There’s nothing better in the world than a good friend — except, perhaps, a good song about friendship. A theme that spans all genres — from pop and rap to electronic and country — musical artists have been pondering and praising friendship since time immemorial. Alas, we don’t have recordings of ancient Etruscan or Sumerian odes to friendship, but we do have some other dope tracks on this Spotify playlist, by everyone from Biz Markie to Bette Midler. Grab a friend and take a listen to the best songs about friendship.
Deep Fried Frenz, the fifth track off of MF Doom‘s food-related 2004 album Mm.. Food, samples an old-school rap song by Whodini called Friends, so you’re kinda getting two friendship-themed songs in one. If you’re friends with the masked rapper, don’t worry: He doesn’t really want to deep fry you. He does, however, want to know who his real friends are. Hip-hop can be a tough game, but it’s made better with some quality pals.
Poor Biz Markie can’t catch a break in this 1989 lamentation of forlorn groupie love, in which the Clown Prince of Hip-Hop meets a girl while on concert and, after trying to date her, discovers she already has a man — who she insists is “just a friend.” This single was a one-hit wonder and Biz Markie hasn’t been able to climb the charts since (appearing on reality shows and Men In Black II instead), but what a wonderful hit it is. Just A Friend is now a dance floor sing-along staple and a reminder that friendship can be bittersweet.
The Toy Story franchise and its theme song, You’ve Got A Friend In Me offers another bittersweet take on friendship. The song — written by Randy Newman and performed as a duet by Newman and Lyle Lovett — is a perfect tribute to friends helping each other when times get tough.
We go from bittersweet to syrupy with I’ll Be There For You by The Rembrandts, best known as the irritating yet catchy theme song for the TV show Friends, making it a begrudgingly suitable track on this playlist. We’re really sorry. It has some nice and appropriate sentiments about friendship though, we promise!
I’ll Be There, The Jackson 5‘s soul song about soul mates catapulted the quintet beyond the realm of mere bubblegum pop into the stratosphere, according to no less an authority than Michael Jackson himself. If you want more I’ll Be There in your listening life, check out Mariah Carey’s equally- powerful MTV Unplugged rendition.
So far, our songs about friendship are pretty straightforward and You’re My Best Friend by Queen is no exception. Written by the band’s bassist John Deacon — who also provides those Wurlitzer piano notes — it’s a catchy pop ballad about Deacon’s relationship with his wife and the joys of a friendship that evolves into marriage.
Ben E King‘s R&B classic has scaled the Billboard charts twice: First when it was released in 1961, then in 1986 when it was re-released, coinciding with the blockbuster coming-of-age film of the same name, demonstrating the song’s timeless appeal. Both versions of Stand By Me serve as anthemic monuments to childhood camaraderie.
A friend in need is a friend indeed, as the saying goes, and Lean On Me by Bill Withers is a stirring expression of that sentiment. This song topped the Billboard charts twice: The Withers original went number one in 1972, then the Club Nouveau cover reach the top spot in 1987, also winning the Grammy for Best R&B Song.
With A Little Help From My Friends was first recorded by this British band called The Beatles — maybe you’ve heard of them. In this case though, we went with the Joe Cocker rendition, which is a friendship-themed classic in its own right, slower and bluesier than the poppy Beatles version. This version of With A Little Help From My Friends also found new life 20 years after its release as the theme song of the nostalgic series The Wonder Years.
“When the sun shines, we’ll shine together/Told you I’ll be here forever/Said I’ll always be a friend/Took an oath I’mma stick it out til the end.” Is there a better expression of friendship than that? Rihanna had a string of early successes before Umbrella, but this 2007 single was her breakthrough hit, turning her into the chart-topping titan she is today. It’s also an affecting and danceable tune about the everlasting bond between friends.