Yacht Rock – A Primer

Yacht Rock is the only genre of music that makes it totally acceptable to start drinking Mimosas at 9 am. You’ve heard the genre even if you’re not familiar with it. Often some put the label “soft rock” or “adult contemporary” on it and in this way Yacht Rock shares a similarity with Whiskey. “All Bourbons are Whiskey but not all Whiskeys are Bourbon.” In that sense all Yacht Rock is smooth but not all smooth music is Yacht Rock. Yacht Rock covers a wide range of artists, from Kenny Loggins to Steely Dan.

The following videos are just a few of the most popular Yacht Rock songs (we’ll get more into my personal favorites in the future) enjoy.

Christopher Cross – Sailing

Mr. Cross has the voice of an Angel. He could sing the phone book and put all the babies asleep. Complete with smooth guitars, nautical references and the right amount of escapism it’s no wonder why this song is considered the quintessence of Yacht Rock.

George Benson – Breezin’

I personally believe that this song is the best Yacht Rock song of all time. Smooth grooves that ride on a laid-back-good-feeling with that beachy auxiliary percussion… goodness knows you’ve not lived until you’ve listened to this song while watching the sunset.

Steely Dan – Peg

Steely Dan was a genre bending group. Blending jazz, blues, r&b and rock elements to create their signature sound. They paved the way and possibly even started the yacht rock/soft rock revolution. Michael McDonald got his start doing background vocals for Steely and shortly joined The Doobie Brothers where he influenced their sound to be more Yachty.

Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald – This Is It

Two of the biggest names in the genre. They both in their own ways changed the face of smooth music for the best. The two of them either wrote, performed or did background vocals on some of the greatest Yacht Rock songs ever. This song has it all. Smooth groves and a tight rhythm section.

Michael McDonald – Sweet Freedom

Sweet Freedom encapsulates all that makes Yacht Rock so good. It acts as a time capsule of all that was awesome about not only Yacht Rock but the 80’s in general. Warning: Sweet Freedom may lead one down a rabbit hole that leads towards Harold Farltermeyer soundtrack scores. This song can be a great background or foreground song. I often find myself blasting this one over the stereo once the weekend has arrived.

Bill Withers – Lovely Day

We’ll take this song as a perfect illustration as to why not all smooth music is Yacht Rock. A lot of Yacht Rock borrowed heavily from smooth jazz and R&B music. Mr. Withers is more known for the song “Lean on Me” which although smooth and awesome in itself, it’s not considered Yacht Rock and falls more under the R&B classification. However, a lot of R&B, smooth jazz and funk songs find themselves in the Yacht Rock category and rightfully so, the rhythm and horn sections of this band during “Lovely Day” lay down a smooth groove that turn any day into a lovely one.

Spyro Gyra – Morning Dance

Yacht Rock is all about feeling good and feeling groovy. Spryo Gyra does that all day long. The jazz fusion group must have been born on the Love Boat.

Yacht Rock will be a semi-regular series that highlights the great jams of the genre.


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