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Songs that feel like gentle swell

I’ve always liked the Little River Band’s Cool Change. What I didn’t realize till last night was WHY I like it, aside from the usual reasons (lyrics, tune). Seeing a video of the song set completely to videos of dolphins and whales playing suddenly clicked the light on: It’s the rhythm, stupid. The song feels like being on gentle ocean swells.

Can pnetters think of other songs with similar feel? Makes me want to be out there.


  • Another favorite sailing song
    Sailing by Christopher Cross

  • Dylan's song Boots of Spanish Leather by Mandolin Orange

  • RexRex
    edited November 2018

    The first thing that came to mind was Across the Universe by The Beatles.

    For the car ride to the coast I wanna hear Ocean Man by Ween.

  • Funny Across the Universe was one I almost posted too.

    Beachcombing by Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris

  • I once ran a barn dance band. During one rehearsal evening our mandolin player couldn't get the rhythm of an Athabascan tune. He spent most of his life sailing alone around the world in his rusty steel yacht. I suggested he could think of each eight bar repeated section as the ocean swell, think of each bar as a wind wave, and think of each note as a ripple on the face of each wave. He got the rhythm of the tune straight away.

  • Wood smoke and Oranges by Ian Tamblyn

  • True And Deep by Jerry Vandiver

  • edited November 2018

    Judy Collins' rendition of the traditional song of whaling in Greenland "Farewell to Tarwathie" in which she is accompanied by recordings of humpback whales singing:

  • Canadian folk-rocker Bruce Cockburn has a lot of such cuts. Here's one, "Look How Far":

  • edited November 2018

    Also Cockburn's evocative "The End of All Rivers" -- no lyrics but a river theme and definite paddling cadence (images are the Amazon):

  • I keep thinking of more Cockburn pieces, especially the solo guitar instrumentals that he usually includes in his albums. Another one that evokes surf and drifting: "Islands in a Black Sky"

  • edited November 2018

    Santana's "Canto de Los Flores" from the album "Borboletta". The dominant rhythm feels like ocean swells and the percussion is like paddle cadence:

  • Castoff! Love the Emmylou tune.

  • Back in the High Life by Steve Winwood

  • My musical horizons have been expanded.

  • @Rex said:
    Castoff! Love the Emmylou tune.

    You might like this one then.

  • Emmylou can make "Happy Birthday to You" sound like art.

  • Since everyone else is providing music links, here is the one that got me thinking about swells.

  • Beautiful. Great topic. Thanks.

  • a long time favorite sea farin' song

    Jimmy Buffett performing Southern Cross

    This song by Mean Mary has become another sea farin' favorite

  • edited November 2018

    Thank you all for the threaded musical respite.

    One song that comes to mind for me, whenst rolling the topknot vessel over those rhythmic gentle swells sought by pikabike, is this somewhat dirge-like but peaceful tribute to cetaceans by CSN:

    Then, there is this one by Van, which, though I'm not particularly a religious fellow, struck a reverent and rhythmic reminder into my paddled cadence as I canoed out over the not-so-gently wind-chopped, dark Assateague waters, one November evening years back:

  • No longer a Christian, but I tend to sing this when paddling in heavy chop ....

  • Leo Kottke

  • RexRex
    edited November 2018

    This may not be real 'gentle swell' feeling but I think it's the most beautiful tune Kottke ever did. And Pika... Cool Change has been stuck in my head for a couple of days now. I'm not complaining.

  • The lyrics are not nautical but the rhythm fits in this beautiful song I heard this morning.

  • how about Otis

  • @pikabike said:
    The lyrics are not nautical but the rhythm fits in this beautiful song I heard this morning.

    He needs a PFD.

  • edited November 2018

    over a decade ago.. moi on guitar/vocals

    need headphones on this one!!

  • A lot of good suggestions above. Castoff, thanks for the introduction to Mean Mary.

    Here is a little Bob Weir:

  • edited November 2018

    This is a great Eno song from "Before and After Science (1977)" about being adrift at sea, very atmospheric, a precursor to his ambient music...

  • edited November 2018

    The Moldau, by Smetana, most of it except for the hunting section.
    Portions of Bue Danube Waltz, Strauss. Following clip includes dancing ballerinas that were so silly I couldn't resist.

  • edited November 2018

    Jerry Vandiver's songs are wonderful paddling songs from a PADDLER himself. "True and Deep" and "Me and Molly" are my favorites, but many great songs from a Nashville writer with a resume of hits from several country artists. Tough to listen to "Me and Molly" if you've ever had a 4 legged paddling partner!

  • Word is that Jerry Vandiver will be back at the Quiet Water Symposium this March.

  • Blue Danube is very 'gentle swell'. Good pick.

  • D Bain, "The Old Canoe"

  • Not a song, but you still get the feeling nevertheless.

  • LAST OF THE MOHICANS THE GAELRoyal Scots Dragoon Guards

  • edited November 2018

    I have always wanted to paddle a northern meandering quiet wilderness river to this music. To me it says "paddle away around the next bend".
    Last of the Mohicans Soundtrack: Promontory

  • Just returned from spending a little time by the ocean where, though I didn't take a boat, I spent several mornings watching the sun rise over the Atlantic. On the calmer mornings with the long swells rolling in and the world waking up behind me the mood seemed a bit like this... I did wish I was out there riding the swells in the long morning light.

    Another tune that comes close is this:

    By afternoon though it might change to this:

    In a similar vein, I can recall one particular early autumn day at sun rise. I was paddling the deep flat water along the base of a limestone bluff. The ferns had turned brown and had a touch of frost on them. Cliff swallows had departed but the chickadees and nuthatches were stirring and flitting about. The air was cooler than the water so there were tendrils of mist rising and the fog was dense enough so the opposite shore was shrouded and the rising sun gave every thing a pastel tint. This song fits that morning perfectly.

  • @PJC said:

    Samba Pa-Ti is a long time favorite of mine too! Almost posted it, but tried to stick to an aquatic theme.

    @tdaniel said:
    how about Otis

    I play Dock of the Bay on my flute.

    I have really enjoyed the variety and selections on this thread...some favorites and others new to my ear.

  • Castoff - I bet Samba Pa- ti takes a lot of us back... it also reminds me of cruising with friends and 8 track tape players, But it has always sounded to me like long rolling waves feel, even back then. There just aren't that many songs that specifically refer to paddling in the lyrics, though there are quite a few posted here, many new to me. Thanks to all!
    Had another thought that perhaps should be added:

    Doesn't moonlight falling on long ocean swells come to mind when you hear that? Is it just me?

    And another oldie that does specifically refer to paddling in the lyrics - by a poetic young Bruce Cockburnwho later did the soundtrack for Bill Mason's Waterwalker (Viewable online). Perhaps he was still aspiring a bit back then... we were all younger then.

    Being an old dead head and paddler, the songs Broken Down Palace and Cassidy seem to me to resonate with paddling as well. But one can't post everything.

  • Another gentlly rolling vintage cut (1976) is the instrumental "Asleep in the Desert" from ZZ Topp's "Tejas" album:

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