Friendship is a complicated thing. It can save your life — like when a good buddy gets you through a bad breakup — or it can drive you absolutely nuts. After all, some friends lie and let you down, and if they’re not secretly plotting your demise, they might be harboring romantic feelings that threaten to destroy the relationship. Or maybe it’s you doing the crushing. Either way, pop musicians feel your pain. Over the years, everyone from strutting stadium rockers to steely gangsta rappers have penned songs on the subject. Read on to see what 20 odes to friendship rank among our favorites.
1. “We’re Going to Be Friends” —The White Stripes
Long before he made scuzzy rock ‘n’ roll with Meg White, schoolboy Jack White dug playing in the dirt with sweet Suzy Lee. This one’s warmer and fuzzier than just about any vintage guitar tone White has deafened us with in his post-elementary-school years.
2.”You’re My Best Friend” —Queen
(Hot 100 Peak: No. 16; Peak Date: July 31, 1976)
If the whole androgynous rock-god thing hadn’t worked out, Freddie Mercury would’ve found a home at Hallmark. Pair these lyrics with a photo of a puppy and a kitty snuggled up on a carpet, and you’ve got the kind of extra-special thank-you card you send a buddy after he or she saves you from a shark attack or bails you out of prison.
3. “Lean on Me” —Bill Withers
(Hot 100 Peak: No. 1 for 3 weeks; Peak Date: July 8, 1972)
The Grammy-winning ’80s remake by Club Nouveau has a better beat, but in terms of sheer tear-to-the-eye tenderness, there’s no beating Withers’ 1972 original. Hopeful and heartfelt, it cuts through 21st century cynicism faster than the NSA tapping into your phone line.
4.”With a Little Help From My Friends”—The Beatles
(Hot 100 Peak: No. 71; Peak Date: Sept. 30, 1978)
We should all have friends like John, Paul, George, and Ringo. They’ll help you get by and get high, and when you’re really feeling low, they’ll cheer you up with a secret dick joke. (“What do you see when you turn out the light? / I can’t tell you but I know it’s mine.”)
5. “You Got a Friend In Me” —Randy Newman
This cuddly Toy Story soundtrack tune is basically the Cheers theme for folks too young to hang out in bars. And after a few beers, most adults will weep over Newman’s gooey lyrics and the fond memories of childhood dolls they invoke.
6. “Umbrella” —Rihanna
(Hot 100 Peak: No. 1 for 7 weeks; Peak Date: June 9, 2007)
Figuratively speaking, Ri’s there on gloomy days to offer shelter from the storm. Literally, she probably hasn’t hoisted her own umbrella for years, and when the skies open up, the Fonzworth Bentley type in her entourage ain’t letting you get anywhere near the star.
7. “Wannabe” —The Spice Girls
(Hot 100 Peak: No. 1 for 4 weeks; Peak Date: Feb. 22, 1997)
“Friendship never ends,” the Spice Girls told us on their breakthrough single, and while they went on indefinite hiatus in 2000, seemingly contradicting that super-positive “girl power” message, they’ve since regrouped a couple of times, most recently for a performance at the closing ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics. Technically, these gals weren’t lying. Friendship doesn’t end, but it does take breaks.
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