When friends & family gather ’round the campfire, there’s nothing quite like singing campfire songs to stir the spirit and make some lasting memories.
We recently published a post on campfire games and, with the new camping season just around the corner, we thought we’d whip up a post with a list of some great songs for your next campfire sing-a-long.
- 1) What Is a Campfire Song?
- 2) Campfire Songs for Kids
- 3) Campfire Songs for Adults
- 4) Campfire Songs for All Ages
- 5) What Are Your Favorite Campfire Songs?
- 6) Free RVing Tips, Tricks, Reviews, Giveaways & More
What Is a Campfire Song?
Campfire songs are generally any songs, old or new, that are known to lots of people. The reason a campfire song needs to be recognizable is so that more people will be able to sing along!
A good campfire song to sing around your campfire will consider the age range of the people gathered around. And if someone around your campfire plays a guitar or ukulele, all the better!
If you need some inspiration or a little help with lyrics and chords, you can pick up a book like this one and keep it in your camper!
- English (Publication Language)
- 146 Pages - 06/01/2019 (Publication Date) - Hal Leonard (Publisher)
So, let’s take a look at some of the greatest campfire songs of all time, for all ages, so you’ll be ready for your next camping trip!
Campfire Songs for Kids
There are lots of great little campfire songs for kids, including some “old standards” that have been around for years. In fact, those are often the best campfire songs because everybody knows them and can join in!
You Are My Sunshine
Most children know this song because it has been sung to them at one time or another.
“You Are My Sunshine” was written in the late ’30s and originally recorded by The Pine Ridge Boys in 1939. In 1940, it was published and copyrighted by Jimmie Davis and Charles Mitchell.
The best-known covers of “You Are My Sunshine” include renditions from Johnny Cash, Bing Crosby & Gene Autry, Ray Charles, and Ike & Tina Turner!
“BINGO” is an age-old camp song that kids love to sing about a dog named “Bingo.” It involves sometimes singing, sometimes clapping of the letters that spell out the dog’s name, “B-I-N-G-O”!
Often kids will run through the entire song and then repeat it, singing faster and faster!
The Other Day I Met a Bear
Sometimes referred to simply as “I Met a Bear,” this is another traditional camp song for kids.
This song involves the singing and echoing of each phrase so that even younger kids (who may not know the words) can sing along with the echo phrases!
Somewhere Over the Rainbow
Written for the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, this song was made famous by Judy Garland, who sang it in her starring role as Dorothy Gale.
“Somewhere Over the Rainbow” was composed by Harold Arlen, with lyrics by Yip Harburg.
This Little Light of Mine
Though this song’s origin is unclear, the words and the tune are familiar to most.
The song is widely recognized as an African American spiritual that Zilphia Horton later adapted to become a song of resistance in the Civil Rights Movement.
Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)
Day-O (The Banana Boat Song), Harry Belafonte’s well-loved hit, is a song that everyone loves to sing.
Even though kids don’t tend to know all the words, it’s easy for them to catch on and sing the phrases “Daaaay-O, me say daaaay-o!” and “Daylight come and me wan’ go home”!
SpongeBob SquarePants’s “The Campfire Song” Song
SpongeBob calls this one The Campfire Song Song! Need we say more??!
Kids love SpongeBob SquarePants, and this campfire song will surely be a big hit accompanying the s’mores!
Campfire Songs for Adults
Let’s look at some of the standards that come to mind when adult friends and family gather around the campfire to sing.
Ring of Fire
One of Johnny Cash’s biggest hits, “Ring of Fire” seems appropriate for the occasion!
“Ring of Fire” was co-written by Cash’s future wife, June Carter, and Merle Kilgore. The song isn’t about a campfire, though. It was actually written about Johnny himself and was one of Cash’s biggest hits.
Dock of the Bay
“Dock of the Bay,” Otis Redding’s most famous song, is great to sing around the campfire.
