Animals are a popular subject for songwriters for several reasons. Artists compare themselves to animals and set the mood of their composition using animal metaphors. From household pets to mythical creatures, songwriters love to write songs with animals in the title.
1. “(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear” – Elvis Presley
Kal Mann and Bernie Lowe came up with this classic rock n’ roll track for Elvis Presley in 1957. Presley was riding high in the charts as the “King of Rock n’ Roll” when he released his fourth U.S. number-one single. “(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear” was recorded for the soundtrack of Elvis’ movie, “Loving You”. The doing is better than most of Presley’s movie career.
2. “She Wolf” – Shakira
Shakira is best known as the wife of a Spanish soccer player in the 2020s, but she was a global superstar in 2009. The release of “She Wolf” launched the Colombian singer as a top performer in the U.S. and across Europe. “She Wolf” made Shakira a star outside her Colombian homeland and South America.
3. “Barracuda” – Heart
Heart benefitted from the inclusion of “Barracuda” as a playable song on the “Guitar Hero” video game franchise. The song was born out of Ann Wilson’s anger towards male record industry executives in the 1970s. Despite experts claiming the song is about a specific executive, Ann Wilson states it could be about any executive in the industry.
4. “The Lovecats” – The Cure
Everybody’s favorite goth rocker, Robert Smith, created a classic in 1983. Smith dislikes the song and claims he was drunk during the song’s writing, recording, and promo filming. Robert Smith recently came back to the mainstream charts with his appearance on the latest album from Chvrches.
5. “I am The Walrus” – The Beatles
John Lennon put “I am The Walrus” together from three incomplete songs. The Beatles were heavily influenced by the late-1960s substance culture, with Lennon referencing two acid trips as source material for the song. The famously spiky Liverpudlian wanted to create a song music experts would loathe.
6. “The Fox (What Does The Fox Say?)” – Ylvis
Not since the heady days of A-ha had Norway enjoyed pop music success like the Scandinavian nation saw in 2013. Comedy duo Ylvis recorded “The Fox” as a sketch for their late-night Norwegian talk show. The duo has thankfully revealed they will not be creating a sequel to the novelty song.
7. “My Lovely Horse” – The Divine Comedy
Comedy writers love to write songs about animals. “My Lovely Horse” was written by The Divine Comedy’s Niel Hannon and “Father Ted” comedy writers, Graham Linehan and Arthur Matthews. The song was released as a single after it featured in the “Father Ted” episode, “A Song for Europe.” The simplistic nature of the song was designed to highlight the stupidity of the sitcom’s main characters.
8. “Free Bird” – Lynyrd Skynyrd
“Free Bird” is Lynyrd Skynyrd’s signature song and the finale of the band’s live performances. The song had kicked around Lynyrd Skynyrd’s catalog for two years before finally being completed in 1973. Vocalist Ronnie Van Zant initially believed the song too complex for him to form into a traditional song.
9. “Baby Shark” – Pinkfong
Pinkfong is a kid’s YouTube channel that releases content for kids. The release of “Baby Shark” brought an infectious novelty song to the ears of listeners around the world. The song has been viewed over nine billion times on YouTube.
10. “Werewolves of London” – Warren Zevon
Warren Zevon wrote a hit with an opening line voted the best in history by BBC radio listeners and discarded it for two years. Zevon was a jingle writer and session musician when Linda Ronstadt started recording his music in 1976. The story behind “Werewolves of London” states Phil Beverly of The Everly Brothers dared Zevon to write a song based on the 1935 horror movie, “Werewolf of London.”
11. “Sunset (Bird of Prey)” – Fatboy Slim
Norman Cook had been kicking around the European music scene for decades by the time he struck paydirt under the Fatboy Slim name. The DJ had a series of hits in the late-1990s and early-2000s, largely based on the impressive videos accompanying each song. “Sunset (Bird of Prey)” was released in 2000, but audiophiles can find an early version from 1995.
12. “Eye of the Tiger” – Survivor
Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” was made a global hit by its association with the “Rocky” franchise. The theme tune to “Rocky III” was released the day after the movie in 1982 and was successful around the world. “Eye of the Tiger” starring Gary Busey used the song as its theme without achieving the success of “Rocky III.”
13. “Swine” – Lady Gaga
Lady Gaga’s “Artpop” album was not her most popular, but it did give us this piece of rage against sexual abuse. “Swine” has been used as part of a documentary about sexual abuse in American colleges.
14. “Peace Frog” – The Doors
Jim Morrison drew on his own experiences when writing “Peace Frog.” The other members of The Doors were unhappy with the lyrics of the Lizard King and recorded the song as an instrumental. Morrison recorded his lyrics alone and created one of The Doors’ most beloved songs. One of the best songs about animals is a look at the events in the life of Jim Morrison.
15. “Wild Horses” – Gram Parsons & The Flying Burrito Brothers
The tragic country singer, Gram Parsons, was the inspiration for “Wild Horses.” Keith Richards and Mick Jagger wrote the song about touring and the sadness they felt being away from home. Richards admits the song was written with and about Parsons, who released the first version of the country-inspired ballad. The fact Parsons released the first version of “Wild Horses” has led many fans to think he was responsible for writing the classic song.
16. “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” – Gene Autry
“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” took a decade to be released. A children’s book of the same name had been written in 1939, with a song commissioned to follow. It took a recording of Johnny Marks’ song by Gene Autry to push the novelty to number one in the U.S. The crooner Harry Bannon was the first to sing “Rudolph” in the summer of 1949.
17. “A Horse With No Name” – America
This classic piece of America was written and recorded in the home studio of musician Arthur Brown. America is a folk-rock band formed in London by the children of U.S. military personnel serving in Europe. “A Horse With No Name” was not deemed worthy of being included on the initial pressing of America’s debut album. “A Horse With No Name” was a compromise created under the guidance of the musician responsible for the immortal, “Fire.”
18. “White Rabbit” – Jefferson Airplane
Any time there is a scene in a movie including drug use, the chances are “White Rabbit” will play. Lewis Carroll’s writings were popular in the 60s and influenced many bands, including The Beatles and Jefferson Airplane. Grace Slick wrote the song in 1965 for her band, The Great Society. After joining Jefferson Airplane, Slick’s psychedelic song became a chart-topping success. Her former band also recorded a successful version of the song without its writer.
19. “Three Lions” – Baddiel & Skinner & The Lightning Seeds
Soccer teams around the world release songs before major competitions to cash in on their popularity. Comedians David Baddiel and Frank Skinner were popular in 1996 for their soccer-based comedy show, which led to them being asked to provide the lyrics for England’s Euro ’96 song. The song has become a pop-culture classic in England and is rereleased before almost every major tournament. The German soccer team hijacked the song after winning the Euro ’96 tournament and sang it at their victory parade.
20. “Surfin’ Bird” – The Trashmen
It is questionable whether The Trashmen had been to a beach when the Minnesota-based band recorded their version of “Surfin’ Bird.” The song is a cover of two songs by The Rivingtons combined as a medley. The Trashmen claimed not to have heard The Rivingtons version of the song but did hear another Minnesota band playing a cover and used them for inspiration.
21. “Crocodile Rock” – Elton John
The last of our songs with animals in the title is one of Elton John’s many number-one singles. “Crocodile Rock” is often dismissed by music journalists as derivative, but the singer explains critics are missing the point. John embraces the derivative nature of the song, revealing it to be a “rip-off” of every rock n’ roll song he loved as a child. Lyricist Bernia Taupin explained writing the song was quick and fun but he would not listen to the final version.