There’s nothing that can elevate the mood at a party or gathering quite like the right music. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true, especially at a piano bar.
Whether you’re a piano player yourself or you just want to listen, we’ve got a list of the best, tried-and-true piano bar songs to play or request. Remember, there are no wrong answers for making requests, but if you get stuck, throw one of these guaranteed-to-please classic tunes from the list. We’ve even included a few more unconventional choices, for those who like to mix it up.
1. Great Balls of Fire – Jerry Lee Lewis
This top hit from one of America’s foremost boogie-woogie piano players is a sure-fire favorite. Jerry Lee Lewis was known for his electrifying piano performances, which included playing while standing on the piano and even lighting his instrument on fire.
Released in 1957, Lewis’s version of “Great Balls Of Fire” was honored as number 242 on Rolling Stone’s list of the Best 500 Songs of All Time. This one’s a real crowd-pleaser that will get everyone singing along and give your piano player a chance to show off their chops.
2. Baby Got Back – Sir Mix-A-Lot
Hear us out! It may not be a piano bar classic, but “Baby Got Back” is a whole lot of fun and has a great beat that translates well to piano. Grab your friends and take turns rapping out the lyrics to Sir Mix-A-Lot’s hit. The 1992 song is an ode to shapely ladies, and the years have only amplified his message about beautiful, big bodies!
3. Old Time Rock & Roll – Bob Seger
If you’re old enough to remember Tom Cruise dancing in his underwear to this song from the 1983 movie, Risky Business, you’ve no doubt long ago memorized all the words to this cheesy but inescapably nostalgic hit.
It’s the perfect blend of old meets new with a rocking solo section for piano players. Bob Seger says that while he was at first not too excited about his song being so strongly associated with a movie scene, in later years, he came to appreciate it.
4. Piano Man – Billy Joel
What kind of piano bar list would this be if we didn’t include the original piano man himself? The song was inspired by Billy Joel’s time spent working at The Executive Room. Since that time, he has composed numerous piano-centered melodies. Yet, this one remains one of his all-time favorite songs. It’s a sentimental shot straight to the heart, so don’t hold back from belting out the lyrics.
5. Wagon Wheel – Old Crow Medicine Show
“Wagon Wheel” has been covered by numerous bands through the years, but Old Crow Medicine Show’s scaled-back arrangement makes it a perfect choice for the piano.
The song—originally written and recorded by Bob Dylan, and later, became a hit for singer Darius Rucker—has somehow managed to become associated most strongly with the 2003 Old Crow Medicine Show rendition. Its simple, string-backed melody has been known to evoke warm feelings in even the most unsentimental among us.
6. Hotel California – The Eagles
When you’re feeling the need for some true old-time classic rock, request this 1976 hit by The Eagles. Originally titled “Mexican Reggae,” they wanted it to play out like a movie. They envisioned the opening as something like The Twilight Zone, where a man driving alone stops at a strange hotel and finds himself surrounded by visions and weird characters.
While they may have set out to create a “strange masterpiece,” The Eagles also created an iconic song that would be sung for decades to come.
7. Hey Jude – The Beatles
This sweet song has long been a favorite of The Beatles fans and non-fans alike. It’s hard to resist the comforting melody and lyrics, which Paul McCartney had originally written as “Hey Jules” in honor of John Lennon’s son, Julian.
The version that was first recorded was over 7 minutes long, but a shorter version of the song will scratch that nostalgia itch. While the lyrics might seem a bit melancholy, there’s nothing like the unifying feeling of a group of people singing a heartfelt ballad together, or even just enjoying hearing it played on the piano.
8. The Devil Went Down to Georgia – The Charlie Daniels Band
If you’re looking to amp things up, bust out this song by The Charlie Daniels Band. The 1979 hit made it all the way to the Top 20 charts and its popularity hasn’t waned since. In fact, we’re willing to bet that “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” will get every single person in the bar singing along.
This is a particularly great choice for dueling pianos since the song is written as a competition between two musicians. For all the ferocity and energy of both the song and the story within it, Charlie Daniels has always claimed that the idea for the song came from a poem he had once read in an English class.
9. Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen
“Bohemian Rhapsody” is such a unique song that the record label at first resisted including it on Queen’s album. Obviously, those record execs have been proven wrong thousands of times over in the decades since.
It remains one of their most beloved songs. If you or your friend is feeling a little shy about singing along, you’ll most likely get the whole bar onboard because everyone probably knows the lyrics. If you’re in the mood for even more Queen, be sure to request “Somebody To Love” and “Killer Queen” as well.
10. Mustang Sally – Wilson Pickett
Wilson Pickett’s legendary singing voice brings a sweet R&B flavor to this rocking song about a girl living her best life in her brand-new Mustang. It’s a rollicking ode to youth and freedom. Wilson, whose record label was not originally impressed with the song, must have been on to something, as the song not only made it on the charts but nabbed a spot on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list.
11. Sweet Home Alabama – Lynyrd Skynyrd
The simple, scaled-down musicality of this song and the limited range required to sing it make this one a great choice for beginning piano players and non-singer singers alike. It was written as a response to both a segregationist governor and those who would deride an entire state over his racist beliefs. An ode to all that is good about the South, “Sweet Home Alabama” is sure to get everyone on their feet.
12. Paradise by the Dashboard Light – Meat Loaf
If you want a truly rocking 70s tune that is fueled by nothing but fun, request this sexy little number by the late rock star, Meat Loaf. Just be prepared for a good cardio workout, because the full version of the song clocks in at almost nine minutes long.
“Paradise By The Dashboard Light’s” unique structure tells a complete story in three very distinct parts—a tale of high school love and lust gone awry. The song manages to be both funny and sad, but whichever way it makes us feel, we love to sing this one with a group of friends.
13. Livin’ on a Prayer – Bon Jovi
Hey, 80s babies, this one is for you! Bon Jovi’s biggest hit is a belt-out-loud ode to making it despite the odds and overcoming the obstacles along the way. The 1989 rock anthem, written by Jon Bon Jovi and fellow band member Richie Sambora became the band’s signature song.
Bon Jovi has been quoted as saying that he originally thought that “Livin’ On A Prayer” wasn’t up to par with the band’s other songs and did not want to include it on the album, Slippery When Wet. Thankfully, a meeting with a group of teens changed his mind, and the rest is history.
14. Sweet Caroline – Neil Diamond
This is a great choice for music fans of all ages, and a favorite sing-along number. Even if you don’t know all the words to the song, we’re sure you’ll be singing right along with that rousing chorus of “Sweet Caroline.”
It’s said that Neil Diamond wrote this sweet love song as an ode to his second wife, Marcia, but had to change the name to Caroline to make the three syllables fit the melody. The song’s popularity was such that there was an uptick in baby girls being named Caroline for a few years after its release. Even today, we dare you to try to find someone who doesn’t know the words to this classic.
15. Truth Hurts – Lizzo
Lizzo’s beats-laden hit about independence and moving on from unsuccessful relationships is a real show-stopper. It’s no wonder that she took this song all the way to number one on the charts, becoming only the third female rapper to hold that honor.
Though the song was not immediately successful upon its release in 2017, it found an audience about 18 months later, when it was featured in the movie, Someone Great. The film’s success catapulted the song up the charts and made Lizzo into the performer—and the household name—that we know and love today! In the mood for even more Lizzo? Add “About Damn Time” and “Juice” to your list.
16. Blister in the Sun – Violent Femmes
This 80s alternative flashback was a cult favorite for a few years when it could only be heard in the deepest recesses of the college music station’s studio. But, through the decades, the song’s unique structure and staccato style have increased its popularity. It was even co-opted for a Wendy’s ad in 2007, introducing it to an even wider audience.
While there has been a lot of talk about its “dirty” lyrics, the singer has always maintained that the song is about a man struggling with his addiction and is not sexual in nature.
17. Your Song – Elton John
In the mood for something romantic and thoughtful? This is your song, both literally and figuratively. Elton John has made a career out of composing beautiful, piano-centered melodies. It’s shocking to think that this amazing piece of music was recorded at the very beginning of his musical career.