Redding wrote the song with guitarist Steve Cropper, and the famous whistling toward the end of the song was actually just a placeholder for a verse that Redding hadn’t written yet. The whistling stuck, and it’s one of the most recognizable slices of music around.
Time of Your Life
Green Day’s “Time of Your Life” has become somewhat of an anthem for just about any milestone, with graduations significant among them.
The song’s title is actually “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)”. It was used in episodes of the hit television shows “Seinfeld” and “ER”, and is likely Green Day’s most recognizable hit.
King of the Road
Written and originally recorded by Roger Miller, “King of the Road” is one of the most iconic songs in American popular music.
Miller often told the story of how he came to write “King of the Road”…
While driving near Chicago late one night, he saw a sign by the roadside that said, “Trailers for sale or rent.” And the rest is history!
Roger Miller’s version is the truly iconic version of the song, but there’s a great cover of “King of the Road” by the Proclaimers that’s well worth listening to.
Blowin’ In the Wind
“Blowin’ In the Wind,” Bob Dylan’s meaningful anthem, was written in 1962. Although it was written and often performed by Dylan, the song was made famous by the trio Peter, Paul & Mary.
A song about human and civil rights that eventually became an anti-war song, “Blowin’ In the Wind” is Dylan’s most-covered song, with more than 300 covers recorded since the 60s.
Don McLean was 24 years old when he wrote the now-classic autobiographical song “American Pie.”
McLean wrote the nostalgic song after his favorite musicians, Richie Valens, Buddy Holly, and J.P. Richardson (aka “The Big Bopper”), died in a plane crash. For McLean, that was “the day the music died.”
Grandpa (Tell Me ‘Bout the Good Old Days)
“Grandpa” was written by Jamie O’Hara and made famous in 1986 as soon as the legendary mother-daughter country music duo, The Judds, released it.
“Grandpa” is a nostalgic song harkening back to the “good old days” when life was a whole lot simpler. The song was among The Judds’ many award-winning #1 hits throughout their career, and remains a classic country ballad to this day.
Campfire Songs for All Ages
Campfire songs for campers of all ages are songs that are timeless across the ages.
“Sweet Caroline” (a tremendous hit for singer/songwriter Neil Diamond) became a victory song for the Boston Red Sox, who originally played it during a game in the 1990s, in honor of a team colleague who’d given birth and named her baby Caroline.
To this day, you’ll hear “Sweet Caroline” rousing through the stands at every Boston Red Sox game.
Good times never seemed so good! (So good! So good! So good!)
Stand By Me
Singer Ben E. King wrote this soul classic with his writing partners Mike Stoller and Jerry Leiber.
“Stand By Me” was first released in 1961, and King wasn’t planning to record the song himself, instead offering it to The Drifters. But they passed, and King’s recording became a massive hit.
“Stand By Me” has been covered by many, many artists over decades, but King is known to have said that his favorite cover of all was John Lennon’s version.
Take Me Home, Country Roads
Known fondly as “Country Roads,” this iconic John Denver song was written with husband & wife songwriting team Billy Danoff and Taffy Nivert.
As the story goes, Danoff & Nivert started writing the song for Johnny Cash to record. Before they were finished, John Denver heard it and approached them, offering to finish writing the song and record it.
The rest is history, of course, as Denver’s name is now synonymous with the well-loved song from his 1971 album, “Poems, Prayers, and Promises.”
Interestingly, West Virginia isn’t Denver’s home state, and Billy Danoff & Taffy Nivert had never even been to the state when they wrote the song. It was actually written as they were driving through Montgomery County, Maryland, on their way to a family reunion.
As they drove, they started making up a song about winding country roads. But the three-syllable word “Maryland” didn’t work with the song’s rhythm, so they changed it to “West Virginia.”
Regardless of its true origin, it was a huge hit for Denver and has remained a classic campfire song!
Lean on Me
The late great Bill Withers wrote this meaningful song that conveys the importance of us all being there for each other through hard times.
