Besides literally representing life, water is also an eternal source of inspiration for artists.
If you think about it, there are so many songs about water, whether it’s about rivers, oceans, or the sea.
And each song brings a different meaning and mood.
Many songs about water or rain are rather melancholic, but they can also be intense or even uplifting. That’s what makes this theme interesting – it can be seen and portrayed in so many ways.
And after all, is there anything more powerful than water?
We’ve made a list of 35 songs about water that will remind you of some good old hits and perhaps show you some great new tunes.
We’ve covered music from Led Zeppelin to Billie Eilish and Chopin, so get ready for an interesting musical ride!
Table of Contents
- 35 Songs About Water
- 1. Deep Purple – “Smoke on the Water“
- 2. Led Zeppelin – “When The Levee Breaks“
- 3. Florence and the Machine – “What The Water Gave Me“
- 4. Simon and Garfunkel – “Bridge Over Troubled Water“
- 5. PJ Harvey – “Down By The Water“
- 6. Chopin – “Raindrop Prelude“
- 7. James Bay – “Hold Back The River“
- 8. Björk – “Oceania“
- 9. TLC – “Waterfalls“
- 10. Pearl Jam – “Oceans“
- 11. Ben Howard – “Oats in The Water“
- 12. Major Lazer – “Cold Water“
- 13. Morcheeba – “The Sea“
- 14. Enya – “Orinoco Flow (Sail Away)“
- 15. All Saints – “Pure Shores“
- 16. Smoke City – “Underwater Love“
- 17. Fela Kuti – “Water No Get Enemy“
- 18. Jack Johnson – “Drink the Water“
- 19. SYML – “Fear of The Water“
- 20. The Cardigans – “Over the Water“
- 21. Foo Fighters – “I Am a River“
- 22. Justin Timberlake – “Cry Me a River“
- 23. Billie Eilish – “Ocean Eyes“
- 24. Otis Redding – “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay“
- 25. Audrey Hepburn – “Moon River“
- 26. The National – “Sea of Love“
- 27. Seafret – “Oceans“
- 28. Röyksopp – “Running To The Sea“
- 29. The Kooks – “Seaside“
- 30. Coldplay – “Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall“
- 31. Brad Paisley – “Water“
- 32. Emeli Sande – “Breathing Underwater“
- 33. Groove Armada – “At The River“
- 34. Yiruma – “River Flows In You“
- 35. Johnny Flynn and Laura Marling – “The Water“
- Songs About Water – Final Thoughts
35 Songs About Water
1. Deep Purple – “Smoke on the Water“
“Smoke on the Water” by Deep Purple has one of the most famous guitar riffs.
Among songs about water, this is definitely a timeless rock hit, released in 1972.
However, the song was actually written unexpectedly – the bassist and songwriter Roger Glover was inspired by the incident on Frank Zappa’s show where one of the fans fired a flare gun into wooden rafts that caught fire.
Nobody got hurt during that concert, even though the building had burned down and the smoke had covered Lake Geneva.
Well, at least the world got “Smoke on the Water” after that!
2. Led Zeppelin – “When The Levee Breaks“
Another song about water that is an absolute classic with a story behind it is “When The Levee Breaks” by Led Zeppelin.
The song was inspired by the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927.
During this destructive and historic flood, many workers were forced to work and stop the levee from breaking.
“When the Levee Breaks” also has a legendary drum part – in fact, it was recorded in the hallway of the former workhouse known as Headley Grange.
3. Florence and the Machine – “What The Water Gave Me“
“Lay me down
Let the only sound
Be the overflow.“
This beautiful track by the English indie rock band Florence and the Machine was released in 2011.
The song is titled after one of Frida Kahlo’s paintings – it’s actually a self-portrait of her lying in a bath of grey water.
In “What The Water Gave Me”, Florence talks about the overwhelming power of water and the idea of the sea as something bigger than all of us.
4. Simon and Garfunkel – “Bridge Over Troubled Water“
“When you’re weary
When tears are in your eyes
I’ll dry them all
I’m on your side
Oh, when times get rough
And friends just can’t be found.“
Songs about rivers often imply turbulent periods of life, but they can also be quite soothing.
The simplicity of the lyrics and melody made “Bridge Over Troubled Water” popular and loved.
“Bridge Over Troubled Water” was written by Paul Simon and recorded in 1970 with Art Garfunkel.
It’s a dreamy, calm tune about providing comfort to someone. Just like this song provides comfort to us!
5. PJ Harvey – “Down By The Water“
“Little fish, big fish, swimming in the water
Come back here, man, gimme my daughter.”
These haunting but catchy lyrics are a part of the song “Down By The Water” by PJ Harvey.
