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #2]

Yacht Rock songs are usually called "likable," which is sort of a masked insult. When you can't think of something nice to say, you usually fall back on "likable," which doesn't mean you like it; it just means someone out there may like it. And "The Theme from 'The Greatest American Hero'" is certainly likable; it's maybe the only thing we remember from the otherwise forgotten William Katt TV series, which lasted three seasons. For "Seinfeld" fans, George's use of it on his answering machine in "The Susie" episode put the song on a level way above its pay grade. Just last year, it also showed up (with "Seinfeld's" Jason Alexander) in a Tide commercial. So, this song has planted its flag in our more current pop culture landscape; perhaps it and the roaches will be the only things to survive the end of the world. Believe it or not.

98. INTO THE NIGHT [Benny Mardones; 1980; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #11]

97. WE JUST DISAGREE [Dave Mason; 1977; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #12]

96. KEY LARGO [Bertie Higgins; 1982; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #8]

95. ESCAPE (THE PINA COLADA SONG) [Rupert Holmes; 1979; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #1]

These four songs, including one #1 hit, will cause arguments from purists; they score them low on the official Yacht Rock scale and label them the dreaded Nyacht Rock. But I think each of them deserve to be on the list, even if this low. Benny Mardones was a key part of one of my high school experiences as the special musical guest for 1981's Grad Night at Disney World; I remember hearing "Into the Night" into the nighttime distance and knowing that I was in the right place at the right time. (And I take the song's narrator as a teenager crooning about a girl-because with lines like "she's just sixteen years old/Leave her alone, they say," it's just too creepily cringy to contend with otherwise.) "We Just Disagree" builds as the best Yacht Rock songs do, even if it may be too gloomy in subject matter (the breaking up of a relationship). "Key Largo" by Tampa Bay area native Bertie Higgins may be more Tropical Rock than Yacht Rock, but it's yachty enough to make the cut; besides, who can resist the Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall allusions? And Rupert Holmes's "Escape," the last word in 70's pop, is what many people think of when they read the term "Yacht Rock." And yes, it may be excessively wordy for the genre, complete with a twist ending, but to leave it off the list entirely would be a pop culture misdemeanor if not a crime. For the purists who will not escape the strict Yacht Rock guidelines and unnecessarily nix great and yachty songs like these, then we just disagree.

94. YAH-MO BE THERE [James Ingram with Michael McDonald; 1983; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #19]

A Yacht Rock staple and the first appearance of the ubiquitous Mr. McDonald on our list. I'm sure more than one person agrees with Paul Rudd from the move The 40-Year-Old Virgin when he, having McDonald's songs on a continuous loop at his work place, exclaims, "...If I hear 'Yah-Mo Be There' one more time, I'm gonna 'yah mo' burn this place to the ground!"

93. BREEZIN' [George Benson; 1976; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #63]

The first of two instrumentals on the list and the initial Yacht Rock sighting of George Benson. I mentioned earlier that none of these songs should be compared to paintings by Winslow Homer, but if any comes close, it's this one, especially Homer's "Breezin' Up." Try looking at the painting and hearing the Benson hook at the same time, and I'll see you in the morning.

92. FOOLISH HEART [Steve Perry; 1984; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #8]

Although Steve Perry is more famous as the onetime front man for Journey, and for making "Don't Stop Believin'" the most overplayed track from the Eighties, this is his sole entry into my Yacht Rock 101. His smooth voice haunts this with an uber-emotional yearning that seldom finds its way onto the feel-good vibes found elsewhere on this list.

91. 99 [Toto; 1979; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #26]

Chalk up another inspiration from a George Lucas film, although not the film you may think it is. Star Wars may be Lucas' biggest achievement, but this song takes its idea from the seldom-seen Lucas cult hit, THX 1138 , which is dystopian cold in feeling. That such a stark story (losing your identity and only being known as numbers) gets the smooth pop-light Toto treatment can only be construed as ironic.

90. ONE STEP CLOSER [The Doobie Brothers; 1980; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #24]

The Doobie Brothers' last gasp of the Michael McDonald era before our bearded musical Michelangelo would meander into a solo career.

89. HARD HABIT TO BREAK [Chicago; 1984; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #3]

Love is an addictive drug that lasts years in this beautiful if not overwrought ballad produced by David Foster.

88. DO RIGHT [Paul Davis; 1979; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #23]

A rare example of RYR: Religious Yacht Rock. Certainly the most unabashedly Christian song on the list, its opening lines like something out of an old Jim and Tammy Bakker telecast from the early 1980's: " I know that he gave his life for me/Set all our spirits free/So I want to do right, want to do right/All of my life ..." Musically it has a total yacht quality, a toe-tapping buoyant drive, that didn't stop it from being the 10 th biggest Adult Contemporary Christian hit of 1980.

87. DON'T TALK TO STRANGERS [Rick Springfield; 1982; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #2]

A year after "Jessie's Girl," Rick Springfield nearly hit the top of the charts with this Yacht Rock plea of jealous rage (though Springfield's demeanor doesn't come across as "rage"; he seems disdainful but laid back, which is why this perfectly fits the YR mold). It's too much fun to rival "Every Breath You Take" in the paranoid Top-10 hit department. Make sure not to miss the lyrics in French near the song's end which are there because...well, I don't know exactly why they're there, but I appreciate the nod to Francophiles.

86. WAITING FOR YOUR LOVE [Toto; 1982; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #73]

This is Toto's third song in the 101, paving way for claims that they should be the final slot on the Yacht Rock Mount Rushmore. "Waiting for Your Love" may not have hit big, stalling at a disappointing #73 on the charts, but has since been cited as one of Toto's greatest songs.

85. IT KEEPS YOU RUNNIN' [The Doobie Brothers; 1976; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #37]

Michael McDonald's soulful vocals and the band's mesmerizingly funky rhythm catapult this entry into the stratosphere. Yes, it was shoved onto the soundtrack of Forrest Gump , but its Yacht Rock status comes from it being featured in another film (and soundtrack that is a Yacht Rock purist's dream): the forgotten film FM (which spawned an even higher entry on this list...Steely Dan's infectious title cut).

84. LOOK WHAT YOU'VE DONE TO ME [Boz Scaggs; 1980; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #14]

Boz Scaggs wasn't born with the name "Boz." Actually born William Royce Scaggs, he got the nickname "Boz" after someone kept wrongly referring to him as "Bosley" at St. Marks Academy. And with a name like "Boz," Yacht Rock elite status was certainly destined. In the 1970's, Scaggs would perfect that laid back soft rock sound with a slight funky beat, the quintessence of Yacht Rock. This song, slower than most on this list, would become his big reaching-for-the-stars power pop ballad, and it didn't hurt that it was featured in a John Travolta film (Urban Cowboy).

83. KISS YOU ALL OVER [Exile; 1978; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #1]

It's hard to imagine that learned people that I deeply admire have a difficult time including this as a Yacht Rock staple. With synthesized strings and inspired by the grizzly growling org*smic sound of Barry White in "It's Ecstasy When You Lay Down Next To Me," "Kiss You All Over" was voted ninth in Billboard's 2010 list of "The 50 Sexiest Songs of All Time" (for the record, "Physical" was #1).

82. BABYLON SISTERS [Steely Dan; 1980; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: N/A]

Dante-esque tour of California, with the jaded Yacht Kings, Steely Dan, playing the part of Virgil as your guide. Singing backup on this track, crooning those haunting words "Here comes those Santa Ana winds again," is none other than Patti Austin, who will be even more involved with another Yacht Rock classic that you'll find further down the list [see "Baby, Come to Me"]. A delicious downer.

81. SMOKE FROM A DISTANT FIRE [Sanford Townsend Band; 1977; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #9]

One of the great One Hit Wonders of the 1970's.

80. HOLD THE LINE [Toto; 1978; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #5]

The song that put the session musicians of Toto on the map and the fourth of their hits to make our 101.

