Why do we care so much about water? Naturally, it’s the world’s most valuable resource and one of the best emotional metaphors to utilize when songwriting. Most songs about water are simply tracks that are effectively using figurative language, although we may find a few that choose to stray from that mold.
Without further ado, let’s get into the top 31 songs about water.
1. “Purple Rain” – Prince
One of Prince’s greatest hits, topping charts across the world. The song turned into an album and movie with the same name in the ’80s and is still a hot number to listen to. Prince explained the meaning of Purple Rain in an interview that blood in the sky pertains to how red and blue create purple, and purple signifies an end world state with a culmination of existing with the ones you love and letting yourself be guided through the purple rain by spiritual forces exclusively.
2. “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” – Creedance Clearwater Revival
The lyrics give off a depressing vibe and that’s actually true for the context. The writer John Fogerty stated in an interview that the song represents the idea that despite the band being successful and famous, most of the band members were unhappy. At least the song gives joy to other people.
3. “Water” – The Who
This song starts off on a bad note, and no I’m not meaning that the song is bad. The water that these people need is meant to symbolize love, since the lead singer, Roger, felt he was too macho to sing “They need love.”
Consider next: Top songs about unrequited love all time
4. “Madman Across the Water” – Elton John
This song is kind of dark, but hey, you knew going into this list that most songs would feature heavier emotional themes (consider reading our list of the best revenge songs next). It dominated American top charts for a while along with Elton’s other hot singles “Tiny Dancer” and “Levon.” The title is pretty straightforward about the story, where a madman lives in an asylum across the water. Check out our list of the best songs that tell a story, too!
5. “Down by the Seaside” – Led Zepplin
We love listening to this wholesome rock balled about the beauty of this world, more specifically the sea! The song really doesn’t have any deeper meaning other than describing the beautiful seaside and watching passing boats. Even the guitar sounds like it’s being played underwater giving this song a dash of marine character.
6. “Singin’ in the Rain” – Arthur Freed
You didn’t think we’d forget this iconic piece, did you? The show tune is lighthearted and whimsical, contradicting the setting of a cold, dark, and rainy night. But that may be what propels the cheerful theme. Singin’ in the Rain continues to be an iconic masterpiece and will stay that way for years to come. Thankfully, this track has a bit more depth to it than being a unforgettable song in the movie Stanley Kubrick’s Clockwork Orange (although, the usage of it in the movie was quite well done we think).
7. “Octopus’s Garden” – The Beatles
This song makes you think of living under the sea in a pretty little garden made by Mr. Octuopus. With a bouncy and fun tune, the song almost sounds like it was written for children, but that doesn’t stop anyone from enjoying this lighthearted diddy about having a grand ol’ time in an Octopus’s Garden.
8. “Rain” – The Beatles
Another Beatles classic, Rain was created when the band landed in Australia during a downpour. Thanks, Australia! The song is simple, yet strange with a slowed psychedelic feel. It used a new technique, never been done on a record, by including backward vocals on the last verse. Find some Easy beatles songs on guitar next!
9. “Water Runs Dry” – Boyz II Men
Ever broken up with someone? Most songs Boyz II Men sing are about relationships, and this one is no different. A fighting couple realizes they need to fix whatever they broke in the relationship to reconnect. Some people make it, others, not so much. Maybe this song can give some couples a clue to not wait till the Water Runs Dry.
10. “Splish Splash” – Bobby Darin
This may be the only song on the list that isn’t metaphorical, some may even say it’s nonsensical, but that doesn’t stop it from being any less enjoyable. This is the song your grandma danced to back in the day! It originated from a bet by Murray Kaufman to Bobby Darin that he couldn’t write a song beginning with the lyrics “Splish splash, I was takin’ a bath”. The song became an instant hit. Who’s laughing now, Murray?
11. “Water Under the Bridge” – Adele
We’re now starting to venture into modern song territory. The pop song is about a relationship facing a serious crossroads. Is the relationship worth it, or is it “Water Under the Bridge”? Adele’s passionate vocals coupled with the steady foot-tapping beat of the song will make you want to this on replay for hours. Find more Adele songs in our list of the top songs about betrayal.
12. “The River” – Bruce Springsteen
The River takes us through the story of life. From the hopeful excitement of youth leading into the trials of real-life taking its toll until The River dries up. Whether it be a warning of accepting the consequences of teenage impulses, or just a relatable song about life, we’ll let you decide.
13. “Smoke on the Water” – Deep Purple
Interesting how a song about water was inspired by fire. The band witnessed it during a show in Switzerland. Bass player, Roger Glover, created the song after seeing, you guessed it, smoke on the water over Lake Geneva. This may be the biggest song Deep Purple ever had due to the fact it’s requested so many times during live performances.
14. “Cry Me a River” – Justin Timberlake
Ever wanted something passive-aggressive to listen to? This melodramatic R&B ode to Britney Spears possesses a cool beat sung by her ex, Justin Timberlake. This song was inspired by their breakup and since then, became a big hit as well as an anthem for young cheated-on couples.
