Songwriters write about things that touch their lives or that they are inspired by. Music and sports go together. Like peanut butter and jam. Both tend to evoke plenty of emotion so it is understandable that sport has inspired songwriters. Rarely does a sporting event happen that is not accompanied by music. It makes sense then that many songs have been written about sports. Once you hear these songs they will be associated with memories that come flooding back.
Of course, there are varying degrees of quality in that some are great songs whereas some are others are awful. The good ones will bring forth as much emotion as the sport itself. It goes without saying that deciding which are the best is completely objective, but my list can be a starting point for debate. Here is my list of the top 10 song about sports:
10) Kung Fu Fighting: By – Carl Douglas. Year of Release – 1974. A big hit from the disco era. It’s release coincided with the return to glory of martial arts films. Eventually the fun song made it to the top of the British and American singles charts and won the Grammy for the best selling song of the year. Has sold over 11 million singles worldwide. Very over the top with its “huhs” and “hahs” put in for effect.
9) Surfin’ USA: By – The Beach Boys. Year of Release – 1963. Surfing would not be in the public’s consciousness as much if it weren’t for The Beach Boys. Before The Beach Boys began to make their music there were a couple thousand surfers in the United States and after it jumped to millions. This is almost universally accepted as the sport’s theme song. The song was written by Brian Wilson. That is odd because he is afraid of water. He wrote it because his brother and fellow band member Dennis was a surfer. This song made The Beach Boys international stars.
8) La Copa de la Vida (Cup of Life): By – Ricky Martin. Year of Release – 1998. The song was one of Ricky Martin’s biggest hits and was number one in several countries. Named as the official song of the 1998 World Cup in France. It is probably the best World Cup song of all time.
7) Take Me Out to the Ballgame: By – Jack Norworth. Year of Release – 1908. Has become the unofficial anthem of baseball. Oddly though neither of the men who wrote the song had ever attended a baseball game. Traditionally it is played during the seventh-inning stretch and fans are encouraged to sing along.
6) Fifty Mission Cap: By – Tragically Hip. Year of Release – 1992. The song tells the tale of Bill Barilko who was a Toronto Maple Leaf defenseman. Not a star as he scored only five goals in forty-seven career playoff games. However, he did make his last one count as it was an overtime goal that won the 1951 Stanley Cup series against the rival Montreal Canadiens. Mere weeks after scoring the series winning goal Barilko disappeared and was presumed to have been killed in a small-plane crash on his way home from a fishing trip. After his death the Leafs fortunes fell as well. They did not win another Stanley Cup until 1962 which was the same year that Barilko’s body was finally found in the woods.
5) Glory Days: By – Bruce Springsteen. Year of Release – 1984. Was the fifth single released from the hugely popular Born in the U.S.A. album. A song that tells the tale of a man looking back on the glory days of his life including his days playing baseball. A big part of the video involves a father and son throwing a baseball back and forth. It is played after every home win of the New Jersey Devils.
4) The Boxer: By – Simon & Garfunkel. Year of Release – 1969. A song about a troubled boxer. Paul Simon sings in the song that despite being discouraged and down on his luck “the fighter still remains” and refuses to leave the city. A strong message of perseverance. After 9/11 Simon performed the song on Saturday Night Live to convey that message to the people of New York City and the rest of the United States. In an interview with a magazine in 1984 Simon said that he wrote the song about himself as a metaphor for when Simon & Garfunkel would get bad reviews about their music.
3) Centerfield: By – John Fogerty. Year of Release – 1985. The singer’s ode to baseball. Like an athlete John Fogerty was in a slump without a hit for many a year. This became a hit for him going all the way to number one on the Billboard chart. Pardon the pun – it was a home run. Makes centerfield seem like the best place to be in the world. A good song but the video is even better. The best line is “Put me in, coach. I’m ready to play!”
2) Hurricane: By – Bob Dylan. Year of Release – 1975. A song primarily about racism but also boxing. Boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter was falsely imprisoned for a murder he did not commit in 1967 and he stayed there until it was overturned in 1985. For a number of reasons the song was a controversial one but a popular one as it turned out to be his fourth best selling single of the decade.
1) The Hockey Song: By – Stompin’ Tom. Year of Release – 1972. Hard to believe it but this Canadian hockey classic that is a favourite of every fan of the sport in this country was not popular until about twenty years after its release. It was not until the Ottawa Senators began playing the song at home games in 1992 that people truly began to appreciate it. Each of the verses in the song describes a particular period in hockey history. A minimalist, toe-tapping classic.