When asked about the meaning of the song, the singer didn’t give a specific answer, so it’s really on you to decide on that.
Nonetheless, it’s one of PJ Harvey’s biggest hits, and the memorable music video got nominated for Best Female Video at the 1995 MTV Video Music Awards.
6. Chopin – “Raindrop Prelude“
Now we’re moving on to some timeless classical music.
“The Prelude Op. 28, No. 15”, known as the “Raindrop Prelude”, is one of Chopin’s most recognizable works.
Although Chopin didn’t name it “Raindrop Prelude”, the haunting repetitive notes are reminiscent of the sound of dripping water.
Chopin lived and composed during the 19th century, so characteristic to the Romantic period, his music is very expressive and emotional.
And the “Raindrop Prelude” is no different – however, there is something very genuine and slightly melancholic about this prelude and his music in general.
After all, he is one of the best pianists and composers of all time for a good reason.
7. James Bay – “Hold Back The River“
“Hold Back The River” by the English artist James Bay was released in 2014.
This powerful song soon became a huge hit and was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Rock Song.
In one of the interviews, James Bay said that “Hold Back The River” is simply about having time and space to be with certain people, specifically with his friends and family. And that seems logical since he recorded the song in a really busy period of his career.
“Hold back the river, let me look in your eyes
Hold back the river, so I
Can stop for a minute and be by your side
Hold back the river, hold back.”
8. Björk – “Oceania“
“Oceania” by the Icelandic artist Björk was written for the 2004 Athens Olympics Opening Ceremony.
It’s a unique song written from the point of view of the ocean. In the song, the ocean watches over the process of evolution and can’t see any borders or different races and religions.
Everything in this song is reminiscent of water, including the wavelike back vocals performed by the London Choir.
“One breath away from mother Oceania
Your nimble feet make prints in my sands
You have done good for yourselves
Since you left my wet embrace
And crawled ashore.“
9. TLC – “Waterfalls“
“Waterfalls” is arguably the biggest hit by the American hip hop group TLC.
The song is about being promiscuous and making potentially dangerous decisions.
Also, their ‘chasing waterfalls’ is about chasing wild dreams regardless of consequences.
The music video that brought lyrics to life won the 1995 MTV Video Music Award for Video of the Year.
“Don’t go chasing waterfalls
Please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to
I know that you’re gonna have it your way or nothing at all
But I think you’re moving too fast.”
10. Pearl Jam – “Oceans“
“Oceans” was released on Pearl Jam’s debut album “Ten” in 1992.
Judging by the music video, the song might have been inspired by the frontman’s Eddie Vedder’s love for surfing. But knowing how meaningful Pearl Jam’s songs tend to be, it’s probably a bit more to it than that.
Either way, it’s a beautiful, easy tune from the beginning of their career that it’s always nice to go back to.
11. Ben Howard – “Oats in The Water“
Another song with a beautiful ocean-themed music video is Oats in the Water by Ben Howard.
The lyrics describe somewhat abstract thoughts that can be connected to the feeling of loss and fear, but it’s also about overcoming hard times and depression.
“There’ll be oats in the water
There’ll be birds on the ground
There’ll be things you never asked her
Oh, how they tear at you now.“
12. Major Lazer – “Cold Water“
This catchy tune by Major Lazer, Justin Bieber, and danish singer MØ was written by Ed Sheeran and the songwriter Benny Blanco.
It was released in 2016, and although it didn’t become as popular as some other songs from similar collaborations, it’s a nice electropop tune still occasionally heard on the radio.
“And if you feel you’re sinking, I will jump right over
Into cold, cold water for you
And although time may take us into different places
I will still be patient with you.”
13. Morcheeba – “The Sea“
“I left my soul there
Down by the sea
I lost control here
In art and music, living by the sea often refers to living free, and “The Sea” by Morcheeba perfectly captures the spirit of that idea.
It’s one of the most popular songs of the English band, and it definitely sounds like it could have been released yesterday and not in 1998.
14. Enya – “Orinoco Flow (Sail Away)“
This song will remind you of water the moment you hear it.
Although the song to some extent must be about the South American river, Enya’s album “Watermark” was actually recorded in the Orinoco Studios in London.
The song is very peaceful and uplifting at the same time, and with its authenticity, it’s no wonder that it became a universal hit.
The song was also featured in several movies and TV shows.
15. All Saints – “Pure Shores“
Among songs about water, this is one of the most familiar ones, despite not having ‘water’ in the title.
It was featured in the 2000 film “The Beach”, and it became the second best-selling single in the UK the same year.
Besides the movie, this song is a sweet reminder of the pop from the early 2000s.
