Singing songs by a campfire may oftentimes be associated with Girls and Boys Scouts, but it’s a tradition steeped with singing popular tunes during the summer or even all year long for campers and outdoor enthusiasts alike. You’ve probably seen the old western films where the cowboys, after a long ride, gather round a campfire for their meal and other social activities in the evening hours.
To honor the ways of the old west I’d like to present the top ten campfire songs that are for younger and older children, and of course, the adults too. These songs are fun, engaging, reflective, and campy, no pun intended, but appropriate for the occasion. By the way, these are not the latest hit songs you have on your ipod or mp3 player. These are traditional campfire songs sung by attendees at summer camps, nature lovers, or with the Scouts programs.
I’ve listed five songs for the younger kids and five others for older kids to sing along at a campfire. Most of the song lyrics can be found at the Dragon’s Campfire Songbook website, which I will provide at the end. If the song isn’t found there, I will list where to obtain the lyrics. I will also provide where you can find audio and video to hear the songs in the right tempo. This will be specified with each song. Now let’s gather around to find out what are the top 10 campfire songs.
Younger Children Songs
5.) Hokey Pokey – This is a great participation dance song where you take a leg, arm, or other body part and follow the instructions in the song as you sing-a-long. You can see this performed with accompanying lyrics at www.vodpod.com
4.) Row, Row, Row Your Boat (4-part round) – A very popular children’s song that can be challenging when sung in a round version. This is when one group starts the song and others follow at latter parts, giving it a great effect. Here is a video with accompanying lyrics found at YouTube.
3.) Bingo – No, it’s not a song about the game, but of a dog name Bingo. This children’s song involves the spelling of the dog’s name along with some other variations such as clapping a letter. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XP3SzeYGoUI
2.) Itsy Bitsy Spider – Also known as “Eensy Weensy Spider” it describes the adventures of a spider up, down, and around a waterspout. The adorable nursery rhyme set to a song is usually accompanied by gestures when mimicking the words of the song. An audio of the song can be heard at www.imeem.com
1.) You Are My Sunshine – More than likely you’ve heard at least the chorus of this famous song in television commercials, films, and radio. Originally a popular recording from the 1940’s this remains a sweet, mellow love song. Here is a version of it sung by the Canadian pop singer, Anne Murray, on YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FafLnokzeNo
Older Children Songs
5.) She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain – Sometimes known as “Coming ‘Round the Mountain” is an American folk song as well as a song for children. Its structured style is that of the call and response, where one person would shout the first line and then others repeat it. One interpretation of the song refers to a train coming around the bend of the tracks laid out by the railroad workers.
4.) If I Had a Hammer – Peter, Paul, and Mary are a hugely popular trio folk group from the 1960’s who covered this song, which became a Top 10 hit for them. It later became an anthem for the Civil Rights Movement. This is my favorite Peter, Paul, and Mary song. You can find the lyrics of this song at their website www.peterpaulandmary.com A YouTube video can be found from a television appearance in 1963.
3.) This Land is Your Land – One of the most descriptive songs about the U.S.A. ever written. It is one of the most famous folk songs about the United States. The songwriter, Woody Guthrie, wrote the song in response to the unrealistic and overplayed “God Bless America” by Kate Smith. Other contemporary recording artists such as Peter, Paul, and Mary as well as Bruce Springsteen have recorded and performed the song. Springsteen described it as “about one of the most beautiful songs ever written.” Here is the YouTube video of his “live” performance. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1yuc4BI5NWU
Lyrics can be found at Woody Guthrie’s son’s website, ArloNet www.arlo.net
2.) Ninety-Nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall (or 99 Bottles of Beer) – First of all, I am not advocating drinking beer around the campfire with this song. I chose it for the challenge of counting backwards and remembering where you are in the song. This is a fun and engaging sing-a-long that everyone can participate. In a way it reminds of those rousing German beer hall songs. There are some video versions of this song, but they are not the best renditions whatsoever.
1.) Kumbaya – To me it is one of the prettiest songs I have ever heard. I know it tends to be ridiculed and chided, because of its positive message of unity and compassion, but it would be sacrilegious if I did not include it as one of the top campfire songs of all time. It’s considered a standard campfire song in scouting and other nature-appreciative organizations. This has been recorded by several folk recording artists such as Joan Baez and Peter, Paul, and Mary. The lyrics can also be found at www.peterpaulandmary.com An audio version of the trio’s recording can be found at www.imeem.com
Now that you have your arsenal of songs for your next camping trip you can begin learning and finding different ways to present them to your fellow campers. This will sure beat singing along to the radio or your ipod or mp3 player.
Dragon’s Campfire Songbook