Piano songs

On this day in 1972, Bill Withers’ three-week run at the top of the Billboard Top 100 singles chart in the USA began thanks to this song: ‘Lean On Me’.

A beautifully simple, yet powerful, number, I wonder which others you consider similarly pleasing. (If, indeed, you do. Maybe you hate it.)

Songs based – loosely – around a sole voice and piano, with limited accompaniment, please. (So much of it is needless anyway, don’t you think?)

Naturally, John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ springs to mind, as does Neil Young’s ‘After the Gold Rush’ and Joni Mitchell’s equally-splendid ‘River’. We mustn’t forget Joe Cocker’s ‘You Are So Beautiful’, whilst to overlook Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ would be criminal. Then there’s Kate Bush, Elton John…

The chatroom will be open tomorrow – 12 noon in the UK. The calendar can ably reveal to you when other chat sessions are scheduled for the month of July, so please take this as an invitation to call in if any of the times suit you.

Author: FEd

Features Editor of David Gilmour’s official blog, The Blog (‘Features’ previously being its rather naff title), affectionately – or lazily – shortened to ‘FEd’.

68 thoughts on “Piano songs”

  1. Lean on Me is a great one.

    One of my favorites is Stay/The Load Out by Jackson Browne.

  2. Maybe because I’ve been compulsively listening to Floyd all week… no, because it’s greater than great: I’m going with “Us and Them”.

  3. The Great Gig in the Sky would be one of my most favourite piano songs with the vocals. What a classic.

    Booker T and the MGs’ Time is Tight for the organ to complement both instruments.

  4. I once heard a haunting version of R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion” by a piano diva, just a woman’s stirring voice and a piano. Can’t remember who this artist was: Bjork? Sarah McLaughlin? Whomever it was, this was one haunting song!

    Of all the Billy Joel songs, I have always been partial to his “New York State of Mind.” It feels like the City at night. What excellent piano playing, too.

    “Traffic” and “Low Spark of High Heeled Boys” is one that I listened to quite a bit in school, at a time when I was increasingly interested in jazz.

  5. Hi FEd!

    My girls hate, loathe and despise ‘Lean On Me’. When they were in middle school, the school played the song twice a day, every day (they went there for 1 1/2 years before we moved, again). So of course that’s what I think of whenever it is mentioned or played.

    I’m hoping to make it to the chat before work. It’s been such a very long time since I have chatted. 🙁


  6. Oh, how I love this post! I’ll try to limit myself here since I am utterly in love with the piano. 😉

    I think that ‘Lean on Me’ is a nice song, but the problem is that I’m just too burnt out on the song. Excellent (!) call on ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ and ‘River’.

    To add one Floyd song, pure piano, is ‘Love Scene-Version 4’ from Zabriskie Point (the bonus tracks). All Richard and it’s beautiful, baby! 🙂

    Another song I absolutely love is ‘The Promise’ by Michael Nyman.

    I know, or believe, this song isn’t based around the piano necessarily, but I do love the piano work in ‘Well All Right’ by Blind Faith. Actually, the same goes for ‘The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys’ by Traffic and ‘A Pocketful of Stones’ by Mr. Gilmour (to which I find the piano so dainty in).

    Elton John… there are too many to list.

    My final pick is: ‘Sonata for Cello and Piano in G minor, Op. 19: II Allegro scherzando’ – Rachmaninov.

    Thanks for another fun post, FEd! Have a great weekend!

  7. Louis Armstrong – What a Wonderful World
    Paul McCartney – Let It Be
    Simon and Garfunkel – Bridge Over Troubled Water
    Joe Cocker – You Are So Beautiful
    Leonard Cohen – Suzanne
    Neil Young – Old Man
    Five for Fighting – 100 Years

    These are a few I think of that have left a good impression on me. All are sixties and seventies except Five for Fighting’s 100 Years which was 2003 if I’m not mistaken. Like FEd said, they’re simple yet powerful and tend to leave an indelible mark on folks who care to begin with and change to those who are tempted by care.

    Re: Bill Wither’s Lean on Me

    Within the Hebrew word for wise man “Tzadeeq” there is a root word. That root word is “charity”. There is no wisdom without charity. 😀

  8. Neil Young has made so many piano songs! I’ve seen him in February 2008, fantastic show with a first solo part, and some wonderful piano pieces (A Man Needs a Maid; Love in Mind; No One Seems to Know).

