14 Great Rock Songs Featuring Harmonica

Written by on November 16, 2017

Every couple months, my KPSU radio show Six Degrees of Rockination has a theme. In November 2017, that theme was harmonica. What songs did I play?

 


 

Brother Cane – “Got No Shame”

What better way to start the show than with an absolute scorcher? This song not only has first-rate harmonica, it’s got a face-melting guitar solo, too. Funny story: first time I heard this song, I thought it was Guns ‘n’ Roses.

Ezra Furman – “Take Off Your Sunglasses”

This one’s not rocking at all. I’m not sure how to classify it, actually. Hipster folk pop? All I know is I like it and it has a very Neil Young-esque harmonica.

Midnight Oil – “Blue Sky Mine”

My favorite song by one of my all-time favorite bands. Best part of this song is the breakdown at the 3:20 mark. The drums drop out, the guitar goes all staccato, and the harmonica wails. Great breakdown.

James Cotton – “The Midnight Creeper (live)”

I actually saw this guy perform when I was a teenager, and I can attest that it sounded a lot like this. Huge energy, a horn section, the audience clapping along, and Mr. Superharp himself wailing on the harmonica. He was a hell of an entertainer.

Beck – “Clap Hands (live)”

This is a performance from the TV show Saturday Night Live, and the real star of the song isn’t the harmonica, it’s the guys playing percussion. They’re sitting at a table on stage, using forks and knives to pound out a rhythm on plates and bowls and glasses. It’s epic.

Stevie Wonder – “Boogie On Reggae Woman”

Stevie’s done a lot of good harmonica work and I was tempted to go with his song “Fingertips,” which I believe he did when he was 12 years old. I went with this song, instead, just for the funkiness of it. Love that clavinet sound Stevie was always using in the ’70s.

Sammy Hagar – “Little White Lie”

Say what you will about Sammy being a poser, but this song is absolutely first-rate. I love the way it builds from acoustic to electric, from quiet to loud, from calm to ferocious. And then there’s the great harmonica break played by… wait for it… Huey Lewis! I swear it’s true!

The Wild Reeds – “Where I’m Going (live)”

Our soft and pretty song of the day. A friend of mine turned me onto this song, so I actually don’t know too much about the band, but I do know that I love these great three-part harmonies. In addition to the harmonica, there may also be an accordion in this song. I’m not sure.

The Stone Foxes – “Locomotion”

And we’re back to the rock! This song is just incendiary. If you’re not into the Stone Foxes, you should get into them. They’re all about the rockin’ blues and the bluesy rock.

The View – “Typical Time 2”

This song’s not rockin’ at all. I’d almost call it “cute.” Short and simple, with some great piano, some great harmonica, and what almost sounds like a banjo in the background? Maybe?

C2C – “Down the Road”

This “band” is actually four French DJs who find great samples and splice them together into wonderful new songs. If you like this one, check out their song “Happy.”

The Wanton Bishops – “Whoopy”

This band is a new discovery for me and I am so into them. They’re out of Beirut, Lebanon, and are doing some really good, modern takes on the blues. If you like this one, check out the songs “Waslaha” and “Shake.”

Jeremy Fisher – “American Girls”

This is definitely Dylan-esque, with its acoustic guitar, its simple harmonica, and lyrics that now and then remind me of “Subterranean Homesick Blues.”

Blues Traveler – “Brother John”

If you’re doing a harmonica theme show, you kind of have to play a Blues Traveler song, right? John Popper is the Jimi Hendrix of the harmonica, doing things that almost seem impossible. The rest of the band’s pretty damn good, too. If you don’t know Blues Traveler well, you need to change that. Their whole catalog is great, not just the radio hits.

 


 

And there you go. Quite a list, eh? Want to hear the entire radio show? Here’s the link. A solid hour of fantastic rock ‘n’ roll featuring the harmonica.

 

 

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