There’s a surprising number of songs starting with M, and they span several genres and artists. Here are some of our favorite songs beginning with the letter M.
“MacArthur Park” by Richard Harris
Song year: 1968
Arguably, the definitive version of MacArthur Park is Maynard Ferguson’s instrumental rendition, accompanied by his “Thundering Herd.” But the lyrics are too much fun to ignore. They read as if they’re part fever dream, part ode to the fragility of love.
“Mack the Knife” by Ella Fitzgerald
Song year: 1960
No list of songs starting with M would be complete without mentioning “Mack the Knife.” Kurt Weill wrote the song in 1928 as part of The Three Penny Opera.
But the version of “Mack the Knife” listeners recognize today came about when Bobby Darrin decided to do his own version of the song.
He started performing a revamped “Mack the Knife” at nightclubs, and suddenly it was a jazz standard.
In this atypical version, Ella Fitzgerald famously forgets the words and proves her skill as an improvisation list as she keeps on singing anyway.
“Moving on Up” by M People
Song year: 1993
This song starting with M was famously the opening theme to The Jeffersons. It was perfect for this futuristic family because the lyrics are all about a couple moving up in the world and breaking through class barriers as they do.
“Mad World” by Tears for Fears
Song year: 1983
In direct contrast to the previous song beginning with M is “Mad World.” No one is transcending any social brackets here. Instead, the speaker struggles to find their place in the world. The lyrics and music reflect that.
“Monday, Monday” by the Mamas and the Papas
Song year: 1966
John Phillips purportedly wrote “Monday, Monday” in 20 minutes. That’s impressive, not least because of the song’s tearaway success. What’s even more surprising is that this song starting with M, marked the first time a mixed-gender group achieved the upper echelons of the Billboard 100.
“Man In The Mirror” by Michael Jackson
Song year: 1988
“Man in the Mirror” became Michael Jackson’s tenth hit. Garrett Ballard wrote the music in response to Jackson’s producer’s insistence that Jackson sings only hits. But all Ballard had was a keyboard pattern. He played it for lyricist Siedah Garrett, who wrote the lyrics without hesitation.
It’s distinctive for its integration of a Gospel choir into the music.
“Macho Man” by Village People
Song year: 1978
Supposedly The Village People came to sing “Macho Man” because Randy Jones responded to an advertisement for a music video. It wanted macho types, ideally with mustaches.
It’s one of the fastest-paced songs starting with M on this list. Younger listeners will remember it as the song a magic-addled Buffy sings in the season one episode Witch.
“Mary Anne” by Ian and Sylvia Tyson
Song year: 1962
“Mary Anne” is a Canadian folk song with a long and storied history. It was popular in Nova Scotia because of the fishing references, and that’s where the Tysons picked it up.
But “Mary Anne” hales from Tadoussac, Quebec. A Canadian musicologist learned it from a retired fisherman, who himself learned it from an Irish immigrant. The Irish lyrics differ significantly. In particular, they don’t include the nautical references, which give “Mary Anne” its Canadian flavor.
“Misty” by Sarah Vaughn
Song year: 1959
“Misty” is one of the great jazz songs beginning with M. It’s also considered by many to be Sarah Vaughn’s signature piece. She brings a rich, warm contralto to the performance.
Erroll Garner claimed he composed “Misty” on a return flight from San Francisco. He used his knees as a keyboard and took inspiration from the rainy, misty landscape outside his window.
“Meet Me In St Louis” by Judy Garland
Song year: 1945
Few songs starting with M are as instantly catchy as “Meet Me in St Louis.” The song was written as part of a musical by the same name. It’s sung by Judy Garland and often gets overlooked because the musical is full of hits, most famously Garland’s “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”
But there’s a charm to “Meet Me In St Louis,” too. It’s fun, it’s lilting, and it’s the song you come away singing after the curtain falls.
“My Favorite Things” by John Coltrane
Song year: 1961
Rodgers of Rodgers and Hammerstein fame famously hated having his music meddled with. But he had a gift for composing melodies that inspired other artists.
Coltrane took Rodgers’ musical theater number and turned it into a textbook demonstration of modal jazz. The harmonies are complex, but the genius of “My Favourite Things” is that the melody is familiar. Even someone with no music theory can listen to it, and by following the progressions of the melody, appreciate the way Coltrane puts the song through its paces.
And while Rodgers might not have liked it, he was in the minority. Coltrane’s musicality landed the song in the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998.
“Midnight Special” by The Weavers
Song year: 1955
This is another folk song starting with M that has a long history. Researchers started recording versions of the lyrics to “Midnight Special” in 1905.
“Midnight Special” tells the story of the train that carried prisoners to jail. Its first recognizable recording was called “Pistol Pete’s Midnight Special.”
That was in 1929, and the song didn’t stick. Then folk artist Lead Belly, otherwise Huddie William Ledbetter, heard the while himself in prison. He added a few verses and made the song his.
From Lead Belly, the song reached John and Alan Lomax. They shared it with The Weavers, and suddenly “The Midnight Special” was a folk hit.
“My Baby Just Cares” for Me by Nina Simone
Song year: 1959
Walter Donaldson and Gus Kahn wrote “My Baby Just Cares for Me” for the 1930 film Whoopee! For years, this song starting with M was a staple piece for Eddie Cantor.
In 1957, Nina Simone took it and turned it into a jazz standard. And although it became standard other jazz artists borrowed, it didn’t bring Simone immediate success. It wasn’t until her rendition of “My Baby Just Cares For Me” appeared in a perfume advertisement in the late 1980s that her career began enjoying a renaissance.