79. TAKIN' IT TO THE STREETS [The Doobie Brothers; 1976; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #13]

The world was introduced to Michael McDonald as a Doobie right here, their first song written by him for the Doobie's and with him on lead vocals. And thus, the King of Yacht Rock started his reign. Also, who can forget the 1978 episode of "What's Happening" with Rerun illegally recording the Doobie's singing this very song?

78. KEEP THE FIRE [Kenny Loggins; 1979; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #36]

Mr. and Mrs. Howell, let me introduce you to our next entry...Kenny Loggins with his very own Herbie Hancock-inspired vocoder long before it was in vogue.

77. ISN'T IT TIME [The Babys; 1977; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #13]

Michael Corby's opening piano, backed with syrupy violins, leads way to John Waite's oxymoronic soft bombastic vocals and Tony Brock's pulsating drum work. Lisa Freeman-Roberts, Myrna Matthews and Pat Henderson get their gospel groove on while backing Waite's hearty screech in this scrumptious pop treat.

76. YOU CAN'T CHANGE THAT [Raydio; 1979; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #9]

A cool breeze of a song by Ray Parker Jr. & Co., one of the few Yacht Rock light-soul classics that you can dance to, though it's way too laid back to be considered disco. A song that immediately puts you in a good mood no matter how bad your day had been previously.

75. LIDO SHUFFLE [Boz Scaggs; 1976; Chart Position on the Billboard 100: #11]

Boz again, with this ode to a drifter looking for some luck. The galvanizing music would be created by none other than David Paich (keyboards), David Hungate (bass), and Jeff Porcaro (drums), all of them future members of Toto. Whoa-oh-oh-oh!

74. WHAT'CHA GONNA DO? [Pablo Cruise; 1977; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #6]

Is there a more apt band name for Yacht Rock greatness than "Pablo Cruise"? And this tune, a key part of that summer of 1977, was where they first introduced themselves to us in all their infectious pop-light glory. The group hit #6 in the U.S., which isn't bad, but Canada got it right when they elevated this tasty morsel to #1 on their charts.

73. SENTIMENTAL LADY [Bob Welch; 1977; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #8]

Bob Welch, a former member of Fleetwood Mac, originally recorded this for their 1972 album Bare Trees . After leaving the band, he recorded it again, giving it the lush Yacht Rock treatment. Fleetwood Mac may not be considered official Yacht Rock gurus, but this song comes closest, with the majority of their members performing on it: Mick Fleetwood on drums, John McVie on bass, Christine McVie on piano as well as joining Lindsey Buckingham in background vocals. All that's missing is Stevie.

72. MISS SUN [Boz Scaggs; 1980; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #14]

We can thank this record for giving us our beloved Toto. Originally recorded by them in 1977, and due to their tight musicianship, Toto made a deal with Columbia Records solely based on their performance of this song. Ironically, it didn't make Toto's first LP, but Boz and the Toto gang recorded it for his Hits! compilation and the rest is Yacht Rock history.

71. JOSIE [Steely Dan; 1977; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #26]

One of Steely Dan's very best, especially Chuck Rainey's hypnotic bass. And those lyrics: " When Josie comes home/So bad/She's the best friend we ever had/She's the raw flame/The live wire/She prays like a Roman/With her eyes on fire." Question: Where is Josie coming home from? College? War? Prison? With Steely Dan's don't-care-if-listeners-understand-them obtuse lyrics, we'll never know.

70. YOU ARE THE WOMAN [Firefall; 1976; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #9]

69. STILL THE ONE [Orleans; 1976; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #5]

Two light-rock classics from Year One of Yacht Rock. "You Are the Woman" would become a quasi-staple of yachty wedding reception playlists, especially if a flautist happened to be on board; "Still the One" would be the commercial jingle for both ABC-TV in the 1970's and Applebee's restaurants just a couple of years ago.

68. YEAR OF THE CAT [Al Stewart; 1976; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #8]

Perhaps the most haunting song on the list; it's what you get when you mix Casablanca with the Vietnamese Zodiac.

67. THUNDER ISLAND [Jay Ferguson; 1977; ; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #9]

This passionate ode to island lovin' can be heard in Anchorman 2 , the hockey movie Miracle , and the great "To'Hajiilee" episode of Breaking Bad .

66. RICH GIRL [Hall & Oates; 1977; ; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #1]

Hall & Oates first chart-topper and perhaps the first #1 single to use the word "bitch" in it. Interestingly, the song was written about a guy initially-the spoiled heir to a Chicago-based entrepreneur who owned Walker Bros. Original Pancake House and ran fifteen KFC restaurants; the gender of the person was changed and the song suddenly became destined for pop culture immortality. And yes, it entered skin-crawling notoriety when Son of Sam himself, David Berkowitz, claimed the song inspired him to continue his serial killing rampage that paralyzed New York City that summer of '77.

65. MORNIN' [Al Jarreau; 1983; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #21]

64. LOVELY DAY [Bill Withers; 1977; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #30]

Two of the peppiest songs imaginable, both about splendid sunshine days, perfect for relaxing while you count your money on your very own yacht. Jarreau's "Mornin'" sounds like the feel-good opening of a Broadway show, while Withers hit the motherlode with "Lovely Day," ubiquitous in ads and movies for the past 45 years, complete with an impressive 18-second note that Withers sings that may be the longest ever in a Top-40 hit

63. ARTHUR'S THEME (BEST THAT YOU CAN DO) [Christopher Cross; 1981; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #1]

Christopher Cross is up there with Michael McDonald as the face of Yacht Rock, and this Academy Award winner for Best Song from the movie Arthur put Cross at the pinnacle of his success. He never came close to those heights again, but Yacht Rock gave his cannon (and career) a whole new life.

62. LONELY BOY [Andrew Gold; 1976; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #7]

Teenage psychopathy never sounded so good.

61. BEING WITH YOU [Smokey Robinson; 1981; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #2]

Smokey's "Being with You" was kept out of the #1 position because Kim Carnes' owned the top of the '81 charts with the behemoth "Bette Davis Eyes." So the story goes, Smokey loved Carnes' version of his own "More Love" from the year before that he wrote a song specifically for her...and that song was "Being with You." But it was such a strong tune that he opted to record it himself and eventually had to settle with it at #2, behind the person who the song was originally intended for.

60. HOW MUCH I FEEL [Ambrosia; 1978; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #3]

Ambrosia is another Yacht Rock giant whose slick soft pop sound and lush harmonies would epitomize the genre.

59. LIVING INSIDE MYSELF [Gino Vannelli; 1981; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #6]

Is this too intense for Yacht Rock? Maybe at times with Vannelli's head-bursting vocals. But it's a musical treasure trove, at times as dramatic as any Hamlet soliloquy, and Vannelli sings it like an overemotive Johnnie Ray resurrected with big hair.

58. JOJO [Boz Scaggs; 1980; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #17]

Smoothly soulful as it is , "Jojo" deals with the darker side of Yacht Rock. The title character is quite obviously a pimp, especially with lines like "fifty dollars, he'll get you all you want" or "His baby stays high...he keeps her on the street." As rough as the thematic waters may seem, the music is smooth sailing, the perfect fusion of pop, jazz and funk. All this and Toto, too.

57. WHAT YOU WON'T DO FOR LOVE [Bobby Caldwell; 1978; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #9]

Of course this made the list. A heart-shaped pressing of the song was released just in time for Valentine's Day, 1979, and cost a whopping $7.98 from consumers (which was the price of most LP's back then) . So many artists from Boys II Men, Michael Bolton and even Tupac Shakur either covered it or sampled its contagious mellowness.

56. LOVE TAKES TIME [Orleans; 1979; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #11]

At the time, here's how Cash Box described the music of this winner: "...synthesizer coloration, firm pounding beat, piano, searing guitar fills, tambourine and dynamic singing." In other words, 100% pure Yacht Rock!

55. KISS ON MY LIST [Hall & Oates; 1980; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #1]

Certainly on my list of the best things in life.