“I’ve crossed deserts for miles
Swam water for time
Searching places to find
A piece of something to call mine.“
16. Smoke City – “Underwater Love“
“Underwater Love” by Smoke City is a dreamy, trip-hop, and bossa nova tune.
It was released in 1995, but it got popular after being featured in a Levis commercial in 1997.
One part of the song is in Portuguese, which makes it even more sensual and interesting.
“This must be underwater love
The way I feel it slipping all over me
This must be underwater love
The way I feel it.”
17. Fela Kuti – “Water No Get Enemy“
This is one of the best jazzy afrobeat songs about water.
“Water No Get Enemy” by the Nigerian artist Fela Kuti is supposedly based on the Yoruba proverb about the power of nature, and the song perfectly conveys that message.
After all, Fela Kuti is considered a pioneer of Afrobeat, but he was also a political activist and a talented multi-instrumentalist.
18. Jack Johnson – “Drink the Water“
Well, we can’t skip the song titled “Drink the Water” for the list of songs about water.
This song by the Hawaiian musician Jack Johnson was actually inspired by the singer’s surfing accident.
Even though it was inspired by the bad experience, the song is gentle and easy to listen to, just like most of Jack’s music.
19. SYML – “Fear of The Water“
“Fear of the Water” falls under the category of delicate water-themed songs.
This captivating song by the American artist Brian Fennel, known as SYML, was released in 2016.
It’s a serene but very emotional track with a beautiful music video, and although it’s essentially about love, the fear of the water can refer to many things.
“If this was meant for me, why does it hurt so much?
And if you’re not made for me, why did we fall in love?”
20. The Cardigans – “Over the Water“
This is not one of the most popular songs by the Swedish band The Cardigans, but it’s a nice, easy song related to water.
The song was released on their album “Emmerdale” in 1994, and it carries their typical sound.
“Somewhere over the water
Next to a harbour
Someone’s eager to listen.”
21. Foo Fighters – “I Am a River“
If you’re searching for songs about rivers, “I am a River” by Foo Fighters should fit perfectly.
It’s an emotional rock ballad and the last track on their album “Sonic Highways”.
In one of the interviews, Dave Grohl explained the song is inspired by New York City and the Magic Shop recording studio – the river theme comes from Minetta Creek in Manhattan.
So, “I am a River” is a song about the river flowing below the city, which is actually an interesting way of connecting something natural and something so monolithic.
22. Justin Timberlake – “Cry Me a River“
When it comes to songs with river in the lyrics, it’s hard not to mention Justin Timberlake.
“Cry Me a River” was released on Justin’s debut solo album “Justified” in 2002, and it’s inspired by the singer’s former relationship with Britney Spears.
Besides winning the Grammy, Rolling Stone included it on their 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. After all, this universal hit still remains popular and loved.
23. Billie Eilish – “Ocean Eyes“
“I’ve been watchin’ you for some time
Can’t stop starin’ at those ocean eyes
Burning cities and napalm skies
Fifteen flares inside those ocean eyes.“
This mesmerizing pop ballad came out before Billie Eilish started ruling the top charts.
In fact, Billie first posted Ocean Eyes on SoundCloud in 2015 when she was thirteen.
Her gentle vocals, dreamy melody, and rather simple lyrics make it a genuine piece of music that was giving us the hint of how much the young singer will achieve.
24. Otis Redding – “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay“
Among popular songs about water, this is definitely a legendary one.
“Sittin’ On The Dock of the Bay” was Otis Redding’s final song – he recorded it just a couple of days before his death in a plane crash.
The idea of the song came to Redding while staying in the boathouse in California.
Besides climbing the charts (even after his death), there is something incredibly warm and down-to-earth about this song, and that will keep it popular and loved for many more years to come.
25. Audrey Hepburn – “Moon River“
This Hollywood anthem was originally performed by Audrey Hepburn in the 1961 film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”.
Written by Henry Mancini, Audrey’s version of “Moon River” almost didn’t make it to the movie.
Luckily, the song wasn’t cut, and it won an Academy Award for Best Original Song.
And there are more than 500 covers of this song, which proves its universal popularity.
“Moon river, wider than a mile
I’m crossing you in style some day
Oh, dream maker, you heart breaker
Wherever you’re goin’, I’m goin’ your way.“
26. The National – “Sea of Love“
“I see people on the floor
They slide into the sea
Can’t stay here anymore
We’re turning into fiends.”
Among the songs with sea in the lyrics, The National’s track probably has the most touching title.
However, The National is known for a rather tragic (and at times gentle) representation of love in their music, and Sea of Love definitely has the band’s characteristic sound.
