25 Best Songs With Banjo

“Daddy Played the Banjo” by Steve Martin

“Daddy Played the Banjo” by Steve Martin

Song Year: 2014

Steve Martin is known for his comedy, movies, and incredible banjo skills. When he combined two of those things, he quickly earned his place as a reputable bluegrass singer with a great sense of humor.

In this song, Steve Martin plays a five-string banjo as he reminisces about his father playing the banjo. He tells the story, probably fictional, against the backdrop of excellent banjo picking.

“Forgetful Heart” by Bob Dylan

Song Year: 2009

Bob Dylan has been writing music for over half a century. Considering how popular he still is despite multiple new generations coming into existence, that’s more than impressive: that’s amazing.

He likes to pair his tunes to the banjo, and this is one of the best examples of that. It’s a genuinely poetic song that seems to paint the picture of someone lamenting the aging of a lover.

With time comes the loss of certain faculties, and Dylan captures that with heartwrenching clarity in this banjo-filled tune.

“Black Bear Road” by C.W. McCall

Song Year: 1975

C.W. McCall excelled at folk songs that told little pieces of American history. “Black Bear Road” is one of those songs that takes you back to the earliest days of the country’s settlement and makes you feel right there in the wilderness.

The children in this song explore the genuine “Black Bear Road” while camping in the mountains. The song is an epic adventure that makes you wish you were there.

“Squeezebox” by The Who

Song Year: 1975

The squeezebox might not be a banjo, but the banjo certainly helps deliver the potency of this particular song: whatever that squeezebox is, it’s keeping the whole neighborhood up with its racket and piercing sounds.

Adding the banjo in the Who’s song helps communicate something unique and exciting. It also brings the other instruments together in a way that no other tool probably could.

“Bluebird” by Buffalo Springfield

Song Year: 1967

The bluebird might not sound like a banjo, but the banjo sure makes this song about birds a little more captivating.

The song is about an observer being captivated by a bluebird that seems to visit them every day.

It’s probably not an actual bluebird, as most songs of this nature like using analogies and illusions. Either way, the sadness in this song comes through loud and clear with that moaning banjo.

“Gallows Pole” by Led Zeppelin

Song Year: 1970

The sounds from Led Zeppelin are some of the wildest and wackiest in music history. They revolutionized a lot of western music in the 1970s and occasionally incorporated the banjo to help.

“Gallows Pole” is a highly recognizable song, and that’s probably because of the banjo. It brings an ineffable quality that’s essential when singing about hangmen and the gallows pole.

“Take It Easy” by the Eagles

Song Year: 1972

“Take It Easy” is the second song from the Eagles to appear on this list, and it’s possibly one of the best-known Eagles songs ever released.

The banjo contributes a lot of the personality to this song about a man driving around, thinking about all the different women in his life.

“I Will Wait” by Mumford and Sons

Song Year: 2012

“I Will Wait” is all about how hard it is to maintain good, healthy relationships when your life is already busy and chaotic. The sound of the banjo presents a nice mental image of the craziness.

Mumford and Sons incorporated the banjo into a lot of their songs. Part of what made them such a successful folk-like band was the reliable presence of the banjo.

This particular song features the banjo heavily, making it one of the staple sounds that makes the music so recognizable.

“Mayberry” by Rascal Flatts

Song Year: 2002

Rascal Flatts excels at writing songs that transport you to a place and time that’s simpler, slower, and more relaxed. They sing about the country and small-town life whenever they can, bringing the banjo in to help deliver the message.

In a constantly moving world and getting more fast-paced, sometimes it’s nice to imagine a life that’s a little more like Mayberry.

“Mama Tried” by Merle Haggard

Song Year: 1968

Merle Haggard used the banjo a lot in his music. Part of his recognizable sound was the folksy plucking of the banjo behind all his lyrics.

“Mama Tried” uses the banjo to make this otherwise sad song more upbeat. The song finds a man lamenting the life he’s led and feeling sorry for how hard his mother worked to keep him on the straight and narrow.

But when you hear the banjo in the background, you can’t help but start bouncing your knee and clapping your hands.

“Rye Whiskey” by Punch Brothers

Song Year: 2010

What do you get when you combine a violin, a mandolin, a bass, and a banjo? You get the Punch Brothers, who make some of the best banjo-filled bluegrass music.

When you add lyrics about rye whiskey's benefits, you get an excellent dancing song that will make you chuckle.

“Devil’s Been Talking” by Needtobreathe

Song Year: 2011

Needtobreathe tries to incorporate the banjo into their music whenever possible, and they do so here with stunning clarity and precision.

The banjo is easily recognizable and lends a certain quality of urgency that makes this song so powerful. This song is one of their best and uses the spectrum of the banjo’s ability.

Top Songs With Banjo, Final Thoughts

Those are the top songs with banjo in them. The banjo shows up in all kinds of music. It’s more than just a country music instrument. The banjo has a universal quality that makes it indispensable.

If you want to learn more about banjo music, check out our list of the best bluegrass songs you can listen to today!

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One Comment

  1. I’m Gone – Dolly Parton
    Midnight Moonlight – Old and In the Way
    Smells Like Teen Spirit – Patti Smith
    Slow Turning – John Hiatt
    Old Man – Neil Young
    Going Down That Road Feeling Bad – Mike and Polly Johnson

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