54. SO INTO YOU [Atlanta Rhythm Section; 1977; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #7]

The lightest of Southern Rockers, Atlanta Rhythm Section's laid back brand of guitar rock suited the late 70's perfectly, a nice alternate to the disco pandemic but not quite in Lynryd Skynyrd territory either. Also, is the title "So Into You" a double entendre? And were the lyrics more sexually explicit than we ever imagined? " It's gonna be good, don't you know/From your head to your toe/Me into you, you into me, me into you..."

53. YOU'RE THE ONLY WOMAN [Ambrosia; 1980; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #13]

In sone ways Ambrosia may be the most Yacht Rocky of all groups (don't worry, Toto and Steely Dan will always give them a run for the money). But this song underscores the carefree feel of the genre, like reclining on a yacht with these words on the breeze in the background: "You and I've been in love too long/To worry about tomorrow/Here's a place where we both belong/I know you're the only woman I'm dreaming of..." Not worrying about tomorrow, just floating without a care in tthe world. Is there anything more yachty than that?

52. I'D REALLY LOVE TO SEE YOU TONIGHT [England Dan & John Ford Coley; 1976; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #2]

Ingenious opening, the listener privy to a one-way phone conversation: " Hello, yeah, it's been a while/Not much, how 'bout you?/I'm not sure why I called/I guess, I really just wanted to talk to you ..." It's up to the listener to decide whether the caller is pathetic or sweet. "I'd Really Love to See You Tonight" may be the perfect easy listening song of all time, better than anything by Barry Manilow (who would cover it decades later); it's its sing-along boisterousness that saves it from being unceremoniously tossed into the Nyacht Rock bin.

51. EVERY TIME I THINK OF YOU [The Babys; 1978; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #13]

Another feel-good Babys bombast, pounding the power pop vibes in a song that's both intense and full of positive feelies.

50. ALL NIGHT LONG (ALL NIGHT) [Lionel Richie; 1983; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #1]

This massive hit has a bit of everything, a sort of melting pot of styles--adult contemporary, pop, R&B, Richie's soothing easy listening vocals, all to a Caribbean beat. The song was everywhere in 1984, in the popular music video (directed by Five East Pieces' Bob Rafelson and produced by Mike Nesmith of the Monkees), heard in the premiere of "Miami Vice," and sung by Richie at the closing ceremonies of the '84 Olympics. And what is the translation of the lines, " Tom bo li de say de moi ya/Yeah jambo jumbo"? Don't even bothering going to Google Translate; turns out they're just gibberish with no deeper meaning. No deeper meaning, i.e. the way we like our Yacht Rock.

49. IF YOU LEAVE ME NOW [Chicago; 1976; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #1]

So popular that it's featured in works as diverse as "The Modern Family," "South Park," Shaun of the Dead and even the video game, Grand Theft Auto V . It's perhaps the most soaring, lush, heartfelt and yearning ballad on the list, with Peter Cetera's lead vocals drowning listeners in waves of pure reverie.

48. JUST REMEMBER I LOVE YOU [Firefall; 1977; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #11]

Such a sober, serious song in such a vibrantly feel-good genre, and yet it's uplifting and filled with hope. I think of someone on the verge of suicide, maybe wanting to jump off a building or maybe seeking help calling a hotline, and the singer, perhaps a close friend, talking him or her down: " When there's so much trouble that you want to cry/When your love has crumbled and you don't know why/When your hopes are fading and they can't be found/Dreams have left you waiting, friends let you down..." But then the friend reminds the sorrowful soul, "just remember I love you and it will be all right" and that "maybe all your blues will wash away..." And that's really what Yacht Rock does, doesn't it? It washes those blues away.

47. BABY, COME TO ME [Patti Austin & James Ingram; 1982; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #1]

As with so many songs on this list, Michael McDonald adds superb backing vocals here, in this enchanting ballad made famous by its appearance on "General Hospital" as Luke and Holly's love song.

46. HEY NINETEEN [Steely Dan; 1980; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #10]

An aging boomer can't connect with his young lover; not quite Nabokovian but close, especially when the leering singer exclaims to his youngling in the perviest way possible, "Skate a little lower now!" The 19-year-old girl in question doesn't even know who Aretha Franklin is; I was 18 when the song was released and I sure knew the Queen of Soul as did most of my peers. Who, I wondered way back when, is this ditsy girl? Perhaps the most startling thing about the work is the singer's unblinking dive into cocaine and alcohol in order to be able to deal with a world that is slowly leaving him behind: " The Cuervo Gold / The fine Colombian / Make tonight a wonderful thing..."

45. YOU BELONG TO ME [Carly Simon; 1978; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #6]

44. HE'S SO SHY [The Pointer Sisters; 1980; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #3]

43. THROUGH THE FIRE [Chaka Khan; 1984; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #60]

Yacht Rock is not known for its diversity. Of course there are several songs by people of color, and there are definitely strong women on the chart, but we would be remiss if we did not mention that overall the genre is mostly male and white. But the women who do appear on the list have created some of the finest tunes of them all. Carly Simon's wondrous "You Belong to Me," written by Simon and Michael McDonald with backing vocals by James Taylor, started as a Doobie ballad, but Simon's more poignant version actually bests the "Brothers." The Pointer Sisters are not Yacht Rock, but their hit, "He's So Shy," certainly is; that they sang it with Isaac on an infamous episode of "The Love Boat" is about the highest order of Yachtdom there is. And Chaka Khan's "Through the Fire," produced by David Foster, is one her all-time greatest songs, even though it didn't score big in the Land of the Hot-100; still, Khan's vocals are breathtaking in this scorching torchy ballad that is nothing short of Yacht Rock gold bullion.

42. TIME OUT OF MIND [Steely Dan; 1980; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #22]

One of the funkiest songs about heroin ("chasing the dragon") ever written.

41. AN EVERLASTING LOVE [Andy Gibb; 1978; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #5]

40. AFTER THE LOVE HAS GONE [Earth, Wind & Fire; 1979; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #2]

39. I CAN'T TELL YOU WHY [The Eagles; 1979; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #8]

38. HUMAN NATURE [Michael Jackson; 1982; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #7]

Not all Yacht Rock hits are by Yacht Rock artists, as is the case with these four songs. The Bee Gees are definitely not Yacht Rock, especially their disco hits, and neither is brother Andy Gibb...with one exception. Gibb's "An Everlasting Love" with its nonstop overlapping vocals (combined with Barry Gibb's falsetto and the string arrangement) make this irresistible. Earth, Wind & Fire's "After the Love Has Gone," another David Foster masterpiece, with its rousing vocals and brilliant use of horns, is EWF's most gorgeous tune. The Eagles, certainly not a Yacht Rock group (though often mistaken as such), has one hit in their oeuvre that's unadulterated YR: "I Can't Tell You Why," with Timothy B. Schmidt, pulling out his inner Smokey Robinson and Al Green, providing its stirring lead vocals. And Michael Jackson's Yacht Rock entry, "Human Nature" from the Thriller album , was backed by members of Toto, with some of Jackson's most lush vocals, and is the dictionary definition of the word "euphoric."

37. HOT ROD HEARTS [Robbie Dupree; 1980; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #15] There are so many hits in the rock era about two teenagers making love in a parked car, from "Night Movies" to "Paradise By the Dashboard Lights," but "Heart Rod Hearts" may be the most daring of them all in its own way: " Ten miles east of the highway/Hot sparks burnin' the night away/Two lips touchin' together/Cheek to cheek, sweatshirt to sweater/Young love born in a back seat/Two hearts pound out a back beat / Headlights, somebody's comin'..." And obviously that last lyric just quoted has a rather sordid double meaning.

36. JUST THE TWO OF US [Grover Washington, Jr. with Bill Withers; 1981; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #2]

This jazzy ballad, with Withers' heart full o' soul vocals, is a soft-jazz saxfest, later spawning Will Smith's cover (about fathers and sons), Bill Cosby's unlistenable "Just the Slew of Us," and, most hilariously, Dr. Evil's duet with Mini Me in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me .