27. Seafret – “Oceans“
This is another beautiful, indie song about the ocean.
Performed by the British music duo Seafret, Oceans also got recognized because of its music video featuring the actress Maisie Williams.
Essentially, it’s a love song about longing, even though the distance between the other person might not be physical. But even if it is, “the ocean between” is a common yet effective way of describing it.
“It feels like there’s oceans
Between you and me once again
We hide our emotions
Under the surface and try to pretend.”
28. Röyksopp – “Running To The Sea“
“I remember running to the sea
The burning houses and the trees
I remember running to the sea
Alone and blinded by the fear.”
This captivating song by Norwegian music duo Röyksopp was released in 2012.
The official music video was actually chosen through a competition the band organized. The winner was the U.S. director who portrayed the feeling of the song perfectly.
29. The Kooks – “Seaside“
“Seaside” by The Kooks has that dreamy, slightly melancholic atmosphere many songs about water try to capture.
It’s a short tune released in their 2017 greatest hit album “The Best…So Far”.
“Do you want to go to the seaside?
I’m not trying to say that everybody wants to go
I fell in love at the seaside
I handled my charm with time and slight of hand.“
30. Coldplay – “Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall“
“I turn the music up
I got my records on
I shut the world outside until the lights come on.”
This uplifting Coldplay hit counts as one of the best songs about waterfalls.
Alright, perhaps it’s not literally about waterfalls, but the feeling it conveys is the most important thing about “Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall”.
In fact, Chris Martin was inspired to write the song after seeing the film “Biutiful” and hearing the song “Ritmo de la Noche” by Lorca. If you give it a listen, you’ll understand what we’re talking about.
31. Brad Paisley – “Water“
When it comes to a list of the best songs about water, Brad Paisley somehow always comes up.
It’s a 2010 country tune that actually got popular in the past year because of the video-sharing platform TikTok.
Either way, “Water” is a country tune with the singer literally remembering life situations including water – from swimming in a kiddie pool to hanging out with friends on the river bank.
“All you really need this time of year
Is a pair of shades
An’ ice cold beer
And a place to sit somewhere near
Well, he’s not wrong.
32. Emeli Sande – “Breathing Underwater“
This emotional ballad is part of Sande’s album “Long Live The Angels” where she transformed the hardship of divorcing her husband into beautiful music.
However, the singer often tackles important social issues in her music, and “Breathing Underwater”, although being about her independence, can be about all kinds of freedom.
“And it’s safe to say the storms gone away
And I’m dancing on the morning after
Yes I’d love to stay, but my home is the other way
And I miss the love and laughter.“
33. Groove Armada – “At The River“
If you’re searching for a soundtrack for the chill-out session, perhaps somewhere at the river, this golden tune is for you.
“At the River” was Groove Armada’s debut single originally released in 1997 on vinyl in 500 copies.
The British duo wrote it in a rented old house in Ambleside in the Lake District where they decided to write an album in a week.
In fact, “At the River” was created on the last day of their stay in Ambleside, right after buying the” Sounds of the 1950s” compilation.
34. Yiruma – “River Flows In You“
The theme of water inspired many pianists, regardless of the time period.
“River Flows in You” by the South Korean composer Yiruma is a contemporary piano solo that got popular after being featured in “The Twilight trilogy”.
It’s a peaceful tune that many piano students like to learn – and if you’re thinking about becoming one, you can check out our list of the best online piano lessons to get started.
35. Johnny Flynn and Laura Marling – “The Water“
This seemingly simple, sweet tune performed by the iconic names of British folk Johnny Flynn and Laura Marling, uses the theme of water beautifully.
Besides singing together in matching harmony, this duo managed to bring the atmosphere (and the lyrics) that feels old and new at the same time.
After all, the water has always been one of the favorite themes to musicians, and it also seems perfectly suitable for the contemporary indie-folk genre.
“Now deeper the water I sail
And faster the current I’m in
That each night brings the stars
And the song in my heart
Is a tune for the journeyman’s tale.”
Songs About Water – Final Thoughts
Water in music represents many different things, so moods and genres in songs about water vary a lot.
There are many melancholic water-themed songs, as artists often associate rivers with turbulent or hard times in life. A similar case is with most common songs about storms.
As it does in life, water takes many forms in music. We’ve found numerous songs about the sea. After all, the ocean can be incredibly calming, but it also reminds us of how little we are.
There is also something very dynamic yet elegant in water. Rivers and seas are constantly moving, with a specific sound and motion, so they inspired many composers of classical music as well.
All things considered, it’s no wonder that water inspired so much great music.
We hope this list showed you some new songs, but also reminded you of some classics you might have forgotten about!