10 Family Friendly Songs for the Car (That Won't Drive Parents Nuts)

By: Meghan E. Smith
Family riding in convertible
Family Vacation Image Gallery Here are some tunes the entire family can sing along to. See more family vacation pictures.
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As long as appropriate for kids or goes over their heads.

Luckily, there are plenty of songs everyone will enjoy. Just as there are lots of movies out there both kids and parents can enjoy, there are tons of songs perfect for a long family road trip.


So, grab your iPod and get ready to make a playlist -- here are our picks for 10 family-friendly songs for the car!

10: 'Roam' by the B-52s

This travel-themed tune is a great way to kick off any road trip. It was a hit for retro group The B-52s in 1989 and has been a party playlist favorite ever since.

The band was formed in Athens, Ga., in 1977, naming themselves after the Southern slang term for the popular beehive hairstyle of the 1960s. They gained popularity during the 1980s with hits like "Mesopotamia," "Love Shack" and "Private Idaho."


9: 'Obsessed by Trucks' by Justin Roberts

Justin Roberts
Chances are this "kindie" tune by Justin Roberts will get stuck in your head.
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Justin Roberts, a singer-songwriter from Chicago, has firmly established himself as a darling of the kid-indie (or "kindie") music scene. Parents will love his smart lyrics and fun tunes; kids will love the fact that his songs are written about things they understand.

"Obsessed By Trucks," for example, is a catchy tune about a brother who is (as you might have guessed) obsessed by trucks of all kinds. "Trucks" is especially fitting for an on-the-road playlist, since the brother in question likes to spot his beloved trucks when the family is in the car. Be warned: The chorus will get stuck in your head. But you probably won't mind.


8: 'Reach Out I'll Be There' by the Four Tops

The Four Tops became Motown legends in the 1960s with their powerful vocals and driving beats. Their songs have become so ubiquitous over the years that even young audiences may have heard some of their hits, such as "Baby I Need Your Loving" and "I Can't Help Myself."

This particular track, "Reach Out I'll Be There," is a great choice for your family road trip. Its themes of unconditional love and support are timeless -- and can turn any traffic jam into soulful serenade the whole family will love.


7: 'You Can Call Me Al' by Paul Simon

Paul Simon and Joan Baez
Paul Simon and Joan Baez perform at the 2010 Children's Health Fund Benefit Gala in New York, N.Y.
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For something a bit different, try Paul Simon. His "Graceland" and "Rhythm of the Saints" albums (released in 1986 and 1990, respectively) incorporate music from countries like South Africa and Brazil. "You Can Call Me Al," a hit track from "Graceland," features a horn section, a penny whistle solo and a distinctive bass riff, all laid over African-inspired harmonies. The lyrics are almost tongue-twisting, providing a challenge for those brave enough to sing along with Simon.

If this track proves popular with the younger set, expand your playlist to include "Graceland," "That Was Your Mother" or "Obvious Child." All of these songs are distinctively original and playful -- music to everyone's ears.


6: 'I Wanna Hold Your Hand' by the Beatles

Generations of music fans have fallen, and fallen hard, for the Beatles. And let's face it: It's never too soon to start exposing your kids to the classics, right?

Start your child's education with the early Beatles catalog. The music is fun, accessible and easy to sing along with. "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" was one of the group's first hits; it was released just before the band's famous trip to America in early 1964, which launched the so-called "British Invasion" of English pop stars. This song is a great introduction to one of the most popular music groups in history, and a stepping stone to the whole Beatles discography.


5: 'Istanbul (Not Constantinople)' by They Might Be Giants

They Might Be Giants
They Might Be Giants accordion player and lead singer John Linnell and guitarist John Flansburgh perform in New York City.
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They Might Be Giants, an alternative rock band that has found recent success among the younger set with albums like "No!" and "Here Come the ABCs," has always had a flair for the quirky. In 1990, the band released the single "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)," a swingy tune about a city that changed its name. Most people assume that the song was written by They Might Be Giants; in fact, it was written by Jimmy Kennedy and Nat Simon in the early 1950s and first recorded by The Four Lads in 1953.