35. MAGNET AND STEEL [Walter Egan; 1978; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #8]

Inspired by Fleetwood Mac's Stevie Nicks, who sings backup in it, "Magnet and Steel" is totally yachtriffic, with inspiring heavenly harmonies. A sort of musical snapshot of 1978, this light-rock masterwork is featured in the phenomenal Boogie Nights and the phlegmatic Deuce Bigalow: American Gigolo .

34. WHENEVER I CALL YOU FRIEND [Kenny Loggins with Stevie Nicks; 1978; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #5]

One of the great duet tracks on the list, written by Loggins and Melissa Manchester. When first released, because Stevie Nicks is not credited on the original 45 single, this was officially considered Loggins first solo Top-40 hit.

33. GIVE ME THE NIGHT [George Benson; 1980; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #4]

Yacht Rock was created for George Benson's jazzy-guitar, cool-funk sensibilities. Although "Give Me the Night" may border on disco, it's not quite there and rests firmly in our beloved Yacht Rock territory.

32. NEVER BE THE SAME [Christopher Cross; 1980; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #15]

Love never dies, not even after a break up, not even after you've found someone else; that's what this Christopher Cross song teaches us: " The years go by, there's always someone new/To try and help me forget about you/Time and again it does me no good/Love never feels the way that it should..."

31. TIME PASSAGES [Al Stewart; 1978; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #7]

There's a floating, drifting quality to the song, as '70's mellow as they come. The top single of the year on the Easy Listening charts, "Time Passages" has Al Stewart's thin voice singing, " Drifting into time passages / Years go falling in the fading light / Time passages/Buy me a ticket on the last train home tonight..." If he had sung about a "yacht" rather than a "train," then this classic might rest even higher on the YR list.

30. REAL LOVE [The Doobie Brothers; 1980; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #5]

29. LOTTA LOVE [Nicolette Larson; 1978; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #7]

Nicolette Larson sings backup on the Doobie's third biggest hit, "Real Love," and lead on her sweet cover of Neil Young's "Lotta Love." Take the lyric, "It's gonna take a lotta love/To change the way things are..." In Young's version, he comes across as rather somber, yearning, on the verge of melancholia, like it's a wish that he knows can never be fulfilled; Larson sings with a Melanie-like playfulness to a disco-light beat, and in her hands the song becomes life-affirming, vivacious, with a somewhat positive can-do attitude that's not found in the original.

28. I'M NOT GONNA LET IT BOTHER ME TONIGHT [Atlanta Rhythm Section; 1978; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #14]

This song's sensibility is all Yacht Rock...that the world is in upheaval, and there are terrors out there waiting to destroy us, but who cares when we can save the worry for another day? This outlook stands as the true philosophy of procrastination found in Yacht Rock: " About all the pain and injustice / About all of the sorrow / We're living in a danger zone / The world could end tomorrow/But I'm not gonna let it bother me tonight..."

27. FEELS SO GOOD [Chuck Mangione; 1978; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #4]

The title of this flugelhorn-driven instrumental says it all.

26. ALL RIGHT [Christopher Cross; 1983; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #12]

If you're ever down and troubled, then do yourself a favor: Put on Christopher Cross' "All Right," with MM's patented backing vocals, and watch as the bad times wash away and a smile creeps upon your face. This stands as perhaps the most optimistic song ever written: "'Cause it's all right, think we're gonna make it/Think it might just work out this time..."

25. TURN YOUR LOVE AROUND [George Benson; 1981; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #5]

George Benson + Toto + David Foster + Jay Graydon on guitar + an early use of the Linn LM-1 Drum machine = Yacht Rock platinum status.

24. MINUTE BY MINUTE [The Doobie Brothers; 1978; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #14]

Listening to this Michael McDonald marvel of mellowness beats Xanax any day.

23. ONE HUNDRED WAYS [Quincy Jones and James Ingram; 1981; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #14]

What a perfect example of scrumptiously soft soul music with the velvet voice of Mr. Ingram leading the way, singing a litany of 100 things to romance his lady. He's never been better than a moment in this Grammy-winner, when he hits outrageous notes while singing, "Sacrifice if you care/Buy her some moonlight to wear..." To quote Robert Palmer: Simply irresistible.

22. I LOVE YOU [The Climax Blues Band; 1981; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #12]

This surely plays on rotation in heaven.

21. BAKER STREET [Gerry Rafferty; 1978; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #2]

Is this the coolest Top-5 hit of the 1970's? With Raphael Ravencroft's searing saxophone riff rivaling anything by Clarence Clemons, the answer must be a resounding YES!

20. FM (NO STATIC AT ALL) [Steely Dan; 1978; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #22]

Perhaps the only Top-40 hit where the songwriters dare to rhyme "Elvis" with "yells his" and sing about "grapefruit wine." Recorded as the title song for a little-known 1978 film, FM, the significance of this Grammy-winning Steely Dan song cannot go unnoticed. The year it was released was the first time FM radio (clearer sound, no static at all) superseded AM radio (too much static) in listening popularity. So, if you ran an AM station and had to play a song called "FM" in rotation-a song about your competitor, a radio format that was making you obsolete-then what would you do? In the case of some stations, they edited the Steely Dan track and put the "A" sound from the group's song "Aja" where the "F" in "FM" should be. Their newly fine-tuned tune would be called "AM," even though the repeated phrase of "no static at all" would now make no sense whatsoever.

19. COOL NIGHT [Paul Davis; 1981; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #11]

Paul Davis' ultimate love song, even stronger than his iconic "I Go Crazy." Its boppin' bliss shields the fact that the lead singer is lost: " I sometimes wonder why /All the flowers have to die / I dream about you /And now, Summer's come and gone / And the nights they seem so long ..." But this is Paul Davis, and nothing can bring him down, not when there's a cool night comin' and he invites his love to join him by the fire so that they can bring "back memories of a good life when this love was not so old..." The singer's optimism is so heartfelt, and this being Yacht Rock, we know that these two will ultimately get back together.

18. REMINISCING [Little River Band; 1978; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #3]

This slick throwback to a black-and-white Cole Porter world should be on any indispensable wedding reception playlist, starting with a young couple falling in love and ending when they're older, spending their hours looking back at their good times. You would think this melodic pop treasure would be a Paul McCartney fave, but in an interesting twist, it was John Lennon who claimed "Reminiscing" as one of his favorite songs.

17. DEACON BLUES [Steely Dan; 1978; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #19]

This slick, sprawling mega-work about a midlife crisis is the most epic of Yacht Rock songs, its jazzy War and Peace , a veritable A la Recherche du Tremps Perdu . If you want to hear a fan of the University of Alabama cheer, then play them this line: "They call Alabama the Crimson Tide/Call me Deacon Blues." Still, the song is so seriously sober in tone that few people, even the most ardent of Alabama fanatics, will be yelling "Roll Tide!" after hearing it.

16. BABY COME BACK [Player; 1977; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #1]

Tranquil and comforting even though it was written after two of the Player members suffered recent break-ups. Pop culture has had a heyday with its infectious hook, with "Baby Come Back" popping up in the Transformers, "The Simpsons," "King of the Hill" and even a "General Hospital" ep featuring the band themselves playing this classic live.

15. AFRICA [Toto; 1982; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #1]

The Gods of Yacht Rock blessed the reign of this "Africa," Toto's sole #1 single that has been hailed by Rolling Stone magazine as "The New 'Don't Stop Believin'." It's been utilized in such works as Stranger Things, South Park and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City . During the funeral of Nelson Mandela, CBS accompanied the footage with this song, raising more than one eyebrow. But if you haven't heard the song in awhile, or have never heard it (who are you?), then please heed the song's advice: "Hurry, boy, it's waiting there for you!"