15. “Black Water” – Doobie Brothers
Songs don’t need to be complicated. This song will take you on a reminiscent journey down to New Orleans, on the Mississippi River, where the song was written about. Wholesome and optimistic, this song is perfect for singing in the car on a long road trip or to just chase away all those bad vibes.
16. “Down to the River to Pray” – Alison Krauss
If you’ve ever seen the movie, ‘O Brother, Where Art Thou?’ this song may sound familiar. This hauntingly beautiful music was written specifically for the movie but quickly became a favorite in religious circles. Writer Alison Krauss did a good job of capturing the peaceful and holy ambiance of prayer and communion.
17. “Candle on the Water” – Helen Reddy
We have a Disney song on the list! Candle on the Water is the signature song of Disney’s film Pete’s Dragon. A sweet, gentle, torch melody of the everlasting love someone carries for their dearest ones.
18. “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” Otis Redding
Otis Redding wrote this before his death. It mirrors his own loneliness and depression as he watches the boats roll by Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay. The song reached No. 1 on the Billboard Charts proving that beauty can still come from brokenness.
19. “The River of Dreams” – Billy Joel
This is a surprisingly spiritual song for Billy, who identifies as an atheist. It includes numerous religious themes involving rivers. Maybe a message from God, maybe not, but don’t be surprised if you start hearing this song blasted from the nearest gospel music festival.
20. “Waterfalls” – TLC
So far, we’ve heard songs about rivers, rain, and lakes, now we venture into waterfalls. If only this song was about actual waterfalls instead of drugs, H.I.V, and teen deaths. That didn’t stop us from belting out this funky R&B tune when we were kids.
21. “Slippery When Wet” – Commodores
Disco isn’t dead when the message remains timeless. A warning to promiscuous men, the Commodores were right up there with this funk when most songs glorified uninhibited sexual behavior. Don’t cheat on your wives guys, love is Slippery When Wet.
22. “Set Fire to the Rain” – Adele
Adele is back with her amazing and soulful vocals. We dare you to not feel inspired by this liberating breakup song when the chorus hits and that rain turns to fire. That’s how powerful Adele’s voice is here.
Consider next: Best songs about pain and hurt
23. “Wade in the Water” – Honey in the Rock
Wade in the Water is a powerful reference to traditional spirituals sung by black slaves. Influential, spiritual, the song still inspires millions with rich vocals and an introspective approach to spiritual matters.
24. “Blue Bayou” – Roy Orbison
This song became an international hit and was covered by Linda Ronstadt who also brought the song back to the Top charts. Don’t get too sad listening to it, as its theme of loneliness was a favorite for Orbison to use, but that isn’t all you can get from this song.
25. “Cake by the Ocean” – DUCE
Probably the only song in this list where water isn’t used as the metaphor. Instead, that right goes to “Cake by the Ocean” is used as a slang term for sex on the beach. This dance song hit the top 10 in the Billboard Hot 100 and had everyone singing along to the song. Funky, fresh, and fun to dance to, just don’t tell your kids about it.
26. “Something in the Water” – Pokey LaFarge
Not to be confused with Carrie Underwood’s song of the same name, this song takes an extreme turn to the innocent religious theme of Carrie’s version. Instead, we get an abusive relationship sung with a cheery, old-time, southern flair. Is it “Something in the Water”? While not commercial yet, this song and its artist are rapidly growing in popularity.
27. “Surfin’ Safari” – Beach Boys
Most songs performed by the Beach Boys have water themes. Go figure. We just picked our favorite one for now. Surfin’ Safari was responsible for the band’s second-ever recording session, first major-label contract, and is the band’s first single issued under Capitol Records.
28. “Ol’ Man River” – Paul Robeson
Another classic, Ol’ Man River carries a huge wave of nostalgia along with it. Written for the musical “Show Boat”, the song, along with Paul Robeson’s powerful, rich, bass voice evokes a feeling of empowerment amidst the struggles of black Americans working along the Mississippi River.
Consider next: The best bass songs of all time
29. “Drink the Water” – Jack Johnson
Another beautiful song stemming from tragedy, or in this case a near-death experience by drowning. Imminent death is prominent in these lyrics, and though Johnson lived to tell the tale, others, not so much. Will it make you think about your own mortality?
30. “Fire Lake” – Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band
Boys, get out your Harleys! This folksy beat takes you on a road trip to Fire Lake with the gang. Contradicting title with an equally contradicting impression. No cares yet risks everywhere. You only live once, right? So, let’s throw caution to the wind and head down to Fire Lake. For a list of easy folk songs on guitar, check out our post now!
31. “Ocean Eyes” Billie Eilish
Last, but not least on the list. Billie’s song went viral after she uploaded it to SoundCloud. Eyes are the windows to the soul, and Billie does wonders describing it for us. Deep, soulful, peaceful, the song encompasses everything that has to do with a gentle ocean experience.
That rounds out our list of the top songs about water ever made. If you feel that we missed any of the essential water tracks, then feel free to reach out to us through the “Contact” page on the website!
As the Head Editor at Music Grotto, Liam edits content produced from over 30 professional music/media journalists and 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.