Children who've enjoyed the kid-centric They Might Be Giants albums will love hearing this classic track -- and lots of parents will be instantly transported back to their own youth. Plus, it's a mini history lesson. What's not to love?


4: 'ABC' by the Jackson 5

Before Justin Bieber or the Jonas Brothers were even a twinkle in their parents' eyes, family group The Jackson 5 was a blockbuster teen sensation.

Michael Jackson provided lead vocals for this 1970 smash hit when he was just 11 years old. The song's message is that love is "easy as ABC, 123" -- uncomplicated and fun, just right for the elementary school set. But it's not only kids who love this song; its boppy rhythms and catchy hooks appeal to music fans of all ages. The only downside to listening to "ABC" in the car? You have to limit yourself to dancing in your seat.


3: 'Upside Down' by Jack Johnson

Jack Johnson
Jack Johnson and his family attend the world premiere of "Curious George" in Los Angeles.
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The 2006 film "Curious George," an adaptation of the beloved children's books, drew a lot of attention for its soundtrack. Surfer and folk rock musician Jack Johnson headlined the album "Sing-A-Longs and Lullabies for the Film Curious George," a low-key mix of playful tunes about the joys of discovery.

"Upside Down" is the first track from the album, and it gives both parents and kids a reason to tap their feet. It's also a good way to start calming down hyperactive kids; Johnson's gentle guitar work and mellow voice would lower anybody's blood pressure.


2: 'A Spoonful of Sugar' by Harry Connick, Jr.

Harry Connick, Jr., is famous for his swing- and jazz-influenced arrangements of old standards. His 2001 album "Songs I Heard" puts a little twist on this formula; all of the songs come from musicals and films that Connick listened to and loved when he was a boy.

"A Spoonful of Sugar" comes from "Mary Poppins" and describes how chores can actually be fun. Any fan of the classic Disney film, young or old, will appreciate this rollicking Dixieland version.


1: 'You've Got a Friend in Me' by Randy Newman

Girls waving in back seat of car
The "Toy Story" films stress friendship and loyalty.

The animated film "Toy Story" has become a beloved classic for people of all ages. So, it's fitting that its theme song rounds out our list of music that everyone can agree on.

Randy Newman's composition about friendship and loyalty was featured in all three "Toy Story" films, and it's been covered by a wide variety of artists in a number of different languages. But it's the original that lands on our list; Newman's likeable lyrics and gently-swinging arrangement instantly puts the listener in mind of childhood. It's the perfect song for kids and adults to find some common ground and discover that their musical worlds aren't so far apart, after all.

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  • The B52s Website. "About The B52s." (March 13, 2011)http://theb52s.com/about
  • Entertainment Weekly. "Jack Johnson and Friends." Feb. 21, 2006. (March 17, 2011)http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,1161699,00.html
  • The Four Lads Website. "Group History." February 7, 2000. (March 14, 2011)http://www.thefourlads.com/history.htm
  • The Official Harry Connick, Jr. Site. "Songs I Heard." (March 16, 2011)http://www.harryconnickjr.com/us/music/songs-i-heard
  • Randy Newman Official Website. (March 18, 2011)http://randynewman.com/
  • The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. "The Beatles: Inducted in 1988." (March 16, 2011)http://rockhall.com/inductees/the-beatles/
  • The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. "The Four Tops Biography." (March 14, 2011)http://rockhall.com/inductees/the-four-tops/bio/
  • The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. "The Jackson 5: Inducted in 1997." (March 14, 2011)http://rockhall.com/inductees/the-jackson-five/
  • Walsh, Dan. "CD Review: Justin Roberts - Jungle Gym." Milwaukee Moms.com. June 2, 2010. (March 16, 2011)http://www.milwaukeemoms.com/blogs/kitchentable/95436659.html