14. MOONLIGHT FEELS RIGHT [Starbuck; 1976; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #3]

"The wind blew some luck in my direction/I caught it in my hands today..." One of the earliest Yacht Rock ventures on the list, with nods to French Connections, Ole Miss, the Chesapeake Bay, Southern Belles ("hell at night") and 1974 graduates ("a class of '74 gold ring"). According to Casey Kasem on AT-40, it was also the first song to chart that featured a marimba. Wafts along so joyfully, complete with suggestive giggles at the end of a particularly evocative verse.

13. COOL CHANGE [Little River Band; 1979; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #10]

In its own way, perhaps the yachtiest song on the list, a plea for escape, to come to terms with nature, to sail away on the "cool and bright clear water." It's not unlike Thoreau's "Walden Pond" set to music: "Well, I was born in the sign of water/And it's there that I feel my best/The albatross and the whales, they are my brothers/It's kind of a special feeling/When you're out on the sea alone/Staring at the full moon like a lover..." With "Cool Change," we don't need to journey outdoors to escape by emracing nature, to climb mountains or to sail the seas; we have the song itself which, to this listener, becomes the perfect escape without ever having to leave the house.

12. THIS IS IT [Kenny Loggins; 1979; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #11]

"It's not a love song," Loggins once said. "It's a life song." If you want proof of American exceptionalism, go no further than here, because this is it . Although written for personal reasons, the song was needed when America was a bit down and out, "our backs to the corner" so to speak: Long gas lines, the Three Miles Island nuclear catastrophe, the cold war in its iciest state in years, and American hostages in Iran. And this song said it best: "Sometimes I believe/We'll always survive/Now I'm not so sure..." But then he stands tall and proclaims: "For once in your life/Here's your miracle/Stand up and fight!" I look at today, when America and the world once again are down and out (with soaring gas prices, gun violence, Russia invading the Ukraine and extreme tribalism); it's not a bad idea to play "This Is It" at full volume in order to lift our spirits, to help us stand up and fight through these dark days.

11. RIDE LIKE THE WIND [Christopher Cross; 1980; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #2]

It's like something you'd find in a Sam Peckinpah film: A murderer of ten people is on the run, escaping inevitable execution (by hanging), chased by a posse all the way "to the border of Mexico." And yes, in "Ride Like the Wind," the bad guy gets away with it in this thrilling ride of a song, both driving and jazzy, with the trumpeting death horns and Michael McDonald's background vocals seemingly chasing the outlaw lead singer. Only recently I discovered that the line in the song is "gunned down ten," not "Gunga Din"; am I the only one who misunderstood these lyrics for most of my life?

10. LOWDOWN [Boz Scaggs; 1976; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #3]

Here's the "dirty lowdown" (the honest truth) about "Lowdown." Boz Scaggs reinvented himself as the sunglasses-at-night bastion of cool with this soft-funk, discofied killer of a track. It was written by Scaggs and David Paich, their first collaboration; Paich, as you may know, would later go on to form the group Toto. Their creation would be honored with a Grammy win for best R&B song, and Scaggs would become the first white artist to win the award in that particular category. It could have also been one of the great additions to the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, which the filmmakers wanted, but Boz's manager nixed the idea. They lost tons of money and popularity by settling for the soundtrack of the trauma-drama, Looking for Mr. Goodbar , where incidentally I first heard the song and wound up playing it over and over again long after it was a Top-10 hit.

9. LOVE WILL FIND A WAY [Pablo Cruise; 1978; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #6]

"Shadow Dancing" may have been the #1 song of '78, but it's this Pablo Cruise rollicking heap of pop brilliance that overfilled the radio airwaves that summer the way ivy covers the walls of Harvard. It was everywhere, and you couldn't escape it: "Once you get past the pain/You'll learn to find your love again." Such optimism, such hope, "Love Will Find a Way" became the signature hit of that fun-filled summer. It wasn't deep, but don't worry, it was happy. Pablo Cruise actually exemplifies the YR genre, the positive vibes perfect for summertime paradise by a band long forgotten, now remembered endearingly and, due to the recent adoration of Yacht Rock, justifiably immortalized.

8. ROSANNA [Toto; 1982; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #2]

The ultimate Toto tune and, thus, one of the Ultimate Yacht Rock entries. Named after Rosanna Arquette, the song became the summer anthem of '82, nesting at #2 for five weeks. The song's West Side Story -inspired music video featured Patrick Swayze, a year before The Outsiders, in a small part and Cynthia Rhodes as the title girl. Sylvester Stallone, who was directing Stayin' Alive at the time, saw Rhodes in the video and immediately cast her as a lead in his film. Stayin' Alive turned out to be a bad film, but it's a great story.

7. PEG [Steely Dan; 1977; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #11]

Welcome to L.A. where we're at a questionable photoshoot for an actress/model of perhaps ill-repute named Peg; narrating it is a disgruntle, sarcastic boyfriend who keeps her pictures with him and loves her even more due to her fame or infamy. The mention of foreign movies in the lyrics brings to mind seedier fair for our Pag, perhaps pornography. But any Steely Dan darkness that shrouds "Peg" is eclipsed by the jubilant music, so springy, so animated, so full of verve. Add Michael McDonald's patented backing vocals and Jay Graydon's guitar work, and you have nothing less than a fist-in-the-air triumph .

6. I KEEP FORGETTIN' (EVERY TIME YOU'RE NEAR) [Michael McDonald; 1982; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #4]

The captain of our Yacht Rock, Michael McDonald is everywhere in this 101. If you take only the top 12 songs, his voiceprints can be found somewhere in following: #12, #11, #7, #6, #3 and #1. And this song, his first big solo scribed by both McDonald and Ed Sanford (of the Sanford Townsend Band, famous for "Smoke from a Distant Fire"), obviously typifies the genre as strong as Coca Cola typifies soda. It even boasts the title of an episode of the online video series, "Yacht Rock," which after you've seen it is something you'll never forget.

5. STEAL AWAY [Robbie Dupree; 1980; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #6]

Yes, it sounds a little too close to the bubbly beat of "What a Fool Believes." And yes, it's the only time you will ever see Robbie Dupree in a Top-10 list during the modern era. But this is a wonder of Yacht Rocky delight, so shallow, so sweetly stupid, and so infectious to the ear. Listening to it might zap a few IQ points away from you, but the song is so agreeable, so toe-tappingly charming, who cares?

4. BIGGEST PART OF ME [Ambrosia; 1980; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #3]

Michael McDonald did not sing lead or backing vocals in "Biggest Part of Me," and he didn't write it, but he does have a footnote in its creation. When Ambrosia's David Pack scribed the song, the lead singer questioned his own lyrics: " There's a new sun arisin' /I can see a new horizon /That will keep me realizin'/You're the biggest part of me..." He wondered if it was too saccharine sweet for what he wanted, so he called the authority of such things, Michael McDonald. McDonald gave the thumbs up and the rest is Yacht Rock history.

3. HEART TO HEART [Kenny Loggins; 1982; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #15]

QUESTION: What do you get when your so-good-it-makes-you-wanna-cuss song features the Holy Trinity of Yacht Rock: Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald and David Foster? ANSWER: A masterpiece.

2. SAILING [Christopher Cross; 1980; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #1]

Yacht Rock used to be known as the West Coast style, and "Sailing" is its finest example. Hearing it is akin to being on that yacht, wearing that silly captain's hat, and just chilling as the boat gently rocks with the breeze. Its accolades are many: Grammy Awards for Song of the Year, Record of the Year, Arrangemt of the Year and Best New Artist of the Year. Wow. And time has never erased it from our lives. Over the years you could hear the song on "WKRP in Cincinnati," "Family Guy," "Cobra Kai" and Hyundai TV commercials. I don't care who you are or where you are, "Sailing" automatically takes the listener "not far down from paradise." And, like me, you can find tranquility, just you wait and see.

And now for the #1 Yacht Rock song of all time...

