12 songs with accordion by popular artists that may surprise you
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?