“My Foolish Heart” by The Bill Evans Trio
Song year: 1962
Of all the songs starting with M on this list, it’s possible “My Foolish Heart” had the most inauspicious start. Victor Young and Ned Washington wrote it for a film of the same name. Critics eviscerated the film, and they didn’t spare what they called a sentimental love song.
Despite this, two versions of “My Foolish Heart” reached the top of the charts in 1950, a mere year after the film’s debut.
“Monica’s Waltz” by Sonia Rodriguez Bermejo
Song year: 2008
“Monica’s Waltz” is an overlooked gem among songs starting with M. Gian Carlo Menotti wrote it for his opera The Medium. In it, Monica torments the mute Toby with insinuations that he loves her. Unknown to Monica, Toby does indeed love her and has no way to tell her.
“My Eyes Are Fully Open” by D’Oyly Carte Opera Company
Song year: 2012
“My Eyes Are Fully Open” is one of the most famous examples of the classic Gilbert and Sullivan patter-song. It was so popular that they revised the overture to include this crowd-pleaser, and that’s the overture people hear today.
The song comes at a pivotal moment in the opera. In the blink-and-you-miss-them lyrics, Ruddigore comes to a crucial realization. But the line we remember is the tongue-in-cheek insinuation that the lyrics are so silly that if we miss them, it doesn’t matter.
“Marching to Pretoria” by The Weavers
Song year: 1963
This rendition of “Marching to Pretoria” uses the lyrics of “Row, Row Your Boat” in canon to the melody.
Today, “Marching to Pretoria” is best remembered as a campfire song.
“Mairi’s Wedding” by The Rankin Family
Song year: 1989
Although many include “Mairi’s Wedding” on lists of songs starting with M, that wasn’t always true. Its other name is “The Lewis Bridal Song.”
Before it was a popular English-language folk song, it had Gaelic lyrics written by John Roderick Bannerman. That changed when a young woman named Mairi MacNiven when won a medal for her dancing.
Today it’s best-known as a popular Scottish country dance.
“Moses Supposes” by Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor
Song year: 1952
As songs starting with M go, few are sillier than “Moses Supposes.” The tongue-twister predates the 1952 musical Singing in the Rain, although that’s where most people remember it from.
It’s fast-paced, nonsensical, and extremely challenging to sing as quickly as Gene Kelly and his contemporaries do.
“Martha My Dear” by The Beatles
Song year: 1968
“Martha My Dear” appears on The Beatles’ White Album. Paul McCartney said this song beginning with M, was inspired by his sheepdog, Martha. And that explains some of the lyrics, especially the refrain that Martha can be silly.
“Mr. Tambourine Man” by Bob Dylan
Song year: 1965
Bob Dylan first recorded “Mr. Tambourine Man” in 1965. Like many Dylan compositions, it was an instant success. Many artists covered the song, including:
- The Byrds
- Peter, Paul, and Mary
- Judy Collins
Its lyrics are notoriously surreal, possibly because they take inspiration from a variety of eclectic sources, from Rameau’s poetry to Fellini’s cinematography.
“Mungo Jerry and Rumpleteazer” by Timothy Scott
Song year: 1983
No one knew cats like T. S. Eliot. His knowledge was immortalized in poetry. Here, Andrew Lloyd Webber puts it to music. The escalating antics of troublemakers Mungo Jerry and Rumpleteazer depicted in this song beginning with M, are all too familiar to anyone who lives at the whims of a cat.
“Michael Row the Boat Ashore” by Peter, Paul, and Mary
Song year: 1998
Add this to your list of old songs starting with M. “Michael Row the Boat Ashore” first appears as a spiritual during the American Civil War.
The slaves who sang it used the lyrics to reference the fact that their white owners fled the island of St Helena’s only for incoming soldiers to enforce a blockade.
But there are also allegorical references to the river Jordan and life everlasting throughout the song. It gives it an optimistic feel, despite its origins.
“Myn Lyking” by The Choir of King’s College Cambridge
Song year: 2007
“Myn Lyking” is a beautiful but little-known song beginning with M. It’s a Christmas anthem that uses a Middle English text to tell the Nativity Story. Richard Terry’s arrangement is simple but compelling. It’s a reminder that harmony doesn’t need to be complicated to be beautiful.
“Mingulay Boat Song” by The Corries
Song year: 1974
The Corries version of “The Mingulay Boat Song” is a beautiful example of another Scottish folk song starting with M.
It’s one of the Gaelic melodies co-opted by Glaswegian choir director Sir Hugh Roberton and given English lyrics.
Roberton penned the lyrics in the 1930s, and they quickly became part of the Highlands and Islands tradition. Since Roberton wrote it, the song has been covered by many artists, including:
- Robin Hall and Jimmy MacGregor
- Paddy Hernon
- Danny Spooner
- Grace Notes
“The M.T.A.” by The Kingston Trio
Song year: 1959
“The M.T.A.” tells the absurd story of a young man doomed to ride the Boston subway eternally. He boards one day with insufficient fare and can’t get off the train.
It was written in 1949 to get Walter O’Brien elected. It didn’t work, but the song caught on. Years later, people were still singing about Charlie on the M.T.A.
“My Way” by Frank Sinatra
Song year: 1969
Finally, “My Way” was neither a song starting with M nor an English-language song. It began life as “Comme D'habitude,” with music and lyrics by Jaques Reveaux and Gilles Thibeaux.
Paul Anka wrote the English translation, and Frank Sintra’s 1969 recording popularized them.
Other notable recordings include:
- Elvis Presley
- Sid Vicious
Songs Starting With M, Final Thoughts
Once you start looking, there are all kinds of songs beginning with the letter M. Each one is thematically and musically unique. Many have fascinating histories. The only thing linking them is their first letter.
Hopefully, this eclectic list reminds you of some old favorites and helps you discover a new one.