Despite its position at the end of the alphabet, music is rife with songs starting with W. Some are sentimental, some are playful, and others are raucous.
They span time and genre, showcasing a degree of musical flexibility on the part of composers and lyricists.
Here are some of the best songs beginning with W.
Where E’er You Walk by Kathleen Battle
This song starting with W, is an aria from Handel’s opera ‘Semele.’ Famously, Zeus sings it to the young woman he seduces. It’s such a beautiful song that many sopranos have made it theirs since then. Kathleen Battle’s rendition is one of the best examples of Baroque ornamentation.
Wimoweh by Solomon Linda
While the most famous version of this song, starting with W, comes from Pete Seeger’s band, The Weavers, it was originally the creation of Solomon Linda.
Linda haled from a Zulu-speaking part of Africa. When he came to America, he spent several years doing janitorial work before getting the chance to record. He chose ‘Wimoweh,’ and although it was an immediate hit, copyright laws prevented him from ever benefiting from his success.
Wonderwall by Oasis
‘Wonderwall’ is another song beginning with the letter W. Mancunian band Oasis released the song in 1995, and it was an immediate success. Its popularity wasn’t limited to England. It was also a hit in Australia, New Zealand, and North America.
It remains a perennial favorite and was the first song to be streamed over a billion times on Spotify.
Where Have All the Flowers Gone by Pete Seeger
Whether you’re talking about songs starting with W, or Pete Seeger’s most famous melodies, you can’t ignore ‘Where Have All the Flowers Gone.’
Seeger’s anthem for peace took inspiration from a Cossak folk song. Seeger gave it an Irish melody and wrote English lyrics. Still unsatisfied, he gave the song to Joe Hickerson.
Hickerson played the song at his summer camp, where he and the children wrote another two verses. When ‘Where Have All the Flowers Gone’ proved successful, Seeger ensured Hickerson got 20% of the royalties.
Waiting for Charlie to Come Home by Etta James
‘Waiting for Charlie to Come Home’ was written by Burt Bacharach. It was the B-side of ‘Something’s Got a Hold on Me.’
The speaker laments the downturn in her relationship with the titular Charlie. Its popularity was such that it inspired a response song, ‘Charlie Ain’t Home.’
Waist Deep in the Big Muddy by David Summerford
Despite the references to World War Two, many saw ‘Waist Deep in the Big Muddy’ as an allegory for the Vietnam War.
Artist David Summerford puts a new spin on this classic Seeger song by adding bass and dulcimer. The plucked strings give the song a bluesy sound.
Waiting for the Bus to Take Me Home by Chumbawamba
The title sounds innocuous, but the story behind ‘Waiting for the Bus to Take Me Home’ goes is that it’s based on the imprisonment of Gary Tyler. Tyler was convicted of murdering a 13-year-old boy in 1974. Although a federal court subsequently ruled the arrest ‘fundamentally unfair,’ Tyler remained in prison when the song debuted. He was released in 2016.
When I Was a Lad, I Served A Term by John Reed
Gilbert and Sullivan penned a surprising number of songs, starting with W. ‘When I Was a Lad’ from the operetta ‘HMS Pinafore,’ one of their most famous.
Equally famous for his pattern song renditions was the bass, John Reed. Here he sings at remarkable speed and with excellent diction about the best way to make a career in the navy.
When the Saints by The Golden Gate Quartet
Whether you know ‘When the Saints’ as a campfire song or a hymn, it’s one of the most musically flexible songs there is. It began as a spiritual sung by slaves.
Louis Armstrong famously performed it in 1938. He made it a jazz standard, and many artists proceeded to record their own versions of it, including The Golden Gates Quartet.
What A Difference A Day Makes by Dinah Washington
María Grever wrote ‘What A Difference A Day Makes’ in 1934. Grever wrote the song in Spanish, so its first performance was by a Mexican band. Later that year, the song acquired an English-language version, and that’s how most North Americans know this song starting with W.
But it was Dinah Washington who made it famous, and many consider hers the definitive recording.
We Shall Overcome by Joan Baez
Many consider the musical ancestor to ‘We Shall Overcome’ to be the hymn ‘I Shall Overcome Someday.’ The hymn is demonstrably jauntier, and a factory song from 1945, ‘We Will Overcome,’ bridges the gap between hymn and peace anthem.
Famously, Seeger changed ‘Will’ to ‘Shall,’ and his are the lyrics people know best. Here Joan Baez sings Seeger’s arrangement in sing-along style, a true tribute to Seeger.
West End Blues by Louis Armstrong
Joe ‘King’ Oliver wrote ‘West End Blues’ using a twelve-bar blues technique. Although Clarence Williams gave it lyrics, this song starting with W usually gets performed as an instrumental piece.
Louis Armstrong’s recording is one of the most famous, partly because of the adept trumpet technique he displays but also because it puts jazz on the map. Previously, it wasn’t a genre other musicians took seriously. Armstrong’s rendition of ‘West End Blues’ proved jazz had clout.
When You Wish Upon a Star by Cliff Edwards
Cliff Edwards famously sang ‘When You Wish Upon A Star’ while doing the voice of Jiminy Cricket in Disney’s ‘Pinocchio.’
Notably, the version that plays in the movie has no chorus. Ned Washington and Lee Harline added one when Decca decided to release a recording of the song independent of the film. Cliff Edwards sang this arrangement alongside The King’s Men and Julieta Novis.
Waltz of the Flowers by The London Symphony Orchestra
Of all the songs beginning with W, ‘Waltz of the Flowers’ is most readily associated with Christmas. It’s part of Tchaikovsky’s ballet, ‘The Nutcracker.’