The singer and songwriter and piano man made “Your Song,” a cover of a Three Dog Night tune, an instant hit. If you’re in the mood for something a little more upbeat, John’s hits “Crocodile Rock” or “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting” might hit the spot.
18. You’re the One That I Want – From Grease
Who can forget the first time that they saw the movie Grease? The star-studded cast brought the 50s musical to life for audiences in the 70s and beyond. This song is the rocking finale of the love story between Danny and Sandy, and the perfect choice for a couples sing-along song.
Before the movie Grease was released in 1978, “You’re The One That I Want,” featuring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John was already a number one hit. Bonus points go to anyone who can re-enact the rocking dance sequence from the film.
19. Killing Me Softly With His Song – Roberta Flack
Roberta Flack’s smooth R&B/soul vocal styling gave “Killing Me Softly With His Song” a sweetly melancholic feel; yet, there is also something very powerful and triumphant about it.
Flack was a prolific artist. She began her musical journey with piano lessons at the age of nine. And although she released numerous songs, excelling in genres from R&B to jazz to folk, it’s this cover that made her a household name in 1973.
20. My Way – Frank Sinatra
We can’t think of a better pair than a crooner and a piano. The Chairman was famous for his smooth, jazzy renditions of both old standards and songs that were “uniquely him,” chief among them, “My Way.”
While it may be one of his signature songs, it didn’t always belong to Frank Sinatra. The song was discovered by Paul Anka, and its lyrics were originally in French. A quick rewrite turned it into the ode to individuality that we know and love today.
21. Proud Mary – Tina Turner
If you’re in a dancing mood, request this one and watch it draw everyone out to the dance floor. This iconic song, from an iconic singer, is not only a show-stopping rendition of the original Creedence Clearwater Revival tune, but it’s a song that Tina Turner credits with saving her life.
She says that it was the 1973 success of “Proud Mary” that helped build her confidence as a performer and a woman and started her down the path of liberating herself from a dangerous relationship and finding her own solo path forward. That’s a song we can get behind!
22. Don’t Stop Believin’ – Journey
People may joke about how many folks name “Don’t Stop Believin'” their karaoke song of choice. But, you’ll have to admit that it’s nearly impossible not to sing along to this hit song about staying the course in the face of obstacles.
This is their signature and most requested song and has become a karaoke favorite. Everyone knows the lyrics, but we find it interesting that the song’s title—and the chorus that goes with it—doesn’t kick in till near the end of the song. It’s an interesting songwriting choice that clearly paid off.
23. Just a Friend – Biz Markie
Feeling silly? Been dumped? Biz Markie’s “Just A Friend” is a comedic ode to singlehood and being turned down. We’ve all been there, so you might as well laugh about it and sing right along.
This song was recorded by Markie in 1989, which was a very different time for rap artists, and self-deprecating comedic lyrics were more common. There’s something to be said for the ability to kick back and laugh at yourself—after all, we’ve all been dumped at some point! If you’re a fan of classic rap and hip hop, this one should definitely be on your top requests list.
24. Friends in Low Places – Garth Brooks
This feel-good Garth Brooks hit is the number one country song requested in piano bars. Although he didn’t write the song, which was originally recorded by writer Mark Chestnutt, it’s his more upbeat version that captured music lovers’ hearts. Brooks’s good humor and bass voice shine through the vocals about getting into trouble with friends.
Legend has it that the idea for the song was born when songwriters Dewayne Blackwell and Earl Bud Lee enjoyed a night out on the town only to realize that neither had enough cash to pay the tab. One of them replied that they had “friends in low places,” namely someone who worked in the kitchen. The story was passed along and eventually became the title of Brooks’s future hit.
25. Only the Good Die Young – Billy Joel
We couldn’t resist putting one more Billy Joel number on the list. “Only The Good Die Young” may sound like a downer title, but it’s actually an upbeat song about first loves and a great number to sing along with friends. From the opening piano refrain, this song takes off fast and never lets up.
Joel has been quoted as saying that he originally wrote the song as a reggae number. Thankfully, other members of his band didn’t believe the beat fit the lyrics and talked him into building a piano-centric songwriter version that more closely aligned with his usual musical style.