  9. The Island by Paul Brady… great song with a lovely short acoustic solo in the middle!

    Heading to a Log Cabin in the Scottish Highlands for a bit, Fed…


  10. Otis Redding – “Sitting on Top of the Bay” is to me just one of those songs that lets it flow all way.

    Who needs any more songs other than you know what? 😉

  11. For me it would be David singing ‘Out Of The Blue’ while playing piano (first and only time I saw him play the piano) at the Hammersmith Odeon in 1984. Great lyrics too.

    Here it is (it’s from an official VHS video, eh?)

    I think he also performed it at a benefit concert (Colombian Volcano concert?) but I don’t remember where and when.


    1. It was at the Royal Albert Hall in February 1986, an event organised by Chucho Merchan in aid of the Nevado del Ruiz Disaster Appeal Fund.

      David performed ‘Comfortably Numb’, ‘Out of the Blue’ and ‘Run Like Hell’ (with Chucho on bass).

      The Nevado del Ruiz volcano and ensuing floods caused the deaths of more than 25,000 people.

    2. Oh, thank you for all the details.

      And I’m impressed, is there anything you don’t know about David?

  12. Today on the Ross Halfin (photographer) web site you will find on his Diary page 6 pictures from the Jeff Beck gig at the Royal Albert Hall last Saturday. One backstage and 2 onstage with David.

    Gary Hurley.
    London England.

    1. There are 15 of them now. They clearly have a great affection for each other from the backstage and rehearsal photos. I would love to see them put something down on vinyl together some day. Their tone (or is it tones) are ideally matched to each other.

  13. hi fed , it has been a long time . i hope all is well .

    i keep missing chats as i am usually out at work or don’t hear of them . thankfully i am busy .

    if i could make a small suggestion : can you send out a chat reminder on twitter as you do for your blog posts please ? i use twitter to keep up with some english friends so i do go there a few times a day .

    seeing as this does have a tiny bit of vocal at the end , although it is mostly instrumental , i might be able to twist the rules to squish it in : elton john – song for guy . i just love that piece of music although i am not a huge elton john fan .

    marillion – hollow man . it is from the album brave . steve hogarth has a voice that really suits piano only songs . also the brave album is what in the 70s was called a concept album . it is amazing .

    if i didn’t have to rush out to work i could go through my itunes and get some more .

    just one last thing before i go , am i allowed mention that guy pratt is playing dublin again with my bass and other animals on the 12th of september as part of the bulmers comedy festival ? as i recall it is in the academy , middle abbey street . ( yes , i got my ticket last week !)

    take care , peace


    1. if i could make a small suggestion : can you send out a chat reminder on twitter as you do for your blog posts please ? i use twitter to keep up with some english friends so i do go there a few times a day .

      Although I have to say I prefer suggestions for lightening my workload, not adding to it, I’ll certainly think about doing that in future, Linda.

      (You don’t check your e-mail?)

  14. Any Joni Mitchell Fed, I put on Court and Spark after your post then looked at what else of her stuff I have, I don’t have time to listen to it all this morning and can’t remember what is what. Down to You is playing right now, beautiful.

    I have two Norah Jones albums, her stuff is very laid back, late at night chill out (extremely good looking woman too, if I was a bloke, I’d fancy her! Any of our male bloggers, have a look on YouTube). 🙂

    I used to have Bill Withers’ Still, lost it but I did enjoy it, thanks for the reminder Fed.

    Jerry Lee Lewis?

    Trying to think of other piano stuff I’ve enjoyed…

    ash X

  15. How could I forget Stevie Wonder?

    All in Love is Fair is the first one I can remember that’s predominantly piano.

    ash X

  16. You’ll be pleased with this one Fed.

    I just remembered Bryan Ferry. There’s some nice piano on his version of Don’t Think Twice it’s Alright. 🙂

    ash X

    1. Oops, sorry Fed. Obviously you would prefer the original (which I am now listening to and you are quite right, nobody else could ever do it justice).

      I hoped you’d be pleased that I knew it was a Dylan song and I’d actually learned something. 😉

      I recognise I have probably caused deep offence and will hang my head in shame (we need a sheepish looking emoticon).

      ash X

    2. I recognise I have probably caused deep offence and will hang my head in shame (we need a sheepish looking emoticon).

      :)) Quite right.

