The 15 Best Whistling Songs of All Time - Rolling Stone
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The 15 Best Whistling Songs of All Time

Our picks include ‘Patience,’ ‘Dock of the Bay’ and ‘Young Folks’


Clockwise from top lef: Tom Hanley/Redferns, H. Armstrong Roberts/Retrofile/Getty Images, Fox Photos/Getty Images, Ron Krisel/Getty Images, FPG/Hulton Archive/Getty Images, Vintage Images/Hulton Archive Creative/Getty Images, Getty Images/Brand X

It took whistling to conflate Britney Spears and Andy Griffith — but the refrain on Spears’ ubiquitous single from this summer, “I Wanna Go,” does indeed recall of the theme song of Griffith’s 1960s classic TV series.

Whistling is also prominent in six other songs currently on Billboard’s charts: “Good Life” by OneRepublic, “Pumped Up Kicks” by Foster the People, “Moves Like Jagger” by Maroon 5, “Lazy Song” by Bruno Mars, “It Girl” by Jason Derulo and “Different” by Ximena Sarinaña.

Ryan Tedder, songwriter and lead singer for OneRepublic, calls the trend nothing less than a “whistle revolution.” Whether haunting or jaunty, whistling can make a song distinctive.

Here are our picks for the 15 best whistling songs of all time.

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Guns N’ Roses – ‘Patience’ (1989)

Whistling opens this soulful, acoustic single released in 1989 by Guns N' Roses. Frontman Axl Rose himself does the whistling, which is melodic and sad – what you'd expect someone separated from his lover would whistle "sitting on the stairs."

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Scorpions – ‘Winds of Change’ (1991)

This anthem to the end of the Cold War quickly became an international hit, eventually selling more than 14 million copies. A whistled melody is the song's introduction as well as its finale and indeed, evokes the wind.

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Bobby McFerrin – ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’ (1988)

"Don't Worry, Be Happy" was the first a cappella song to reach Number One on Billboard's charts. It features McFerrin's voice and intonations as well as his whistling, sometimes in different octaves layered on top of each other.

edward sharpe magnetic zeros home jade

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Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes – ‘Home’ (2010)

“Home” opens with a chorus of whistling that serves to bring the song to its happy and campy affirmation of love that feels like home. Whistling also is a refrain and underlies spoken word portions of the song.

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The Black Keys – ‘Tighten Up’ (2010)

This song – which topped both the alternative and rock charts last year – opens with a seven drawfs hi-ho type of whistling that contrasts sharply to the ensuing electric guitar and rumbling bluesy vocals.

otis redding dock of the bay whistling

Gilles Petard/Redferns

Otis Redding – ‘Dock of the Bay’ (1968)

Recorded just days before Redding’s death in an airplane crash in 1967, this song topped the R&B chart when released the following year. A breathy, imperfect whistle ends the song and sounds casual and unselfconscious, as if blown to while away the time.

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Peter Bjorn and John – ‘Young Folks’ (2006)

The catchy, whistled tune is a marked contrast to the song’s otherwise electronic, post-punk sound.

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OneRepublic – ‘Good Life’ (2011)

At once haunting and jaunty, the whistled tune is the hook for this current hit song. Lead singer Ryan Tedder said the whistle came to him first and the song was built around it. He describes the whistle as the song's "second chorus" and it took "20 takes and loads of Chapstick to get it just right."

roy orbison

David Redfern/Redferns

Roy Orbison – ‘Here Comes The Rain, Baby’ (1967)

Orbison’s song features a virtuosic, clear whistle toward the end of the song – practically making it an instrument in itself.

river kwai bridge whistle colonel bogey

Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’ Soundtrack – ‘Colonel Bogey March’ (1957)

This is the tune whistled by British POWs in the 1957 film about life in a Japanese prison camp. It serves as a symbol of their defiance and optimism in the face of adversity. Warning: Once heard, it plays an unmerciful loop inside the brain.

bing crosby white christmas whistling

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Bing Crosby – ‘White Christmas’ (1942)

This perennial holiday classic features Crosby whistling in harmony to a chorus of women singing the refrain, “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas.”

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The Bangles – ‘Walk Like An Egyptian’ (1986)

A whistled rendition of the song's melody occurs in the middle of this Number One song released in 1986 by the girl group the Bangles. The song is short on lyrics so perhaps it's filler. Or it could be a Biblical reference to Isaiah 7:18 where a vengeful God whistles to awaken flies in distant branches of the Nile River in Egypt . . . but probably not.

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J. Geils Band – ‘Centerfold’ (1982)

The whistle is the denouement of this song, which was Number One on the pop charts in 1982. It repeats the same upbeat tune belted out by the band earlier in the song with a resounding, albeit nonsensical, "Na, na, na, na, na, na."

john lennon yoko jealous guy

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John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band – ‘Jealous’ (1971)

On this track from his Imagine album, Lennon whistles the song’s melody at the midpoint. It’s not one of his better-known songs and perhaps not his best work, but it gets a mention because it is, after all, John Lennon.

andy griffith ron howard whistling

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Earle Hagen and Herbert Spencer – ‘The Fishin’ Hole (theme to The Andy Griffith Show)’ (1960)

Hagen did the whistling that opened and closed the classic 1960s television series. It’s possibly the most recognized theme song ever.

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