12 Best Songs to Play on a Jukebox
Playing a song on a jukebox sounds and feels extra special because it embraces the nostalgia of music past. It conjures up images of places and times when jukeboxes were most popular, from honky-tonks with sawdust-covered floors to neighborhood pizza parlors and video arcades. Whatever memories or imaginings you have regarding this music-playing machine, choosing the best songs to play on a jukebox depends on what mood you’re in and what bygone era you’re trying to capture.
Honky Tonk Tunes
When jukeboxes were all the rage, they were found in every local country bar with the buttons of favorite songs worn from the amount of use they received. As soon as your song came on, it was time to hit the dance floor for a two-step with your sweetheart or a line dance with the crowd. A few of the best songs to play on a jukebox for the country music lover in you include tunes that make people want to get up and boogie.
Don’t Rock the Jukebox by Alan Jackson
If there was ever a song that was fit for the device it was played on, it has to be “Don’t Rock the Jukebox” by country legend Alan Jackson. The lyrics of this top hit talk about playing a slow song by music great George Jones to ease a broken heart, but the tempo of the song itself is one of Jackson’s best sing-alongs that’s sure to get people going.
Callin’ Baton Rouge by Garth Brooks
Speaking of country legends, a jukebox playlist would be remiss not to include some Garth Brooks hits. His fast-paced song “Callin’ Baton Rouge” is enough to liven up any bar, restaurant, or at-home party. Anyone who’s ever attended one of his concerts in person will feel the same energy come through when his songs get played in any form. It’s only fitting to reserve a space for one of his most beloved numbers.
She’s in Love with the Boy by Trisha Yearwood
Not to be outdone by her country singer husband, Trisha Yearwood holds her own in the heart of country music fans. She started her path to success in 1991 when her debut hit “She’s in Love with the Boy” made its way to radio airwaves and Country Music Television. It’s been a timeless throwback ever since, and as soon as the first notes begin to play, it’s clear why it’s one of the best songs to play on a jukebox.
I Cross My Heart by George Strait
Few people sing a country ballad better than country icon George Strait. When his slow songs come on the jukebox, it’s time for a twirl around the dance floor with the one you love. “I Cross My Heart” was an instant classic when it came out and served as the main song from the Pure Country soundtrack, a movie he also starred in, as what else, a country musician.
Catchy Hits from the ‘60s
The music industry shifted in the 1960s from the sock-hop bops from the decade before. The sounds of this time built on the rock and roll genre and added in significant contributions from Motown, the British Invasion, and the surfer vibe of The Beach Boys. Each had their own unique sound and have held strong as some of the top catalogs in the music still played today. When you think of golden oldies, it’s likely you’re thinking of songs from the ‘60s.
Ain’t No Mountain High Enough by Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
This Motown duo teamed up more than once for duets that everyone can sing along to and enjoy. The tinkly intro to “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” has graced soundtrack playlists and jukeboxes for decades, never going out of style. It’s a song that’s been passed down the generations and will continue to be a favorite among those young and old.
Brown Eyed Girl by Van Morrison
“Brown Eyed Girl” is a dive bar go-to that’s catchy with lyrics that sound like a sunny day. It’s one of the best songs to play on a jukebox because it instantly transports you to this energetic decade of music, but still popular enough to hold up today. Even if you don’t know a single lyric, you can likely chime on the “sha la la” part, if nothing else.
God Only Knows by The Beach Boys
Not all jukebox songs have an upbeat tempo. Sometimes a slow song is exactly what’s called for to reset the mood. The Beach Boys classic “God Only Knows” is a sweet tune that embodies the group’s signature sound. It’s popular among all generations for its beautiful melody and the nostalgic feel of hearing it whenever it’s played.
My Girl by The Temptations
The Los Angeles Times once named “My Girl” as one of the best songs to play on a jukebox. The song is instantly recognizable by the first few chords and is as popular now as it was when it first came out. The Temptations were known for their rich harmonies and smooth dance moves, and listening to this song come on the jukebox brings back the memory of “boy bands” of a different time.
80’s Jams and Top 40 Hits
The music of the ‘80s offered something for everyone, from New Wave music to one-hit wonders to Top 40 hits played on repeat, everyone could find their style of music during this eclectic era. While the boombox was the listening device of this decade, there were plenty of places to hear your chosen tunes, from the roller skating rink to the video arcade, getting your song played on the jukebox was a magical moment.
Pour Some Sugar on Me by Def Leppard
Fans of big-hair rockers with cutoff t-shirts playing guitar riffs always have a good time when they hear Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” arguably the band’s biggest mainstream hit. With a driving rhythm and simple lyrics, putting this tune on the jukebox never gets old.
Come On Eileen by Dexys Midnight Runners
“Come On Eileen” has a slow-to-fast tempo that makes it a hit among the party scene. Part of the lyrics even point out that “you’ll hum this tune forever,” which is true for this 80’s throwback, since once you have it in your head, it’s hard to forget it.
Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey
“Don’t Stop Believin’” is a song with true staying power that’s graced many a jukebox, usually played as a signal of last call at the bar. As the song has been passed down through the years, it takes on various meanings for people who’ve listened to it at different stages in their lives. Whether you hear it when the song first came out or if you were introduced to classics in college, it’s an 80’s hit that lives on forever.
How Will I Know by Whitney Houston
As one of the ‘80’s music’s reigning queens, Whitney Houston knew how to stun with one of her powerful ballads. However, it’s her upbeat, pop hit “How Will I Know” that’s the quintessential 80’s party song. It’ll instantly make you think back to neon accessories and popped collars on polo shirts. It’s tough to pick just one song from her collection, but this is an unexpected, yet one of the best, songs to play on a jukebox.
Selecting the Ultimate Jukebox Song
Country music, ‘60’s hits, and 80’s jams represent only a few of the top eras of music, but there’s room for so many more. There are endless opportunities for putting together your ultimate jukebox playlist from reggae to rap and folk rock to bluegrass. It’s a chance to possibly introduce songs that are unfamiliar to your guests or relive old standbys that’ll bring your group back to a particular time you had together. Then again, you may be setting up various playlists to listen to solo that’ll set the tone for the day.
Curating the right mix of jukebox songs comes down to the type of vibe you want to achieve. Are you hosting a dinner party, rowdy get together, or something in between? You want choices that take people back in time with catchy lyrics and a strong beat with a compilation that everyone can enjoy, whatever the genre may be. Regardless of if you’re at a bar or listening to music on the jukebox at home, there’s a unique element to the listening experience.
Fortunately, there are no hard and fast rules for the best type of music to play on the jukebox, especially now that the jukebox’s history has transitioned from automated record selection to streaming digital playlists. Back in the day, there was no better feeling than when the jukebox selected your song in the rotation. Between the look, sound, and memories associated with this vintage machine, capturing the perfect combination of songs is part of the fun. Not tired of jukebox content yet? Learn more about what a jukebox is and how it works here at Victrola.