      Actually, I thought Bryan Ferry’s album of Dylan covers was great. I liked what he did with ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door’ especially.

  17. I would have to suggest a couple of Ryan Adams songs here:

    “Sylvia Plath” from the album Gold and another, unreleased song that I’ve only got a bootleg of, called “Don’t Get Sentimental On Me”, which is also amazing.

  18. Ahhh piano songs… so many, so many.

    Court and Spark ~ Joni Mitchell
    The Long And Winding Road ~ The Beatles

    “Ticking” – a very unknown but probably my favorite song by Elton John. If you’ve never heard it do yourself a favor and follow along with Bernie Taupin’s crushing lyrics.

  19. For some reason the first song that popped into my head was The Eagles “Wasted Time.” I haven’t heard that song in a long time and can’t quite remember if it fits this category but I’m sure someone will correct me if I am wrong.



    1. You said ‘Eagles’, so believe me, it fits. 🙂

      A beautiful song with beautiful words delivered beautifully.

      “I could have done so many things, baby
      If I could only stop my mind wondering what I left behind
      And from worrying about this wasted time.”

  20. Richard Wright – Wearing the Inside Out. Very poignant lyrics. Freddie Mercury also had a fantastic voice and some of his solo work with just a keyboard was very powerful and for catchy little numbers Alan Price and Georgie Fame!

    Just watched David with Jeff Beck – Hi Ho Silver Lining. Brilliant, another catchy feelgood factor song and 2 great guitarists working together and having a good time… long may it continue!

  21. My favourite piano song is Peter Green take on Tim Hardin’s Hang On To A Dream. Never heard the original, however Peter is great on that one.

    A Pocketful Of Stones is also one of my favourites, particularly the Gdańsk version, the interplay between David and Leszek is fantastic. Orchestra and Steve are also worth mentioning.

    The Great Gig In The Sky is not a song, but for sure a very important piece of music and of course classic of all piano songs, Georgia On My Mind by Genius Ray Charles. Steve Winwood returned to that standard recently but on Hammond. Not bad at all.

  22. Well, two beautiful songs spring to mind at the moment, one of them being David’s ‘Out of the Blue’ – a song which I absolutely love – and the second Black Sabbath’s ‘Changes’.

    David is an accomplished pianist isn’t he?

    Did he play the piano on ‘So Far Away’? That too is a beautiful song.

  23. Lean On Me is a great one, isn’t it?

    One of my favorite songs that is primarily piano and vocal is Joni Mitchell’s ‘Judgement of the Moon and Stars (Ludwig’s Song)’. There are a few moments of strings/flute, but for the most part it is simply Joni singing her brilliant lyrics and playing the piano – absolutely beautiful and moving.

    “… You’ve got to shake your fists at lightning now
    You’ve got to roar like forest fire
    You’ve got to spread your light like blazes
    All across the sky.
    They’re going to aim the hoses on you
    Show ’em you won’t expire
    Not till you burn up every passion
    Not even when you die.
    Come on now
    You’ve got to try
    If you’re feeling contempt
    Well then you tell it,
    If you’re tired of the silent night
    Jesus, well then you yell it.
    Condemned to wires and hammers
    Strike every chord that you feel
    That broken trees
    And elephant ivories

    Joni Mitchell, from the album For The Roses

    Peace. 🙂

  24. Neil Young – A Man Needs A Maid

    Incredible song…

    OK, so the strings rule it out of the “just a voice and piano” bit, but, still, wow! 😀

  25. There aren’t many songs I can think of that are little more than piano and singing, but the song that first came to mind was Giving It All Away by Roger Daltrey. I know it’s written by Leo Sayer but I’ve only ever heard Roger’s version of it.

    Another song which, although it has other instruments on it, and so probably doesn’t quite count for this topic, uses the piano really well in my opinion is Fool’s Overture by Supertramp.

    Still, it’s not quite as off topic as this.

    1. Still, it’s not quite as off topic as this.

      :)) Fail!

      What a dilemma: cut the tree down and feel like a tree murderer for the rest of your life or have yourself a pretty useless garage.

      Would be good if you only plan to keep bicycles in there, I suppose.

