I come from a musical family – and a family that also loves to camp almost as much as I do. Put the two together and there is just no escaping a good old campfire sing-song. However, being less musically inclined than other members of my family makes keeping up with the lyrics, harmonies and guitar chords of campfire songs somewhat challenging at times. OK, so three of them ‘do’ music for their jobs, but still, I love joining in as much as possible.
At our last family camping weekend, there were 21 of us – that’s three generations of crooners all with very different ideas of what campfire songs should be. I was a Girl Guide in my youth, and so my repertoire of campfire songs generally suit the tastes of both the olds and the little ‘uns,. And thankfully my siblings and cousins also know most of them.
A couple of the ‘olds’ have a history with folk music. They also know many traditional war songs, and a few camp songs that are a little less ‘suitable’ for the kids – they just can’t be trusted!
The kids love anything pop that they’ve heard on the radio, songs they’ve sang at school or anything silly that is easy to pick up. Clapping songs and ‘repeat after me’ songs always go down well!
And everyone else is more happy with some 90’s anthems or 60’s classics to strum along to.
So now you can see how choosing campfire songs to please everyone can be somewhat problematic at times. So much so, that in the last few years, my family have been using song sheets. Overly organised? Perhaps. Very necessary? Absolutely! And a total game-changer for a cracking campfire sing-song. Printed song sheets mean that everyone can join in, or at least try. Plus, it’s a great way to pass along some of the more traditional campfire songs to the younger generations.
So without further ado, may I present to you a comprehensive list of tried and tested campfire songs that’s guaranteed to have something for everyone to enjoy:
Campfire guitar songs
As the stars come out and the beers start flowing it’s unavoidable that the mood will move towards these great sing-along campfire guitar songs. Everyone knows the tunes to these classics, add in some simple guitar chords and words that are actually correct, and you’ll be drawing in the crowds from the rest of the campground in no time.
American Pie — Don McLean
“A long, long time ago I can still remember how that musix used to make me smile”
Dream — Everly Brothers
“Drea-ea-ea-ea-eam, dream, dream, dream”
Hotel California — Eagles
“On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair, warm smell of colitas, rising up through the air”
Brown Eyed Girl — Van Morrison
“Hey, where did we go? Days when the rains came”
Stand By Me — Ben E King
“When the night has come, and the land is dark, and the moon is the only light we’ll see”
Ring of Fire — Johnny Cash
“Love is a burning thing and it makes a fiery ring”
Hey Jude — The Beatles
“Hey Jude, don’t make it bad, take a sad song and make it better”
Build Me Up Buttercup — The Foundations
“Why do you build me up (build me up) buttercup, baby”
California Dreamin’ — The Mamas and The Papas
“All the leaves are brown (all the leaves are brown), and the sky is grey (and the sky is grey)”
Yellow Submarine — The Beatles
“In the town where I was born lived a man who sailed to sea”
Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life) — Green Day
“Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road, time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go”
Mrs Robinson — Simon and Garfunkel
“And here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson, Jesus loves you more than you will know”
Sweet Caroline — Neil Diamond
“Where it began, I can’t begin to knowing, but then I know it’s growing strong”
Wonderwall — Oasis
“Today is gonna be the day that they’re gonna throw it back to you”
Campfire songs that the oldies love
This selection of campfire songs is guaranteed to get the olds crooning and reminiscing about the good old days. They are also songs that the youngs will probably know or be able to learn quickly. Just make sure you keep the setlist limited, as once they get started there’s just no stopping them!
A Bicycle Made For Two
“Daisy, Daisy give me your answer do. I’m half crazy all for the love of you.”
White Cliffs Of Dover
“There’ll be bluebirds over the white cliffs of Dover, tomorrow, tust you wait and see”
It’s A Long Way To Tipperary
“Up to mighty London came an Irish man one day”
Show Me The Way To Go Home
“Show me the way to go home, I’m tired and I want to go to bed”
You Are My Sunshine
“The other night, dear, as I lay sleeping, I dreamed I held you in my arms”
“In Dublin’s fair city where the girls are so pretty, I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone”
Shine Your Buttons With Brasso
“My fathers a lavatory cleaner, he cleans them by day and by night”
Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
“Swing low, sweet chariot, coming for to carry me home”
Campfire songs for the end of the night
A dwindling campfire is the perfect accompaniment to these pretty ditties. If you’ve got any voice left in you, or wood left to burn, then these mellow melodies will slow the mood down nicely for a sound sleep out under the stars.
“Edelweiss Edelweiss, every morning you greet me”
Land Of The Silver Birch
“Land of the silver birch home of the beaver, where still the mighty moose wanders at will”
“Kumbaya, my Lord, kumbaya, Kumbaya, my Lord, kumbaya”
“Campfire’s burning, campfire’s burning, draw nearer, draw nearer”
“I’d heard there was a secret chord, that David played and it pleased the Lord”
“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me”
There are thousands more brilliantly fun campfire songs out there and many that you will hold close to your heart. Silly, simple, loud or gentle, whether you can sing or not, I hope that whatever campfire songs you choose to sing on your next camping trip, will be sung with soul and gusto.
Sing it loud, happy campers!