Sometimes, words just aren’t enough. That’s the case with the Top 10 Whistling Songs. The musicians listed below chose to put their lips together and blow when their track needed that little something extra. A well-placed whistle can convey bayside reflection, Cold War paranoia or the frustration of a struggling relationship. Here are 10 classic acts who chose to whistle while they worked.
‘Wind of Change’
From: ‘Crazy World’ (1990)
In this case, the ‘Wind of Change’ comes straight from the lips of Scorpions' frontman Klaus Meine, who whistles the intro (and repeating motif) to this power ballad. The song was inspired by the Scorpions’ visit to Russia in the waning days of the Soviet Union. Meine wasn’t just whistling Dixie. ‘Wind of Change’ preceded the fall of the U.S.S.R. in 1991, after which the song became a smash single all over the world.
From: ‘Station to Station’ (1975)
In the closing moments of this hunk of plastic soul, David Bowie unleashes a whistle that just slices right through the densely packed funk. Just about anything else would have been lost in the tightly tangled guitars, but the whistle blasts to the top. Plus, whistling makes for a perfectly insouciant capper to ‘Golden Years, ’ which captured Bowie at the height of cool.
From: ‘Imagine’ (1971)
The former Beatle was equally adept at blowing through a harmonica as he was through his lips. That’s him on the finale to the Fab Four’s ‘Two of Us, ’ as well as the middle section of this soaring ballad from John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ solo album. He and producer Phil Spector could have let the strings take over in this part of the song, but the whistling keeps John central to ‘Jealous Guy.’ And it’s Lennon’s earnest emotions that prevent the song from slipping deep into syrupy maudlin swamp.
From: ‘Breakfast in America’ (1979)
John Helliwell’s lone contribution to this Supertramp hit doesn’t last long, although you couldn’t imagine the song without it. Over Rick Davies’ roller rink organ, Helliwell contributes a fluttering little whistling flourish – just before the guitar chimes in and we’re off to falsetto-ville courtesy of the chorus. Supertramp could have put a saxophone or a keyboard or a guitar solo there, but in those fleeting seconds, they chose to whistle. It’s an unforgettable moment in the song.
From: ‘The Stranger’ (1977)
What’s the deal with whistling strangers? This entry in the Top 10 Whistling Songs is bookended by Billy Joel’s lonely, echoing whistle. The story goes that the singer-songwriter thought some sort of instrument should provide the melancholy melody in the intro and outro, but after producer Phil Ramone heard Joel whistling the tune, he didn’t think it needed to change. The late-night, street corner atmosphere that Billy’s whistling provides is the perfect counterweight to the funky main portion about the uglier side of ourselves.
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