With 365 days a year to choose from, we figured it’d be a cinch to compile a list of Top 10 Birthday Songs. But we found that songs specifically addressing this subject were surprisingly scarce in the classic rock canon. Still, if you’re feeling a little tired of hearing that same old birthday song (and dance), here are a few alternate choices you can ask your friends and family to memorize and perform, in your honor. It’s your special day, after all…
‘Birthday Special’ Peter Hammil
From: ‘Nadir’s Big Chance’ (1975)
We’ll kick off our list of the Top 10 Birthday Songs with this rather head-scratching solo offering from Van Der Graaf Generator frontman Peter Hammill, who waxes somewhat randomly about ice in the cauldron, parrots in the pantry and Hansel and Gretel, leaving us none too sure that we’d like to be on the receiving end of this ‘Birthday Special,’ whatever it is.
‘At Your Birthday’ Steppenwolf
From: ‘At Your Birthday Party’ (1969)
Are we the only ones who feel that inviting scruffy ‘60s acid rockers Steppenwolf to one’s birthday party would either turn out really well or really, really badly -- but nowhere in between? This creepy, cryptic closing cut from the group’s third album certainly appears to suggest the latter scenario, but we’ll still be happy to attend. So long as there’s cake.
‘Birthday Morning’ The Association
From: ‘Birthday’ (1968)
Ah, the Summer of Love. Never before and never again did innocent dreams and positive vibes pervade popular culture so thoroughly. Like other flower power anthems of the period, the Association’s whimsical ‘Birthday Morning’ still wafts gently down the ages, carrying a kaleidoscopic snapshot of that magical time. Oh, and a card, too! How thoughtful.
‘The Birthday’ The Idle Race
From: ‘The Birthday Party’ (1968)
Future ELO mastermind Jeff Lynne (who also briefly made wonderful music alongside Roy Wood, in the Move) enjoyed his career’s official breakout party (forgive the pun) on this eponymous 1968 debut from his first major group, the Idle Race. Released in the wake of ‘Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band’ (and it shows!), ‘The Birthday’ is English psychedelia at its paisley peak.
‘Birthday Dethday’ Deathklok
From: ‘The Dethalbum’ (2007)
After touching on such sunny, upbeat selections to start our list of Top 10 Birthday Songs, surely you’ll forgive us for taking a brief detour into downright evil and hellacious birthday wishes, courtesy of cartoon metal band Dethklok and their positively hysterical ‘Birthday Dethday.’ Hey, as the saying goes, “it’s my (birthday) party and I’ll die if I want to.”
‘Too Bad on Your Birthday’ Ram Jam
From ‘Ram Jam’ (1977)
Who here remembers this fetching little birthday ditty from Ram Jam’s cult eponymous debut? Though built around a catchy riff that was suspiciously redolent of T. Rex’s ‘Get it On,’ the song couldn’t elevate the band beyond one-hit-wonder status (that being the classic ‘Black Betty', but Joan Jett later dusted off this tune with excellent results.
From: ‘Crown of Creation’ (1968)
This evocative opening number from the Jefferson Airplane’s fourth album delivered a contradictory birthday message involving Peter Pan Syndrome. Written by singer Grace Slick and based, in part, by childlike Airplane bassist Jack Casady, ‘Lather’ reminds us we need not age inside our minds, even if the years mounting on the calendar tell us otherwise.
From: ‘The Beatles’ (1968)
Ask nine out of 10 Beatles fans for their opinion of ‘Birthday’ and you may not like their answer; but ask nine out of 10 people to suggest a tune for our list of Top 10 Birthday Songs, and this one was probably the first they thought of. We’re not dumb enough to vote “love” or “hate” in the perennial debate about this ‘White Album’ song … just doing our jobs by including it here.
’The Magician’s Birthday’ Uriah Heep
From: ‘The Magician’s Birthday’ (1972)
At nearly 11 minutes in length, all of it dedicated to celebrating a magician’s special day, there was no way we’d omit this Uriah Heep epic from our list of the Top 10 Birthday Songs. Still, the band themselves appear not to take themselves too seriously (is that a kazoo we’re hearing?) throughout the title track of their fifth LP.
‘The Greatest Discovery’ Elton John
From: ‘Elton John’ (1970)
When all was said and done, no entry in our list of Top 10 Birthday Songs tugged at the ol’ heartstrings quite as firmly as this touching cult favorite from Elton John’s eponymous sophomore LP. Here, all the selfish birthday talk of “me, me!” shifts 180 degrees to relay a young child’s sheer wonder at the arrival of a baby brother — a birthday present you’d be hard pressed to top (or try to exchange at the store).
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