‘The Waltz of the Flowers’ is the last piece in the ballet. It’s one of the most memorable pieces of incidental music there is because it accompanies the Sugar Plum Fairy as she steps out of her egg and dances the ballet to its conclusion.
The Way You Look Tonight by Frank Sinatra
Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields collaborated on this song beginning with W for the film ‘Swing Time.’ In it, Fred Astair sings and dances his way through ‘The Way You Look Tonight.’
Like many songs that began as incidental film music, the song's popularity outlived the film. Today, ‘The Way You Look Tonight’ is most recognizable as sung by Frank Sinatra.
Other memorable performances include:
- Billie Holiday
- Guy Lombardo
- Teddy Wilson
What a Little Moonlight Can Do by Billie Holiday
Talking of Billie Holiday, she here sings ‘What A Little Moonlight Can Do.’
This song starting with W has undeniable zip. It rockets along in Holiday’s capable hands. Fun, fast and jazzy, Harry Woods wrote the song in 1934. It remains a jazz standard, and in addition to Holliday, notable versions include:
- Bing Crosby
- Peggy Lee
- Tony Bennett
- Cassandra Wilson
What A Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong
Bob Thiele wrote ‘What a Wonderful World’ under the pen name George Douglas in collaboration with George David Weiss.
Louis Armstrong famously recorded the song in 1967, and he is still the best-known version. Already notorious for the skill he brought to the trumpet, Armstrong’s distinctive, gravelly vocals were immediately recognizable.
However, the composer’s reticence in promoting the song prevented it from becoming an instant hit. Despite this, it has since featured on ‘The Muppet Show’ and ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.’
Armstrong’s recording appears in the film ‘Good Morning Vietnam.’
Welcome Gentry by D’Oyly Carte Opera
‘Welcome Gentry’ is another of the songs starting with W on this list written by Gilbert and Sullivan.
Earlier, we discussed patter songs. ‘Welcome Gentry’ is a classic Gilbert and Sullivan chorus. It pits two choirs against each other, ostensibly with different melodies. When they come together, they create a surprising counterpoint.
Where is the Life that Late I Lead by Brian Stokes Mitchell
Cole Porter wrote several songs starting with W as part of the musical ‘Kiss Me Kate.’ Always playful, ‘Where is the Life that Late I Lead’ is undeniably the cheekiest.
In this playful retelling of Shakespeare’s ‘The Taming of the Shrew,’ Petruchio laments that marriage to Katherine means an end to his youthful indiscretions.
Where Corals Lie by Janet Baker
Sir Edward Elgar wrote a five-song cycle for female voice called ‘Sea Pictures.’ ‘Where Corals Lie’ is the fourth of these songs. Janet Baker brings a rich, warm contralto to the music and effortlessly plumbs the depths of the bottom of the staff.
The result is that this song shimmers like the corals of the title.
We Gotta Get Outta This Place by The Animals
Another song beginning with W is Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil’s rock classic, ‘We Gotta Get Outta This Place.’
The Animals made it famous, and it was especially popular with soldiers in Vietnam, who saw the lyrics as echoing their own conflicting feelings about the war.
It was a success in 1965, and its enduring power is such that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame acknowledges the contribution ‘We Gotta Get Outta This Place’ had on rock music.
Wannabe by The Spice Girls
It’s impossible to talk about songs beginning with W without mentioning The Spice Girls’ classic, ‘Wannabe.’
The song was a staple of the late 1990s and featured the band members rapping. It won the Best British-Written Single in 1997. Many still consider it a symbol of female empowerment.
We Can Work it Out by The Beatles
No list of songs starting with W would be complete without mentioning The Beatles' hit, ‘We Can Work it Out.’
It stands out as an atypical example of Paul McCartney and John Lennon collaborating on a song after their 1963 successes.
Recording the song took eleven hours, one of the longest sessions The Beatles held. Despite this, they still found it necessary to overdub the vocals.
When The Kye Come Hame by The Tannahill Weavers
Only the Scots could write a folk song about calling the cows home. This fast-paced romp is a jaunty melody full of Scotch Snaps. Under all that —and talk of cattle —it’s a love song. Don’t let the title fool you; This song starting with W is about the charm of spending an evening with your sweetheart.
Wolf at Your Door by Talis Kimberley
In many ways, Talis Kimberly is the inheritor of Pete Seeger’s ability to marry a passion for music with causes. Kimberly sings about various issues, ranging from green energy and climate change to knitting.
In ‘Wolf at Your Door,’ she talks about the increasing technological incursion on our lives.
Werewolves of London by Warren Zevon
Warren Zevon's ‘Werewolves of London’ is another rock song beginning with W. The song came about because of a joke made by Phil Everly of Everly Brothers fame. He’d recently seen the film ‘Werewolf of London’ and whimsically suggested Zevlon turn the film into a song.
No one took the song seriously, but Elektra Records chose it as Zevlon’s first single with them. It also appeared on ‘Excitable Boy.’
Wishin’ And Hopin’ by Dusty Springfield
We’ll conclude this list of songs starting with W with ‘Wishin’ and Hopin’.’ Dionne Warwick recorded the song in 1962, and when Dusty Springfield heard it, she resolved to do a version.
Composer Burt Bachrach was supportive, and once released, Springfield’s version of the song was immediately popular. Not only did it do well in North America, but the choice to release it concurrently in Britain enabled it to garner Springfield's attention from the British public.
Songs Starting With W, Final Thoughts
You don’t have to look hard to find songs starting with W. The use of question words in song titles means you’re spoiled for choice. But they aren’t the only songs beginning with W.
These songs span several genres and decades. And while all are excellent, they stand out for different reasons. Some may be familiar, and others less so. We hope we’ve helped you rediscover some old favorites and shone a light on at least one new song for you.