1. WHAT A FOOL BELIEVES [The Doobie Brothers; 1978; Chart Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #1]

All right, Mr. and Mrs. Howell, our journey ends here, with this obvious Yacht Rock classic, a song written by our popes of YR, Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald, where the stars were aligned upon its creation and everything went right. It hit Number One on the charts as well as winning Song of the Year and Record of the Year Grammy Awards. But it's the delectable beat fusing light-jazz and lighter-funk combined with McDonald's smooth velvet vocals that takes "What a Fool Believes" into the coveted top spot. No one can argue that this is the genre's finest three minutes and forty-one seconds. When it pops up on the radio or on your playlist, the world doesn't seem to be such a bad place, not with sophisticated keen pop like this. You have to turn up the volume. And It rightfully stands tall at the Number One position, the bouncy Citizen Kane of Yacht Rock.

And that's that. Have a great summer!

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Modern Yacht To Settle The Soul

Once I found my new infatuation with, dare I say it, yacht rock , it was only time before I needed to branch out into this genre further. Combining my brainpower with that of Mike Landolfi, we forged ahead in creating a modern yacht rock sound. As an homage to the Christian rock alternative compilation of the 90s Seltzer: Modern Rock To Settle the Soul here’s our mixtape, “Modern Yacht to Settle the Soul.”

black yacht rock artists

For yacht rock purists any track not actually recorded in the prime boating years of the late 70s to the early 80s is not actual yacht rock. Here at Backyard Road Trips, we eschew labels, diversifying our audio portfolio with a 21st-century take on the timeless yacht rock. 

A Word of Warning

black yacht rock artists

It was interesting for me to compile this mix. I tend to swing toward music with less glitz and polish than yacht rock. Give me something a little more heartfelt and raw or rocking. Also as a musician with indie or singer/songwriter tendencies, the idea of sometimes overblown or at least slick production was at the opposite end of the spectrum than my DIY ethic . 

black yacht rock artists

It was a bit easier for me to previously enjoy the artists in this list since many of them have indie-rock connotations such as My Morning Jacket, the Black Keys, and Bon Iver. Other artists including Ryan Adams and Jason Isbell may stretch the genre a bit but the two selected songs fit the bill. When it boils down to it though, all of these tracks would still sound great on a boat or when you’re simply imagining that you are on a boat. 

Also of note, there is no Zac Brown Band, Jack Johnson, Sublime, or any other band or singer because, although they may evoke the ocean, or drinking in a cabana or under the sun, they are not yacht. Yacht rock is smooth. All of the tracks on this mixtape, although varying in sound, all contain that smooth sound. 

A Modern Yacht Rundown

black yacht rock artists

The War on Drugs has been deemed the yacht rock of the 21st century by critics. I can’t disagree. Their newest album I Don’t Live Here Anymore is one of my favorites of 2021. The title track is super catchy and ultimate yacht. There better be a dance floor on the yacht when Chromeo is playing. Phoenix is very catchy too, melding retro 80s with the yacht rock. Grizzly Bear summons the yacht heyday. Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories literally sounds like it was recorded during this time period. I’d have included “Fragments of Time,” but it was used on the last yacht rock playlist.

black yacht rock artists

Thundercat channels the sound with help from two of the industry’s heavyweights, Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins! The Fruit Bats hit a high falsetto on this extremely catchy number. John Mayer’s latest is totally retro. From the turquoise album cover and the font to the title “Sob Rock” and the “Nice Price” sticker found on the cover, this is an intentional nod to a bygone era. The Killers’ Brandon Flowers also has an 80s vibe with “Lonely Town”. Bon Iver’s “Beth/Rest” is keyboard-heavy.

black yacht rock artists

My Morning Jacket’s newer material edges on yacht rock territory in such tracks as “Compound Fracture” from The Waterfall . Lord Huron comes in next with a poignant song. Hiss Golden Messenger is the Laurel Canyon side of yacht rock. Weezer’s “Island in the Sun” is the most well-known of these tracks and has a fun summery vibe. The Black Keys may seem too rollicking for yacht rock but to me can still swing on the boat. 

Yacht Rock Revue is literally a yacht rock band from today. They were the side project of an indie band, Y-O-U. Now they write original songs in this polished genre. Many Metronomy songs could fit but this totally has the right vibe the whole way through. Ivy’s mellow meanderings take us to the “Edge of the Ocean.” Ryan Adams’ Taylor Swift cover album, 1989 , has a sheen to it. One of the most smooth is his take on “Wildest Dreams.” Pond’s “America’s Cup” will pass by many yachts on the sailing journey. 

black yacht rock artists

Phosphorescent adds to the mix with “Song for Zula.” Local Natives electrify the yacht rock sound. The Heartless Bastards keep the groove going. Strand of Oaks contemplates the ocean even though they’re “Somewhere in Chicago”. Finally, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit take us home where Americana meets a yacht rock vibe. 

I hope you’ve enjoyed the trip on the boat as much as we did! For more yacht rock, check out the Very Merry Yacht Rock Christmas and the Ultimate Yacht Rock Playlist .

Modern Yacht to Settle the Soul   – (this link takes you to the mixtape… I mean playlist)

black yacht rock artists

  • The War on Drugs – I Don’t Live Here Anymore
  • Chromeo – Come Alive
  • Phoenix – Trying to Be Cool
  • Grizzly Bear – Two Weeks
  • Daft Punk – The Game of Love
  • Thundercat (with Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins) – Show You the Way
  • Fruit Bats – Gold Past Life
  • John Mayer – Last Train Home
  • Brandon Flowers – Lonely Town
  • Bon Iver – Beth/Rest
  • My Morning Jacket – Compound Fracture
  • Lord Huron – Ends of the Earth
  • Hiss Golden Messenger – Sanctuary
  • Weezer – Island in the Sun
  • The Black Keys – Gold on the Ceiling
  • Yacht Rock Revue – Step
  • Metronomy/Biig Piig – 405
  • Ivy – Edge of the Ocean
  • Ryan Adams – Wildest Dreams
  • Pond – America’s Cup
  • Phosphorescent – Song for Zula
  • Local Natives – Dark Days
  • Heartless Bastards – How Low
  • Strand of Oaks – Somewhere in Chicago
  • Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – Dreamsicle
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Yacht-rockin’ beats … Hall and Oates in 1984.

Cruise control: how yacht rock sailed back into fashion

Smooth, well-produced, meticulously written: soft rock had a bad reputation in the DIY 80s and 90s. But today it has renewed relevance. An aficionado explains

Throughout the 1990s and 2000s I worked in the music industry, doing marketing for record labels including Sony, Universal and Interscope Geffen A&M. My love for all things smooth, granted as a birthright to all born within the Santa Cruz county lines, never waned. I was often teased for being an aficionado of the soft-rock genre by colleagues at the office and bands I toured with. It was completely uncool to admit to being a fan of glossily produced songs in the era of indie rock, grunge and riot grrrls .

These “yacht rockers” that scored my early years seemed to clash with the artists I came of age with in my teens and 20s and were consigned to kitsch silliness along with fondue sets and Jello moulds quivering with mysterious canned fruit. The indie scenes of the late 1980s and early 90s were often based on DIY, grit and limiting your personal adornment to some semi-clean Converse trainers and second-hand clothes. Bands celebrated a punk ethos where the consumer/record-buyer could also be the producer/artist, and authenticity reigned supreme. Such artists provided a glaring contrast to wondering if a possible soulmate wants to Escape (I Like Pina Coladas) (as suggested by Rupert Holmes in his single of the same name). The whole idea of “selling out” – forgetting or shucking off your humble beginnings for the glamour and glitter of big rock star money, or even enjoying success – was often publicly frowned upon (though behind the scenes, many an artist enjoyed the very lifestyles that the yachters condoned).