26. I’m a Believer – The Monkees
If you’re a fan of 60s music and television, The Monkees are a no-brainer. This group is pure fun with a capital F, and this song is one of their most upbeat. It should come as no surprise that master performer and singer and songwriter, Neil Diamond, composed this song for the band, who were following up on their hit, “Last Train To Clarksville.”
27. You Shook Me All Night Long – AC/DC
Many hard rock and metal songs don’t translate well to piano but this is not one of those songs. The driving beat of “You Shook Me All Night Long” is a great fit for single or dueling pianos, so belt this one out.
Originally released in 1980 on the band’s album, Back In Black, the song reached number 35 on Billboard’s music chart. But the full album remains one of the top-selling albums of all time, due in large part to its catchy, rocking anthem of the same name. Band member Bon Scott credits his musical skills to an early love affair with movie musicals.
28. Respect – Aretha Franklin
The Queen of Soul can do no wrong, and neither can this song. While “Respect” is typically associated with Aretha Franklin, believe it or not, she was not the first one to sing it. It’s actually a cover of an Otis Redding tune, in which the R&B singer demanded the respect of a woman. But it’s Franklin’s version that we hold close to our hearts, and the one whose lyrics we love to belt out, even when we can’t touch her singing range!
29. My Girl – The Temptations
Another Motown favorite, “My Girl” is particularly great for groups who want to sing along. Written by Smokey Robinson at the Apollo Theater itself, it became the first number one hit for a male artist on the Motown label. He has stated in interviews that it was written with very clear, easy-to-learn lyrics to encourage listeners to join in—no wonder it’s become a favorite at piano bars and karaoke clubs alike.
Looking for other Motown hits to request? Put “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” and “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)” on your list alongside “My Girl.”
30. Louie Louie – The Kingsmen
Whether or not you know any of the words—and trust us, most of us don’t—you can still join in the chorus of “Louie Louie.” This song was sung by John Belushi in the classic comedy, Animal House, and has remained at the forefront of pop culture yet.
While there have been long-standing rumors that the song contains “obscene lyrics,” that is not the case. Despite this song being covered by multiple artists, the original version is a true classic, and its organ melody translates perfectly to the piano.
31. Ring of Fire – Johnny Cash
No one can sing like the Man in Black, but we sure would like to give it a try. “Ring of Fire’s” unique horn-backed sound translates well into piano and is especially fantastic with two pianos dueling it out.
Despite the rather ominous title, the song is actually a love song written by Cash’s wife, June, who based it upon an Elizabethan love poem called Love’s Ring Of Fire. The song was originally recorded by June’s sister, but Cash made it his own.
32. You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ – The Righteous Brothers
This song enjoyed a big resurgence in popularity when it was famously featured in the 1986 hit film Top Gun. Since then, it has stayed on the radar and remains a crowd favorite. BMI Music has actually stated that it is the most-played song (including film, television, and radio) of the 20th century, accruing over 8 million air plays on digital platforms.
33. Shout – Otis Day and the Knights
If you’re looking for a way to get the crowd excited and singing along, request or play this Otis Day And The Knights tune. Its infectious chorus of “Shout” and the varying volumes make an impossible-to-resist crowd participation song that will draw out even the shyest bar-goers.
Interestingly, Otis Day And The Knights were a fictional band that was put together for the movie Animal House. “Shout” was originally an Isley Brothers song, but when the movie became a smash hit, Otis Day put together a real band and took their act on the road, with this song appearing at the top of every night’s setlist.
There’s nothing better than a night out on the town with friends. If you haven’t checked out a piano bar, now’s the time to do it! It’s a unique experience, and often one of the few places left that take song requests. And, whatever you do, don’t leave home without a list of your favorite piano bar songs to throw on the request list.
As the Head Editor and Writer at Music Grotto, Liam helps write and edit content produced from professional music/media journalists and other contributing writers. He works closely with journalists and other staff to format and publish music content for the Music Grotto website. Liam is also the founding member of Music Grotto and is passionate in disseminating editorial content to its readers.
Liam’s lifelong love for music makes his role at Music Grotto such a rewarding one. He loves researching, writing and editing music content for Music Grotto.