sixtyandme logo
We are community supported and may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site. Learn more

We Need the Songs We Can Sing Along To

By Charlotte Adams April 03, 2024 Lifestyle

I’ve spent a lot of time lately thinking about the value of songs. I’m thinking of songs that have a distinct and memorable melody and meaningful lyrics. Songs that trigger loving memories. Songs that speak of heartbreaks or hardships. Songs that make you laugh. Songs that reflect universal experiences and emotions. Mostly, I’m thinking of old songs.

Songs Today

People still write and record wonderful songs, but these days the melody and lyrics are often obscured by elaborate production. The artists who enjoy the greatest visibility and financial gain tend to be the ones who are assisted by the most effective marketing and a bigger-than-life image.

But the world still needs songs that can stand on their own, without additional glamor or glitz. I saw evidence of this at this year’s Grammy awards. As impressive a show as most of the artists made, Tracy Chapman and Joni Mitchell stole the show for a lot of people. They sang songs that you relate to. Songs that you want to – and can – sing along with.

Simple Songs

I have increasingly encouraged my guitar students of any level to learn more songs in the category that I define as simple songs. These are songs that have a common structure (verse/chorus) and use common chords. Because of this structure, they’re ideal for jam sessions or music circles or for singing with kids or grandkids.

Benefits to Musicians

When you learn and play simple songs, you gain a deep knowledge of basic chords and chord progressions. These chord progressions, which occur in many contexts and in all types of music, become ingrained not only under your fingers, but also in your ear. With enough time and repetition, you’ll probably find yourself picking out songs – or at least parts of songs – by ear. You’ll also begin making valid predictions regarding the direction a song will take as you listen to it the first time.

Benefits to Non-Musicians

Even if you don’t play an instrument, you may find that frequently turning your attention to these kinds of songs will enrich your listening experiences. Your ear will begin making the same sort of connections and predictions that a musician’s ear makes, even if you’re not aware of it. The music you listen to will seem more orderly and sensible. And when your unconscious predictions don’t pan out, you’ll feel surprised and excited without being able to name the reason.

Are the Old Songs Disappearing?

In recent years, I’ve encountered more and more people who are unfamiliar with the songs that were ubiquitous before the 2000s. Unfortunately, those who lack familiarity with that music have a tendency to overlook or undervalue it, categorizing it as outdated. But nothing could be further from the truth. There are many songs that are in the public domain (no longer under copyright) that are just as relevant now as they were when they were composed.

In considering this, I felt the urge to defend and share those songs. So, I chose 20 of my favorites from the public domain and used them to create a songbook. I included not only the melody, chords, and lyrics of the songs, but also a brief history and a link to an inspiring performance of each one. Then, I made it available as an e-book that you can download for free. My intention is to preserve and honor those songs in my own small way, while bringing joy to those who learn and play them.

What Can You Do?

Passing songs along is a great way to keep them alive. You might want to choose one or more traditional songs to enjoy at family celebrations or events. Or, if you’re involved with a church, local choir, theater group, community group, or political gathering that uses music, you can suggest using relevant songs from the past.

Every time you play or share a song from the public domain, you have a part in preserving our musical heritage. And perhaps most importantly, you have the opportunity to nourish yourself from your own personal well of experience and emotion. What could be better?

Let’s Have a Conversation:

What songs from the past do you treasure? Are there certain songs that define holidays, anniversaries, or other events for you?

Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Thank you so much! What a gift.

Lisa N.

I’ve used many of these songs in my English as a Foreign Language courses in Europe. There are the English language aspects, the meanings/feelings of the songs, and the cultural aspects. Thank you for this resource!

Charlotte Adams

I love that! Thank you for letting me know – and you are so welcome!

Mary Sue Wilkinson

I absolutely agree! The two recordings I have made are “Songs You Know by Heart” and “Folk Song Sing alongs for Young and Old.” Thank you for making your songbook available. I will download it and if it’s OK I can link to it on my website.

Charlotte Adams

That’s great, Mary Sue – your website is wonderful! We should all sing “heart to heart!” I would love for you to link to my e-book. Please use the link as it appears in this article. (Copy and paste it).

The Author

Charlotte Adams is a lifelong guitarist, guitar instructor, and music educator who has taught thousands of guitar students in private lessons, classes, and workshops. She is the author of a line of instructional books for beginning through advanced students and offers ongoing guidance and support through one-on-one virtual instruction.

You Might Also Like