Withers grew up in the coal mining town of Slab Fork, West Virginia (the inspiration for the song). Lore says that after he’d moved to Los Angeles, he found himself deeply missing the strong community of his hometown, where life and people were simple but closely connected with one another.
Although Withers had spent his childhood living in an old, dilapidated house in the poorest section of the town, the community of Slab Fork was rich with kindness and loyalty, and there was always someone to lean on when times were tough.
Big Yellow Taxi
In a 1996 interview for the Los Angeles Times, legendary Canadian singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell said that she wrote Big Yellow Taxi the first time she traveled to Hawaii.
She’d taken a taxi from the airport to the hotel and, tired from traveling, she went to bed. The following morning she woke and opened the curtains of her hotel room, anticipating a breathtaking view of her spot in this beautiful place.
What she saw instead was “a parking lot as far as the eye could see.” She called this “a blight on paradise.” Heartbroken, she sat down with her guitar and wrote this song.
As with Joni’s anticipation of a stunning Hawaiian view, don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone?
This Land Is Your Land
Woodie Guthrie’s classic anthem, “This Land Is Your Land,” is often considered to be a song that speaks to the beauty of America, available to people from all backgrounds.
But in truth, Guthrie wrote the song as a counter to Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America,” which he found to be a false, sappy representation of what was really happening in the country.
In 1939, with America 10 years into the Great Depression, Guthrie was hearing Berlin’s anthemic song played over and over again, but he felt it was blind to the truth, which was that the nation’s poor were suffering deeply.
As Guthrie hitchhiked back and forth across the United States, he met hundreds of laid-off factory workers, former farmers, migrants, and families without enough money to eat, chasing work anywhere they could find it.
Guthrie felt the country’s bounty should be open to both the wealthy and the poor, and he wrote “This Land Is Your Land” in response.
The Circle Game
No campfire song list (and no folk song list) would be complete without Joni Mitchell’s “The Circle Game.” It was written in 1966, in response to her friend Neil Young’s song “Sugar Mountain.”
She and Young became friends on the Canadian folk-music circuit in the 60s. Young had written “Sugar Mountain” on his 19th birthday as a nostalgic tribute to the end of his teenage years… (“You can’t be 20 on Sugar Mountain”).
Joni Mitchell wrote “The Circle Game” to give her friend some hope for the future.
Though his dreams have lost some grandeur coming true
There’ll be new dreams, maybe better dreams and plenty
Before the last revolving year is through
Just as would always happen at concerts performed by the iconic Canadian singer/songwriter, you’ll often hear a guitarist/singer crooning the verses. Then, when the chorus rolls around, everyone sings at volumes that stir the soul.
And the painted ponies go up and down…
We’re captive on the carousel of time…
We can’t return we can only look
Behind from where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game.
What Are Your Favorite Campfire Songs?
We made this a list of 21 campfire songs, but we could have gone on and on… well into the hundreds.
A list of 21 misses a lot of great campfire songs, (“Home on the Range”, anyone??), so feel free to drop us a comment letting us know what your all-time favorite campfire songs are to sing!
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Saturday 27th of May 2023
Don't forget Sloop John B. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MWJXTdCVsKI
Saturday 27th of May 2023
Oooo... good one, Tom!
Sunday 21st of May 2023
This is quite an impressive list.
A wonderful vision is the two you spending weeks out in the desert testing each song.
Monday 22nd of May 2023
Ha! Ha! Now you know why we prefer to boondock out in the middle of nowhere away from everyone, John... don't want anyone to be subjected to our bad signing! 😫😩
Sunday 21st of May 2023
“Michael Rowed the Boat Ashore” “Puff the Magic Dragon” “There’s a Hole in The Bottom of the Sea” “500 Miles” “Kumba ya” “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” “She’ll be Coming “round the Mountain” “If I Had Hammer” “All Night All Day” “Green Grow the Rushes Hoe” …..and maybe try to sing in a round ;-)