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Campfire Songs

Classic Folk Campfire and Sing-along Songs

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Whether you're camping in the summer or having a midwinter jam in your living room, here's a look at some classic sing-along songs that are also great for campfire songs. 

"American Pie"

Don MacLean - American Pie
© United Artists
Don MacLean's 1971 hit song "American Pie" has become one of the most popular sing-along tunes in contemporary American music. Most people don't know all the words, but will happily - and emphatically - throw their heads back and sing along on the chorus. (Check out the lyrics to "American Pie".)

"Banana Boat Song (Day-O)"

Harry Belafonte - Calypso
© RCA
This Jamaican folk song was popularized in the States by Harry Belafonte. Kids and adults alike enjoy singing the refrain "Daylight come and me wan' go home," and the enthusiastic "six foot, seven foot, eight foot, bunch!" For both of these reasons, it's an excellent tune for family camp trips and other outings.

"Down by the Riverside"

Blind Boys of Alabama - Down in New Orleans
© Time Life Entertainment
This classic protest song's origins lie in African-American spirituals. Through the years, though, the song has become not only a popular hymn, but also an anthem of the peace movement. However it is that folks first heard the tune, it's one pretty much everyone knows the words to, and is a great community-building sing-along. (Check out the lyrics for "Down by the Riverside".)

"House of the Rising Sun"

Bob Dylan - Self-titled debut album
© Columbia Records
Though this song's origins stretch much further back into history, probably the most popular version is the folk-rock tune by the Animals, circa 1964. Bob Dylan also recorded a popular version in 1962. The oldest known recording of the tune came from about 30 years prior to that, though. Regardless of where you heard it first, most Americans know enough of the lyrics to sing along, and enjoy doing so. (Here are the lyrics to Bob Dylan's version.)

"If I Had a Hammer"

Peter, Paul & Mary - "If I Had a Hammer"
© Warner Bros.
This song was written by Pete Seeger with Lee Hays (here's a full history of "If I Had a Hammer") in 1949. But, perhaps the most popular version was recorded by Peter, Paul and Mary. As is true of many of Seeger's songs, they're set up with the intention of being sung along to. Folks who don't know all the words can easily follow along.

"Kumbaya"

Joan Baez - In Concert
© Vanguard
This is such a great song for singing around the campfire, Peter, Paul & Mary included it on their aptly titled album, Around the Campfire. The version linked here is by Joan Baez, though, whose voice was so beautiful for this strong melody. It's short on lyrics and easy to learn - perfect for an impromptu sing-along.

"You Are My Sunshine"

O Brother Where Art Thou Soundtrack - You Are My Sunshine, by Norman Blake
© Mercury Records
Though some of the verses in this tune can start to sound a bit morose and downtrodden, the overall vibe of the song is uplifting and fun. Most people know the main verse/chorus and are happy to sing along without being prompted. They may also enjoy hearing the other, darker verses sung by the person leading the tune.
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