12 songs with accordion by popular artists that may surprise you

12 songs with accordion by popular artists that may surprise you

Posted by on Dec 17, 2013 in Blog, Featured, Videos

Although the main goal of Infinite Accordion is exploring the accordion’s global influence on modern and traditional music, I particularly enjoy discovering that artists I already know have songs with accordion in them. Here’s a list of some of my favorites.

The Beach Boys – Wouldn’t it Be Nice
If you’re not listening for it, it’s easy to overlook the accordion in this song. Frank Marocco used a triple bellows shake to get the sound Brian Wilson wanted. The accordion starts around 0:08.

The Beatles – We Can Work it Out
Many people don’t know that John Lennon played accordion. The accordion starts almost immediately and can be heard pretty clearly throughout.

Billy Joel – The Piano Man
I’ve been listening for accordions in songs for so long that they usually jump out at me, but The Piano Man eluded me despite dozens of listens. I think the harmonica at the beginning threw me off the scent. I haven’t found many songs that have both a harmonica and accordion, and fewer that do it well. In my opinion, The Piano Man uses both appropriately. The accordion comes in around 0:56.

Bruce Springsteen – O Mary Don’t You Weep
Danny Federici played accordion for Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band for over thirty years, perhaps most famously on “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy).” I prefer the energy of “O’ Mary Don’t You Weep,” which is also easy and fun to play to if you have an accordion.

I debated between including a link to the studio version in which you can hear the accordion better throughout (starting around 1:16) or a live version from London in 2006 (I think) in which you can actually see Danny Federici playing a solo (at 2:03), a year after being diagnosed with the cancer that would take his life in 2008. I decided to include both and let you choose for yourself.

Fun. – Carry On
I’m still not sure if it’s sampled or genuine, but there’s definitely an accordion of some sort starting around 2:06. As their earlier song, “Be Calm,” features an accordion more prominently, I think it’s genuine. If anyone knows one way or the other, please let me know.

Grace Jones – I’ve Seen that Face Before (Libertango)
Although it’s pretty well known that Grace Jones plays accordion, I like how cool she looks playing it in her video. She starts to play around 1:00.

Kinks – Alcohol
Although not their biggest hit by a longshot, “Alcohol” is still a wonderful song with clever lyrics and accordion accompaniment. The accordion starts around 0:33.

Nirvana – Jesus Doesn’t Want Me for a Sunbeam
This is from Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged performance in 1993. Please let me know if there are other Nirvana songs that also include the accordion. The accordion starts around 0:58.

R.E.M. – You Are the Everything
This one’s harder to miss as the accordion is pretty dominant throughout the song, but mostly just used for chords. It starts around 0:10.

The Rolling Stones – Back Street Girl
The accordion starts around 0:38 and I love how well it integrates with the rest of the arrangement.

Talking Heads – Road to Nowhere
David Byrne and Talking Heads used accordions quite a bit, but this is probably their most popular song with one. Some others include “Totally Nude,” “Radio Head,” and David Byrne’s “Call of the Wild.” The accordion starts around 0:37.

Tom Waits – Cold Cold Ground
I don’t know how popular Tom Waits is outside the U.S., but he’s been a big part of the alternative music scene here for over thirty years. I really like how he uses the accordion in “Cold Cold Ground” to help establish the mood of the song. The accordion starts around 0:08.

So, those are some of my favorites. What popular artists do you like who have included an accordion into one (or more) of their songs?

    7 Comments

  1. Black Hair, Nick Cave – piano accordion dominant throughout this song.

  2. “We Can Work It Out” was played on a harmonium not an accordion. I suspect the same may be true for “God Only Knows.” Two songs that do use the accordion are “Mr. Bojangles” by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and “Boy in the Bubble” by Paul Simon.

    • Bob – the God Only Knows clip is confirmed to be Frank Marocco on accordion – the bellows shake technique would not be possible on harmonium.

  3. Apathy 83 on Ian Hunter’s album All American Alien Boy includes an accordion.

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