Undaunted by the perceived repulsion of others, I began a one-woman journey to create a comprehensive yacht collection. For work, I often traveled through the US on tours with bands. We would stop at various record stores, giving me ample opportunity to pick up discounted Andrew Gold , Robbie Dupree and Looking Glass vinyl and badges. I once got into a passionate argument with a member of Limp Bizkit who claimed to not like Hall and Oates’ Private Eyes – a masterpiece on a par with the Mona Lisa in my eyes. Maybe it came from the audio cues of those songs, taking me back to the halcyon days of my Californian youth, growing up near the sea, when the world seemed full of possibility; or perhaps it was because my contemporaries thought these groups were so horrendous – but could never really articulate why – my devotion to yacht grew over time.

The mystery of my lasting infatuation was finally solved several years ago, when I was helping a friend’s band sell merchandise at a show in the main venue in my hometown, The Catalyst. I had spent my formative years as a music fan there, eating burnt pizza and sipping flat Coke while watching gigs. There, subway sized in crisp black and white, was an autographed, framed poster of Michael McDonald – the former Doobie Brother himself – carefully backlit so as not to ruin or fade the image. Of all the countless bands and legendary artists who had played the venue – from Nirvana to Snoop Dogg – the image was the sole adornment on the walls of the cavernous club.

And that was when it hit me – why be ashamed of appreciating a carefully crafted, meticulously produced song, which, technically speaking, most tracks in the yacht category are? Expense was of no consequence, with countless dollars and hours dedicated to brass and string sections, recording and engineers. Urban legend even claims that while making their seven-song 1980 album Gaucho , Steely Dan, known for their attention to every tiny detail during the recording process, employed no less than 42 session musicians and 11 engineers. There was no Auto-Tune to bring sub-par vocals up to a listenable standard, or lip-syncing at a live performance in yacht – it was real, meticulous, and yes, often sported a fashion faux pas (too many to enumerate here). There existed an earnestness in such obsession, of wanting to get everything just right. As an artist, as a craftsmen, you wanted each track to be as perfect as it was possible to make it.

Recently, I and my fellow yacht aficionados are having the last laugh, however, as the music, bands and even facial hair of the AOR era are getting the love, adoration, respect and reverence that other genres have experienced in retrospect (see: punk, disco). The very care and attention to detail that had gone out of style is now being embraced and appreciated. A decade after Spin magazine touted the cover headline “Why Hall and Oates are the New Velvet Underground,” its presence is still strong. In 2015, Fleetwood Mac played to sold-out crowds across the globe. Pop and rock acts as divergent as Mac DeMarco , Haim , Brandon Flowers , Lana Del Rey , Stepkids and White Denim (not to mention much of the chillwave scene) all give mad props to the smooth production and timeless quality of yacht. Take that Fred Durst!

It’s not only yacht rock’s pristine sonics that remain relevant in 2016. This month marks the 37th anniversary of Supertramp’s The Logical Song, their chart-topping single. It was the lead track from Breakfast In America, their 1979 career-defining album that led the group to global success. I recently revisited the lyrics of The Logical Song and was surprised to find, after all my years of obsessive listening to the track, I had never heard it. Embedded in the jazzy sax solos and Roger Hodgson’s smoothness, there is a message of being true to yourself, your values and morals – and staying tuned in to the world around you. It is for these reasons that the song is as relevant today as it was when it first hit the airwaves. It makes the point that logic can restrict passion and creativity, turning an innocent child into a fearful, jaded adult. Hodgson contrasts the earnest naivety of youth, a place where “ … life was so wonderful / A miracle, oh it was beautiful, magical” – with the adult world in which you have to “… watch what you say or they’ll be calling you a radical / Liberal, fanatical, criminal.”

If taken in its original context of newly minted civil and women’s rights movements, fresh memories of Vietnam as well as the Stonewall riots, Hodgson’s lyrics are cold critique and reflection, possibly damnation, as the injustices of segregation, war and inequality that could only happen “… when all the world’s asleep,” in a society that places value on the “logical, responsible, practical … Clinical, intellectual, cynical.” Supertramp’s masterpiece highlights the seriousness of not engaging seriously with critical analysis: “Won’t you please, please tell me what we’ve learned?” As I look across the Atlantic to my native land, with a presidential race on the horizon, The Logical Song seems more important, more narrative, more harrowing than ever before.

Yacht somehow became pigeonholed as an embarrassing relic of the overkill 80s, the silly, sad relative we want to ignore when we see them in public. The tatty, trying-to-get-by aesthetic of the American and UK music economies in the late 20th century was a reflection of what many people in the audience were experiencing on a daily basis. It was hard to relate to Sailing away, Christopher Cross-style, on a gleaming boat, when you and your peers were drowning in student loans, recession and limited employment prospects. The frustrated lyrics of Pulp’s Common People and the raw urgency of any Tracy Chapman track spoke much more to the climate and to those reaching adulthood during the Clinton administration. Guess what the president’s theme song was? Yep, a cornerstone of yacht rock – Fleetwood Mac’s Don’t Stop . But it’s obvious why Clinton chose this particular jam as his signature tune. With few exceptions, yacht rock consists of uplifting, feel good party tunes, often including a seriously smooth saxophone solo.

No wonder my parents’ generation loved it so much – they were raising kids during the Carter administration, a time filled with recession, an energy crisis and the nightly news counting down how many days the Iran hostage crisis had been going on (without the internet, mobile phones or a microwave – it is a miracle they survived at all). In the UK there were similar issues, with record unemployment, strikes and slashes in education spending. Kenny Loggins asking his audience to carpe the diem in This Is It probably offered a reprieve, and had a soothing property to my parents. Yacht was the ying to the scary world’s yang. Perhaps today , we need the respite of yacht now more than ever.

The best yacht songs have endured for decades and still sound amazing – even topical – in an uncertain world. The fact that The Catalyst – who host all kinds of hipster, metal, reggae and hip-hop acts – had one solitary picture on display, in an almost reverential manner, said it all: it’s OK, and perhaps important, to recognise and celebrate quality. These songs stick with you, like fine-tooled leather shoes, over and through time, perhaps because they were obsessed over in their inception. Like an upmarket wine, or a pricier cheese, these records just get better, more appreciated, more valuable, with time. Now let’s hope our politicians take note of yacht’s message and the voters do it Doobie Brothers style when it comes to election day: let’s Take It to the Streets – er, polls!

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A Brief History of Yacht Rock

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  • May 9, 2022

Although yacht rock has been around for a while, it wasn’t until the late 1970s that the term was coined. This genre of music is characterized by its laid-back and mellow sound, making it the perfect choice for a relaxing day on the water.

Some of the most famous yacht rock artists include Hall and Oates, Steely Dan, and Michael McDonald. Their music is often described as smooth and sophisticated, and it has become the soundtrack of choice for many yachts and boaters around the world.

If you’re looking for some mellow tunes to relax to, be sure to check out some of the best yacht rock songs out there. You won’t be disappointed!

The Golden Age of Yacht Rock 

The 1970s were a golden age for yacht rock. This breezy, mellow style of music was perfect for cruising down the coast in a luxury yacht. Some of the biggest names in yacht rock were Hall & Oates, Steely Dan, and the Doobie Brothers.

These artists produced a number of hits that are still popular today. Songs like “Rich Girl,” “Reelin’ In the Years,” and “Black Water” are all classic yacht rock tunes.

What made yacht rock so special? It was a combination of elements that came together to create a unique sound. The music was mellow and relaxing, with a smooth groove that was perfect for cruising. The lyrics were often about love and relationships, and the singers had a smooth, laid-back style.

Yacht rock was also distinguished by its production values. The songs were typically recorded with high-quality studio equipment, and the artists often used session musicians to get that perfect sound.

The 1970s were a golden age for yacht rock, and these artists produced some of the most memorable music of the era. If you’re looking for a relaxing, mellow soundtrack for your next cruise, be sure to check out some yacht rock classics.

What is the future of yacht rock?

There is no clear answer, but it is safe to say that yacht rock will continue to evolve. Some newer artists who are incorporating yacht rock elements into their music include Michael Nau, Humble Pie, and The Allah-Las.

