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Awesome Harmonica Songs?
January 27, 2006 10:58 AM   Subscribe

I want to make a mix CD of songs with harmonica in them for a friend of mine. What's your favorite?

i'm looking for songs with compelling harmonica riffs and or songs where the harmonica is a vital element of the song. Bob Dylan and Blues Traveler are two artists that spring to mind and i have songs from them already on the list. hopefully, here in the mefi community, i can get a broad spectrum of suggestions.
posted by pelican to Media & Arts (59 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
Grateful Dead Easy Wind from Workingman's Dead.
posted by fixedgear at 11:03 AM on January 27, 2006


John Mayall - Room to Move
posted by klarck at 11:04 AM on January 27, 2006


Beatles, "Love Me Do"
U2, "Trip Through Your Wires"
posted by scody at 11:07 AM on January 27, 2006


What I Like About You - The Romantics
Best harmonica solo never.
posted by incessant at 11:09 AM on January 27, 2006


Lots of Charlie McCoy. Orange Blossom Special, in particular.
Three Harp Boogie - James Cotton, Paul Butterfield, Billy Boy Arnold, Elvin Bishop
Struggle Blues - Woody Guthrie
Harmonicats
posted by undertone at 11:10 AM on January 27, 2006


Blues Traveler - Run Around
posted by magwich at 11:12 AM on January 27, 2006


Stevie Wonder - Isn't She Lovely & That Girl
posted by SoulOnIce at 11:15 AM on January 27, 2006


Stevie Wonder is really famous for his harmonica playing. I still love his first hit, "Fingertips." Two other songs of his where it's prominently featured (that I can think of): "Isn't She Lovely" and "Boogie On, Reggae Woman."

He's also played on other people's records (including an old Paula Abdul track), so you might try searching for that, too. This page notes a lot of them.
posted by CiaoMela at 11:17 AM on January 27, 2006


Man With A Harmonica - Ennio Morricone.
posted by the cuban at 11:17 AM on January 27, 2006


Sonny Boy Williamson
posted by Otis at 11:17 AM on January 27, 2006


Bruce Springsteen - The Ghost of Tom Joad
BB King - Riding with the King
Bob Dylan - Positively 4th Street
Blues Traveler - Run-around

This post was brought to you by the letter 'B'
posted by charmston at 11:18 AM on January 27, 2006


Blackfoots' Train, Train. It's at the very beginning.
Yeah, I know, dinosaur rock. Whatever.
posted by NoMich at 11:19 AM on January 27, 2006


I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues — Elton John (harmonica solo by Stevie Wonder)
posted by Jaltcoh at 11:19 AM on January 27, 2006


I actually prefer the harmonica solos in Blues Traveler's song Hook.

I always have fun trying to approximate them on a Soprano Recorder...
posted by The Confessor at 11:24 AM on January 27, 2006


Man With A Harmonica - Ennio Morricone.

Or the Apollo 440 remix.
posted by Lucinda at 11:24 AM on January 27, 2006


If you want to add a bit of variety to your mix, you must include Black Sabbath's The Wizard.
posted by googly at 11:25 AM on January 27, 2006


For Blues Traveler I'd pick "But Anyway" over any of their other songs.
posted by kindall at 11:26 AM on January 27, 2006


Oh yeah, gotta have The Wizard. Good one, googly.
posted by NoMich at 11:26 AM on January 27, 2006


"Bring it on Home" Led Zepplin
posted by doctor_negative at 11:29 AM on January 27, 2006


Second "Love Me Do" by The Beatles.
posted by youarenothere at 11:32 AM on January 27, 2006


This is at least the 2nd time I'm trying to pimp out the Sex Slaves on AskMe, but the harmonica on "Thank God for Jack Daniels" is rockin'. (You can listen to the song on their MySpace page.
posted by ferociouskitty at 11:36 AM on January 27, 2006


Harmonica Song (amazon link) by the Helio Sequence (2004 indie rock).
posted by matildaben at 11:40 AM on January 27, 2006


If you like Neil Young, you can pick a lot from him. Michelle Shocked on Arkansas Traveler has some great ones, too.
posted by Bear at 11:41 AM on January 27, 2006


Check out Mike Turk.
posted by cribcage at 11:50 AM on January 27, 2006


Midnight Rambler - Rolling Stones
Anything by Junior Wells - especially from Hoodoo Man, the linked album.
Anything by Little Walter - Juke, My Babe, Blues With a Feeling, Key to the Highway are his best known but it's all great.
posted by TimeFactor at 11:54 AM on January 27, 2006


Piano Man by Billy Joel -- doesn't that have a harmonica in it, or am I working with a false memory here?
posted by penchant at 11:56 AM on January 27, 2006


Yeah, "Piano Man" has a harmonica.
posted by kindall at 11:59 AM on January 27, 2006


Aerosmith - "Hangman Jury"
Bob Dylan - "Visions of Johanna," "Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts," "Outlaw Blues," and probably about fifteen others.
Butch Hancock - "Moanin' of the Midnight Train"
Todd Snider - "Talkin' Seattle Grunge Rock Blues"
posted by Clay201 at 11:59 AM on January 27, 2006


Oh, as an added bonus, the lyrics for "Visions of Johanna" actually make mention of a harmonica.

And damnit if I didn't completely forget...

