Home Music Music Lists

The 15 Best Whistling Songs of All Time

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

whistling

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.

By Kate Murphy

Play video

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

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

Play video

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

Keystone/Getty Images

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.”

Play video

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.

Play video

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

George Stroud/Express/Getty Images

John Lennon – ‘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

CBS via Getty Images

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.

Show Comments