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April 25, 2024

After Snub, Eric B. & Rakim Congratulate 2024 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees

'Congratulations to the diverse group of artists inducted into the Rock Hall this year. Seeing Tribe and Mary on the list besides Cher, Ozzy, Kool and the Gang and all of the other icons shows how inclusive the institution has become.'

With more hip-hop artists finally receiving recognition for their contributions to music, including the inclusion of A Tribe Called Quest’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year, Eric B. and Rakim have given their blessings and look forward to their turn in the hopefully near future.

According to TMZ, after missing out on being inducted for a second time after two separate nominations, the first in 2012 and for this year’s class, the duo applauded the diversity of the inductees. The DJ and emcee team also acknowledged fellow peers, A Tribe Called Quest and Mary J. Blige, for being included in this year’s ceremony.

In a statement to the media outlet, Eric B & Rakim said, “Congratulations to the diverse group of artists inducted into the Rock Hall this year. Seeing Tribe and Mary on the list besides Cher, Ozzy, Kool and the Gang, and all of the other icons show how inclusive the institution has become.”

With an expected inclusion in the future, they also wrote, “Keep voting… we’ll join you soon!”

A Tribe Called Quest will join 11 other hip-hop artists inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame . Last year’s inductee, Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliot , as well as JAY-Z, LL COOL J, Eminem, The Notorious B.I.G., Grandmaster Flash and the Furious 5, Run DMC, Tupac, N.W.A., Public Enemy, and the Beastie Boys.

This year’s honorees are: In the Performer Category: A Tribe Called Quest, Mary J. Blige, Kool & The Gang, Dave Matthews Band, Cher, Foreigner, Peter Frampton, and Ozzy Osbourne.

For Musical Excellence: Dionne Warwick, Norman Whitfield, Jimmy Buffet and MC5.

For Musical Influence: Big Mama Thornton, Alexis Korner, and John Mayall

The Ahmet Ertegun Award: Suzanne de Passe

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation announced that this year’s induction ceremony will take place on Saturday, Oct. 19, at its home in Cleveland, Ohio, and will be televised on Disney+ and ABC.

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  3. Visit Black Baltimore 😎 BLACK YACHT CLUB 😎 King George's Landing 🛥️🌊 ✈️ Let's Go 💯👑Save 📌 This Post!

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  1. Pharrell Drops New Surprise Album 'Black Yacht Rock Vol. 1'

    Black Yacht Rock Vol. 1 (if that is the official title) marks Pharrell's first solo album (if we can actually consider this a solo album) since 2014's Girl. He's released two other ...

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    He also perceptively adds that "Most key seems to be the factor of the songs either being by White artists that are soulful or Black artists dabbling in shades of groovy soft rock." Indeed, there is a strong thread of top tier interracial studio performers that runs through the Yacht Soul oeuvre.

  5. Yacht Soul

    „The history of Black artists covering songs primarily associated with white writers and performers is a very long one, stretching all the way back to the early 20th century. ... It combines the patented BrosJo Funk with the kind of breezy LA Yacht-Rock sound that all of the record's participants were right at the heart of creating.

  6. Pharrell Williams Drops 'Virginia: Black Yacht Rock' Album

    Pharrell Williams Dropped A New Album, 'Virginia: Black Yacht Rock Vol. 1,' While You Were Arguing About Kendrick Lamar And J. Cole. One of music's biggest artists just pulled a Beyoncé ...

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    Black Yacht Rock, Vol. 1 is hopefully the first of a new solo release renaissance from Pharrell, an artist whose output has been relegated to features and production credits ever since his last album, Girl from 2014, and N*E*R*D's 7-year old latest. The tracklist is a tight 10, putting its best foot forward with its first third.

  8. Pharrell Williams surprise-releases new album Black Yacht Rock Vol 1

    Pharrell Williams has surprise-released his new album 'Black Yacht Rock Vol 1: City of Limitless Access'. The US star released. Celebrating his 51st birthday, Pharrell shared his new album Black Yacht Rock Vol 1 online via his new webiste. ... A full list of credits has yet to be shared, however artists such as Tyler, The Creator and Pusha T ...

  9. Pharrell Secretly Drops 'Black Yacht Rock Vol. 1' Album

    Pharrell unveils 'Black Yacht Rock Vol. 1' in a birthday surprise release. On his birthday, April 5th, Pharrell Williams has unveiled his latest project, 'Black Yacht Rock Vol. 1,' a 10-track homage to his Virginia roots, described as a "City of Limitless Access.". This surprise album diverges from the norm by being accessible ...

  10. Yacht or Not?: Sailing the Seas of Yacht Rock

    Sailing the Seas of Yacht Rock. Jed Gottlieb Published: July 4, 2021. UCR. Louis Armstrong said, "If you have to ask what jazz is, you'll never know.". Duke Ellington said, "There are ...

  11. Pharrell Williams surprise releases new album, 'Black Yacht Rock, Vol

    Pharrell Williams surprised released a new album yesterday (April 6), with fans only able to listen to the album on a new website. The new album, called 'Black Yacht Rock Vol 1: City of ...

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  13. 'The New Yacht Rock'- Reviving the Soundtrack to Your Summer

    As a loosely defined genre, yacht rock also had a fringe collection of unofficial members. The cousins to yacht rock royalty include Bob Marley (Jammin '), Billy Ocean (Caribbean Queen), and a few other artists who flirted with the yachties including The Eagles, Boz Scaggs, and Fleetwood Mac.In the end, yacht rock was undone by its insatiable appetite for the saccharine, the breaking point ...

  14. That '70s Week: Yacht Rock : World Cafe : NPR

    Broadly speaking, yacht rock is an ocean of smooth, soft-listening music made in the late '70s and early '80s by artists like Toto, Hall & Oates and Kenny Loggins — music you can sail to. But as ...

  15. Feature: The 101 GREATEST YACHT ROCK SONGS OF ALL TIME for Your Summer

    Not all Yacht Rock hits are by Yacht Rock artists, as is the case with these four songs. ... This slick throwback to a black-and-white Cole Porter world should be on any indispensable wedding ...

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    As an homage to the Christian rock alternative compilation of the 90s Seltzer: Modern Rock To Settle the Soul here's our mixtape, "Modern Yacht to Settle the Soul.". Jason Isbell and a pirate ship. For yacht rock purists any track not actually recorded in the prime boating years of the late 70s to the early 80s is not actual yacht rock.

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    Both artists were key figures in the late-'70s/early-'80s world of yacht rock. At first glance, hip-hop and yacht rock have little in common, but the trio's resulting single, "Show You the Way ...

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    To say there aren't many confirmable details about the 10-track project is an understatement. Based purely on the album artwork, the project appears to be called Black Yacht Rock Vol. 1: City of Limitless Access and might be credited to a group called Virginia — though, for all we know, Virginia is part of the title.

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    These "yacht rockers" that scored my early years seemed to clash with the artists I came of age with in my teens and 20s and were consigned to kitsch silliness along with fondue sets and Jello ...

  20. Yacht Rock Guide: A Brief History of Yacht Rock

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  21. African-American prog artists? : r/progrockmusic

    Someone has never heard of Yacht rock. Plenty of Prog rock bands come out of Asia. (Asia not being one of them) ... Ps I just named black artists and wasnt specific about them being black American. Tony Williams Life time was an aggro fusions group with the first two albums . Of course Chester Thompson and various members of frank Zappa's band ...

  22. Women of Yacht Rock

    Even now, there are 4 male singers for every 1 female singer (source: Inclusion in the Recording Studio report). 40 years ago those numbers were probably even more uneven. There were huge female stars during this era who were singing Easy Listening/Adult Contemporary music (Barbra Streisand, Helen Reddy) but they weren't Yacht Rock by default.

  23. Eric B. & Rakim Congratulates Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Inductees

    After Snub, Eric B. & Rakim Congratulate 2024 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees 'Congratulations to the diverse group of artists inducted into the Rock Hall this year.