Alvin and the Chipmunks - "Alvin's Harmonica"
posted by Clay201 at 12:06 PM on January 27, 2006


Charlie Musselwhite's worth seeking out. If I had to pick an album it'd be "Sanctuary."
posted by Atom12 at 12:09 PM on January 27, 2006


Gorilla Biscuits "Start Today!" the only hardcore song with a harmonica solo!
posted by annoyance at 12:15 PM on January 27, 2006


"From Me to You" by The Beatles just came on my iPod, and it's got harmonica in it...
posted by Lucinda at 12:15 PM on January 27, 2006


Karma Chameleon - Culture Club. You gotta love that trashy 80s video with Boy George prancing around the river boat!
posted by phoenixc at 12:20 PM on January 27, 2006


Toots Thielemans and William Galison (check his album w/Madeleine Peyroux) are worth looking into.
posted by box at 12:21 PM on January 27, 2006


"My Next Death" (mp3) by the sadly defunct Imaginary Baseball League makes wonderful haunting use of the harmonica, and it's such a good song I put it on my Mefi mix.

"Far Far Away" by Wilco has a nice harmonica accompaniment throughout the song, but in the studio mix of Being There it's unfortunately pretty buried. It shouldn't be too difficult to find a good live version where it's more prominent.
posted by kyleg at 12:22 PM on January 27, 2006


Life is a Highway by Tom Cochrane perhaps?
posted by jacquilynne at 12:24 PM on January 27, 2006


Fox Chase or Lost John by Sonny Terry.
Anything by Cephas & Wiggins.
Pretty much anything by Sam Hinton.

These guys'll show you what a harp can do.
posted by scruss at 12:30 PM on January 27, 2006


The PJs by Handsome Boy Modelling School.
posted by klangklangston at 12:33 PM on January 27, 2006


White and Lazy by the Replacements has a pretty great harmonica bit.
posted by NoMich at 12:35 PM on January 27, 2006


Heart of Gold, by Neil Young has a nice uncomplex solo.
posted by pmbuko at 12:37 PM on January 27, 2006


"I Should Have Known Better" is my favorite Beatles harmonica song.

The White Stripes' "Hello Operator" is pretty smoking.
posted by padraigin at 12:37 PM on January 27, 2006


The precursor to Morphine, Treat Her Right, was heavily harmonica-based (what baritone sax was to Morphine, harmonica was to THR). Their first, self-titled album is my favorite.

Pete Townshend used to have an amazing harmonica player named Peter Hope-Evans. Standouts are "The Sea Refuses No River" on All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes, "Cat's in the Cupboard" on Empty Glass, and several songs on Deep End Live.

And definitely Stevie Wonder. He plays chromatic harmonica, which is a different flavor from blues (diatonic) harp and might be good for variety.
posted by staggernation at 12:38 PM on January 27, 2006


Oh! Larry Adler! The Glory of Gershwin is a whole album of Gershwin covers arranged for orchestra, rock stars (some a better fit than others), and Adler's fantastic chromatic harp. You wouldn't think someone could successfully pull off "Rhapsody in Blue" on harmonica, but he does.
posted by staggernation at 12:44 PM on January 27, 2006


Harp Attack!

I'll stop now.
posted by staggernation at 12:50 PM on January 27, 2006


Theme from Roseanne?
posted by lampoil at 12:55 PM on January 27, 2006


Theme from Roseanne?
Or themes from "Sanford and Son", "The Rockford Files", "Northern Exposure".
posted by TimeFactor at 1:12 PM on January 27, 2006


Try a lil' Sugar Blue.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 1:19 PM on January 27, 2006


Whammer Jammer - J.J. Giles.
posted by Evstar at 2:17 PM on January 27, 2006


How about 'Dang' by the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion? Probably the most fercious sounding harmonica I've ever heard.
posted by Kronoss at 2:52 PM on January 27, 2006


Pretenders - "Middle of the Road" - great windup where Chryssie Hynde purrs/yelps into the mike as she slides in her harmonica to start a fiery solo on just the same note - you can't tell where her voice ends and the harmonica start.
posted by nicwolff at 2:55 PM on January 27, 2006


"Bigmouth" by Underworld. Oh my, chugging beats and a howling solo.
posted by beaucoupkevin at 3:18 PM on January 27, 2006


thanks for all those suggestions. i had also forgot about C.R. Avery who will definitely make an appearance on the mix.

also... anyone know of some Tom Waits songs w/ harmonica? i feel like there should be some.
posted by pelican at 3:41 PM on January 27, 2006


Tom Petty - You Don't Know How It Feels

And I second the Stones' Midnight Rambler - the best version of this is the live one off their first "Hot Rocks" album.
posted by meerkatty at 4:11 PM on January 27, 2006


John Barry's theme for Midnight Cowboy.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 4:17 PM on January 27, 2006


Muddy Waters' version of Mannish Boy.
posted by signal at 6:25 PM on January 27, 2006


The first thing that comes to mind whenever I hear the word "harmonica" is Take the Long Way Home by Supertramp. Can't believe I'm the first to mention it.
posted by Tubes at 8:46 PM on January 27, 2006


"furry sings the blues" - joni mitchell ... neil young on harmonica

"miss you" by the stones ... sugar blue on harmonica ... "stop breaking down" by the stones is great, too ...

there was a blues band called the nighthawks who had a very good harmonica player

"nobody's fault but mine" - led zeppelin
posted by pyramid termite at 10:06 PM on January 27, 2006


"Compelling harmonica riffs" that are a "vital element of the song"?

This means War. The brilliantly funky harmonica in "Low Rider" sure qualifies, as does "Cisco Kid," "The World is a Ghetto" and lots more classic soul/funk/jazz from them. Lee Oskar was integral to their sound; he also has a 1976 solo album that's got some fantastic grooves on it (check the clips from "Blisters" and "BLT"). Whenever I play that album out, I get someone coming up to ask what that great harmonica song was.
posted by mediareport at 10:48 PM on January 27, 2006


Neil Young: Sugar Mountain, Comes a Time, After the Gold Rush

Wanna rock out? Guns n' Roses: Bad Obsession
posted by raider at 10:59 AM on January 28, 2006


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