  26. I would encourage people to have a listen to Henry Butler’s Voodoo Man from Cory Harris & Henry Butler’s album Vu-Du Menz.

    Henry carries the mantle of king of ragtime & stride piano (subjectively speaking of course) for whom Jelly Roll Morton is the almighty deity.

  27. Just noticed you were talking about the Eagles in the chat room today, more head hanging in shame coming up…

    I said way back in December or January that I thought the price for tickets was a bit steep and I wouldn’t be going.

    Well, I bought Long Road Out of Eden and loved it. The tickets had sold out. Oh well, serves me right I thought, then another date was announced but I didn’t know if I would be well enough to go so gave up on the idea (ask me about the Dylan concert next time we are in the chat room Fed).

    Anyway, I had a brainstorm on Tuesday and went to the venue and GOT (!!!) tickets for Wednesday. I just knew I’d regret it if I didn’t see them.

    Has to have been one of THE shows to see this year and worth every penny.

    ash X

    1. So glad that you enjoyed it, Ash. Tuesday’s performance was absolutely flawless. For me, it was one of the shows of the last decade, never mind year. (And is it just me, or do their voices – Don Henley’s in particular – get better with age?)

      A tip of the hat to the NIA staff; the way they made sure that distracting camera flashes didn’t irritate everyone seated beyond the first few rows for long was something to applaud. Several persistent offenders were quietly escorted away and late arrivals made to wait until a break in the music.

      Oh, and Birmingham’s much nicer than London, isn’t it?

    2. Their voices, unbelievably good, it was as if they’d never broken up, everything was flawless as you said. I was in tears for some of the songs, what is it about beautiful music and voices that moves us to tears?

      What about that intro to Hotel California? I won’t say anything about it in case there are people reading who will be going tomorrow. Paul (Sexton), thank you for not spoiling the surprises. 🙂

      Glad you liked Birmingham Fed, I think it’s a friendly and relaxed city, you must come again now you know how good it is.

      The staff at Symphony Hall and the Town Hall do the same with cameras and late comers. These are also great venues.

      I nearly said David would sound so good at Symphony Hall but David would sound good no matter where. 😉 It only holds about 2000 anyway.

      ash X

  28. ‘As Time Goes By’ – Dooley Wilson
    ‘The Man With The Child in His Eyes’ – Kate Bush
    ‘Ain’t Nobody’s Business’ – Billie Holiday

  29. What about Rory Gallagher’s “Out On The Western Plain” or “Daughter of The Everglades”?

    The first one is only him and a guitar and the second one with some very piano-like accords…

    (I can’t believe that it’s over 14 years since he passed away…)


  30. Neil Young’s “After the Gold Rush” and R.E.M.’s “Nightswimming” are the first two songs that come in my mind, talking about piano songs.

    Richard Wright’s “Pink’s Song” is another great one, even though the piano is not the only instrument.

    More than these, there are many Tori Amos songs I would add to my list (“Yes, Anastasia” is my favourite) and also a couple of Nick Cave’s songs, “Into my Arms” and “(Are You) the One That I’ve Been Waiting For?”. I’m not a big fan of him, but I like very much some songs from “The Boatman’s Call”.

  31. One comes to mind immediately… having been on a Queen kick lately, and listening to the mind blowing album A Day at the Races, the second track You Take My Breath Away. Lush in the vocal qualities (hey, it IS Freddie Mercury that we’re talking about here, right?), the amazing harmonies (which act as another instrument), and the yearning piano work really gives me goosebumps.

    Give it a listen if you have this CD… you’ll immediately see what I mean!


    1. Read your comment earlier and was not sure if I should respond or not. Did not want to date myself, you know.

      I think Freddie Mercury was one the most talented persons in the music field. I agree with your selections and many more. Too bad he left this world so early in his life. I’m sure the “Queen ” as we knew would have had a lot more of good stuff to offer us.

      Freddie Mercury is sadly missed in my mind. Am glad I have many of their albums in my collection.

  32. Stevie Wonder – They Won’t Go When I Go.

    It stopped me in my tracks the first time I heard it, the lyrics are so poignant. He sung it beautifully at MJ’s memorial service.

  33. So glad you enjoyed The Eagles, Fed. I didn’t want to say too much last week because it was so so good. Don Henley’s voice is like a fine wine and Joe Walsh is a show in himself… superb show!

