June 13, 2014

School of Rock: 88 Classic Songs All Kids Need to Hear.

Vitor Lima/Pixoto

“I know it’s only rock ‘n’ roll, but I like it.” ~ The Rolling Stones

This post is dedicated to my dad, who instilled good musical taste in me from an early age and is an all-around great guy—generous, kind, calm, thoughtful, open-minded. Thanks, Dad! Happy Fathers Day.

Thanks, also, to all my friends and elephants who helped by offering their song suggestions.

I am finishing up my eighth year of teaching. Over the years, many of my students have had (in my opinion) good musical taste, but it pains me when one of them says, “Who are The Beatles?” or “What’s jazz?” or something along those lines.

Although there is, of course, quality music being made presently, the pickings of current pop music are somewhat slim and shallow. No offense, Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus.

This list contains fabulous songs of various genres that are appropriate and recommended for elementary-aged children. It started out as just “classic rock,” but I felt compelled to include Motown and some other styles that I love. You’ll notice it’s missing a lot. I could create a whole other post of classical music and other songs for kids, but this one is intended to cover mainly American (and British) pop music from the mid- to late-20th-century-ish.

Yes, this list is biased. It could go on and on. Please feel free to add more songs and artists in the comments section.

Motown Hits

  1. “The Tears of a Clown” by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
  2. “Dancing in the Street” by Martha and the Vandellas
  3. “Heard It Through The Grapevine” by Marvin Gaye
  4. “ABC” by The Jackson 5
  5. “I Want You Back” by The Jackson 5
  6. “You Can’t Hurry Love” by The Supremes
  7. “What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye 
  8. “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder 
  9. “Do You Love Me” by The Contours 
  10. “My Girl” by The Temptations 

11. “I Feel Good” by James Brown

Trivia Fact: James Brown was never on Motown. In his words:

“I was way too raw for the kind of polished music they were willing to do. For instance, they had their choreography, which was great, but it was too rehearsed, down to the last toe-step. Mine was different, spontaneous, and no two nights the same.

Mine didn’t come from a rehearsal hall—it came from my heart and soul, and there was no way I was ever going to change that, for Motown or anywhere else.”

By the Beatles

12. “Yesterday”
13. “Twist and Shout”
14. “Across the Universe”
15. “Let it Be”
16. “All You Need is Love”
17. “A Day in the Life”
18. “Yellow Submarine”
19. “All Together Now”
20. “Strawberry Fields Forever”
21. “Octopus’ Garden”

By the Beatles after they were the Beatles

22. “Imagine” by John Lennon
23. “Uncle Albert” by Paul McCartney
24. “My Sweet Lord” by George Harrison
25. “Beautiful Boy” by John Lennon
26. “All Things Must Pass” by George Harrison

Classic Rock

27. “Another Brick in the Wall” by Pink Floyd
28. “La Grange” by ZZ Top
29. “Love Me Like a Rock” by Paul Simon
30. “Free Fallin'” by Tom Petty
31. “Friend of the Devil” by the Grateful Dead
32. “Lay Down Sally” by Eric Clapton
33. “Layla” by Eric Clapton
34. “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin
35. “Teach Your Children” by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
36. “Me and Bobby McGee” by Janis Joplin
37. “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen
38. “Bicycle” by Queen
39. “Sweet Emotion” by Aerosmith
40. “Sweet Baby James” by James Taylor
41. “My Generation” by The Who
42. “Kashmir” by Led Zeppelin
43. “Bad Moon Rising” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
44. “Roadhouse Blues” by The Doors
45. “Joy to the World” by Three Dog Night

Bob Dylan & Covers of Bob Dylan Songs

46. “Mr. Tambourine Man” by The Byrds
47. “Subterranean Homesick Blues” by Bob Dylan
48. “Like a Rolling Stone” by Bob Dylan
49. “All Along the Watchtower” by Jimi Hendrix
50. “Blowin’ in the Wind” by Peter, Paul and Mary

Non-“Rock” Necessities

51. “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong
52. “Feelin’ Good” by Nina Simone
53. “Sir Duke” by Stevie Wonder
54. “The Nearness of You” by Ella Fitzgerald
55. “At Last” by Etta James
56. “Night Train” by James Brown
57. “Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley
58. “Don’t Know Why” by Norah Jones
59. “Love’s in Need of Love Today” by Stevie Wonder
60. “Wanna Be Startin’ Something” by Michael Jackson
61. “Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash
62. “On the Road Again” by Willie Nelson
63. “Crazy” by Patsy Cline
64. “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin
65. “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson

How Could I Forget?

66. “Peggy Sue” by Buddy Holly
67. “Jailhouse Rock” by Elvis Presley
68. “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” by The Rolling Stones
69. “The Wind” by Cat Stevens
70. “Respect” by Aretha Franklin
71. “That’s Life” by Frank Sinatra
72. “Changes” by David Bowie

Newer Classics

73. “Where is My Mind” by the Pixies
74. “Fell in Love with a Girl” by The White Stripes
75. “Love Cats” by The Cure
76. “Ants Marching” by Dave Matthews Band
77. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana
78. “Sweet Child of Mine” by Guns ‘N’ Roses
79. “Loser” by Beck
80. “Karma Police” by Radiohead
81. “Ironic” by Alanis Morrisette
82. “Dog Days Are Over” by Florence and the Machine
83. “Do You Realize” by The Flaming Lips
84. “Are You Gonna Go My Way” by Lenny Kravitz
85. “Rosa Parks” by Outkast
86. “On the Radio” by Regina Spektor


87. “Mahna Mahna” by The Muppets

88. “School’s Out for Summer” by Alice Cooper

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Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Vitor Lima/Pixoto


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