  34. Oh, and Birmingham’s much nicer than London, isn’t it?

    It is indeed.

    Glad you enjoyed yourself, FEd. Hope you got to see a little more than the NIA area.

  35. It’s quite tricky thinking of songs that stick with piano but a few songs spring out of iTunes that I think fit the general brief and deserve a mention:

    Elton John – Your Song
    Lou Reed – Perfect Day
    Nick Cave – He Wants You
    Carole King – So Far Away
    Fleetwood Mac – Songbird
    Neil Young – Philadelphia
    Radiohead – Like Spinning Plates (live version from I Might Be Wrong – go on check it out) 😉

    Sting – The Secret Marriage

    …and of course The Great Gig always deserves to be on any list we can contrive.

  36. I appreciate the topics and the different likes for the many different types that make us a great world to live in.

    I agree with so many of the titles and artists mentioned above. I am such a music freak that it excites me to have this venue to share and learn with others.

    Besides many of the above mentioned I would have to add Michael Murphy’s Wild Fire. The original cut of Wild Fire had a beautiful piano intro that was rarely heard on the radio. I have yet to find that version but remember all to well how nice it was. Does anyone else remember?

    I’m listening to Carole King as we speak thanks to your blog title and question. Her Tapestry album would be another pick of mine to add to your list.

    Of course I have many more picks that would qualify but do not want to go on and on. Enjoy hearing about other folks favorites also.

    Thanks again for this venue. I enjoy it very much.

    Love to the world.

  37. Anything by Regina Spektor, but most beautiful is Samson (the first version on the album “Songs” is just piano and voice). Her last album “Far” has some awesome piano playing as well as the usual quirky lyrics.

    Don’t forget Chopin, Liszt, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and many more… the songs may not have any words, but the music is beautiful.

    When is David coming to Australia?

    Francois in Adelaide

  38. Almost everything by Billy Joel should be mentioned, even if it much of it has a full band behind it, the piano is still the main instrument 98% of the time.

    And I think one of the most underrated PF piano-based songs, “Summer ’68.”

    But PURE piano and voice? Sarah McLachlan’s “When She Loved Me” from Toy Story 2, which is that much more meaningful in the context of the film.

  39. Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    I had an idol when I was 15 years old; she was French and she was so original, unique and special. After she had an alcohol problem, and she was never the same.

    Michèle, ça te rappelles quelque chose cette chanson?

    1. ‘Amoureuse’, Véronique Samson l’était de Michel Berger, un autre merveilleux chanteur/auteur/compositeur/pianiste. Connais-tu ‘Diego’?

      “Derrière des barreaux
      Pour quelques mots
      Qu’il pensait si fort


      Diego, libre dans sa tête
      Derrière sa fenêtre
      Déjà mort peut-être…”

      Just beautiful.

  40. If this turns out correctly you should hear one of my favorite songs. It is ‘In The Deep’ from the movie ‘Crash’.

    Please give it a listen. Beautiful, gentle, moving piece.


  41. Here is another one.

    This is Stevie Wonder doing one of his loveliest called ‘I Never Dreamed You’d leave In Summer’. Worth the listen as well.


    1. Hey Jan,

      Thanks for this lead. Beautiful song. You made my day as I went to the YouTube site to hear your selections, typed in Michael Murphy – Wild Fire and found the long sought version I have searched for with the beautiful piano intro.

      Happy smiles the rest of the day thanks to you. 🙂

  42. Thanks for this lead. Beautiful song. You made my day as I went to the YouTube site to hear your selections, typed in Michael Murphy – Wild Fire and found the long sought version I have searched for with the beautiful piano intro.

    Thanks for taking the time to listen. I am glad you found your song, too. I enjoy trying out the selections that people suggest as I find that often there will be something that turns out to be a song I like as well, but just never heard.


  43. Not just a “piano song” but the intro is sublime…

    Many Too Many – Genesis

  44. I’m a bit late with my entry on this topic, I’ve been AWOL for a while.

    Coldplay have rattled out some good piano tunes over the years:

    The Scientist

    There’s also this Enya track called ‘Drifting’. It’s got a vaguely familiar ‘Breathe’ sound to it, have a listen.

  45. Us and Them!

    The song wouldn’t be the same without the wonderful piano work in it.

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